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English Civil War Period Mortuary Back Sword 1640 to 1660

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Price: £2,900

Ref: 038.15

Item Description

A good English “Mortuary” hilted back sword dating to the middle part of the 17th century. 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 into the pommel. The spaces between these bars are infilled with subsidiary bars and scrolls.

The back sword blade has a ricasso which extends for just over 1.5 inches (4.25 cm) from this hilt. A broad fuller extends from the hilt along the ricasso edge and underneath the spine of the blade until it becomes double edged some 7 inches from the tip. Opposite, a second short fuller extends to the end of the ricasso to where the sharp edge of the blade begins. Just beyond the ricasso a broad fuller commences and extends down the middle of the blade almost to the tip.  Near to the hilt the worn inscription “ANDRIA” is present in the upper fuller and “FARARA” beneath with both words flanked by cross marks on each side.

The guard plate is covered with chiselled decoration to the outside consisting of panels of foliage and ferns plus two busts either side of the blade. The guard bars and pommel are decorated with chiselled lines in a fern-like manner. A curled, grooved, wrist guard is fashioned from the rear of the plate. The pommel is globular in shape and has an integral button and a pronounced flared neck. The hilt was made for a right hand user in that the opening is more accommodating for the fingers of the hand, whilst opposite, the opening is narrower having to accommodate only the thumb.

The original wooden grip is spirally grooved and still covered with circa 70% of its copper binding. 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 below on either side for a short distance from the hilt.

The sword is in good condition, considering its age, with some blackened age related stains. The blade is 34.25 inches long (87 cm) and overall the sword measures just over 40 inches (102 cm) long.

For a further discussion on Mortuary swords see Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, Boydell Press 2005, Chapter 11, page 233 to 280. Our sword hilt corresponds to Type ii and the engraving is similar to sword reference IICii, in the National Army Museum, illustrated on page 257. The sword hilt is also particularly like that illustrated on page 217 of “British Military Swords”, Stuart C Mowbray, Mowbray Publishing, 2013, in the York Castle Museum Collection. The similarities between the engraved patterns to the hilts of these swords may indicate a sub-group within the overall “Mortuary” category, or the signature design of a particular maker or workshop, now unknown.

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