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A very nice English “Mortuary” hilted back sword dating to the middle part of the 17th century. The iron and steel parts exhibit an appealing and untouched dark patination which has an attractive sheen. The guard plate is covered with fine chiselled and pierced decoration, consisting of panels of foliage and ferns, plus two busts either side of the blade. The sword is mounted with a fine and broad German made blade and, unusually, retains its scabbard.
The hilt is of typical form consisting of a broad saucer-shaped guard plate from which three main guard bars extend upwards with the flattened terminals screwed to the pommel. The spaces between these bars are infilled with subsidiary bars and scrolls. The guard bars and pommel are decorated with chiselled lines in a fern-like manner. A curled wrist guard is fashioned from the rear of the plate. The pommel is large and globular in shape and has a pronounced button and flared neck.
The cylindrical wooden grip is spirally grooved and bound with twisted and crinkled copper wire, now missing towards the top to expose the wooden core. The grip sits on an iron flanged plug mounted onto the inside of the guard plate from which two langets extend through the tang aperture to flank the blade either side for a short distance from the hilt.
The impressive, broad, double edged blade is 33 inches (84 cm) long and gently tapers to its tip. A broad fuller extends from the hilt along the middle for 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) inside which the armourers name “ANDRIA FERARA” is stamped on each side, the words separated and flanked by dot patterns. Two narrower fullers lie one either side of the first on both sides. Just after the fullers terminate a crescent “man in the moon” mark is stamped both sides. Overall the sword measures 39.5 inches (just over 100 cm) long.
The scabbard is a rare survivor and of typical 17th century manufacture. It consists of two slats of wood formed with concave inner surfaces to accommodate the blade and bound together with leather. The blacksmith forged chape and mouthpiece are boldly formed with visible forge lines. The rim of the mouthpiece is turned outward to assist in re-sheathing the sword and chape terminates with a large swollen knob. The mouthpiece is equipped with a flattened belt hook chiselled with a pattern of crescents and the leather cover has been coated more recently with a protective black tar-like substance.
For a further discussion on Mortuary swords see Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, Boydell Press 2005, Chapter 11, pages 233 to 280.
Also see pages 178 to 226 of “British Military Swords”, Stuart C Mowbray, Mowbray Publishing, 2013. The Solingen blade of our sword is very similar to that mounted on a Mortuary sword in the Cleveland Museum of Art, pages 202 and 203.