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Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of Early “Glasgow Style” Dating to the Late 17th Century

A Scottish basket hilted sword dating to the late 17th century.  The sword is of early “Glasgow” form and dates to the period during which James II / VII was deposed as King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1688, the beginning of the Jacobite period, and the Glencoe Massacre in 1692. It is a particularly fine and rare example of its time with an attractively balanced and well shaped hilt. The sword retains its original scabbard.

Fig 1: Scottish Basket Hilted Sword of Early “Glasgow Style” Dating to the Late 17th Century

The main structural bars of the guard are of flattened rectangular section and decorated on the outside with incised longitudinal grooves along the middle. This style of decoration developed towards the end of the 17th century and is associated with sword makers working in Glasgow. The sword is in fine original condition and is mounted with a high quality, broad, double edged blade. 

Fig 2: Full length Left
Fig 3: Full length Right

The Glasgow style of hilt decoration is distinctive and represents the highest quality output of the Glasgow sword makers at the time. This sword, as indicated by the additional patterns of rows of dots punched into the middle grooves of the decorative lines on the dome shaped pommel, and the narrow line decoration on the hilt, plus the relatively small size of the pierced decoration of triangles and circles applied to the main and secondary guard panels, indicate that the sword is of early fully developed basket hilted form.

Fig 4: Hilt Right Side
Fig 5: Hilt Oblique Right

In this respect the sword is similar to two swords in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, attributed to the maker John Simpson (I). See Cyril Mazansky, British Basket Hilted Swords, Boydell Press, 2005, page 109. Although our sword is similar it is of considerably better quality than these two swords but does not carry the signature letters of a known maker as do the swords referred to above.

Fig 6: Hilt from the Front
Fig 7: Hilt Oblique Left

The hilts of the Kelvingrove swords were not fashioned with wrist guards. Our sword is mounted with a small scroll wrist guard which probably represents the earliest appearance of this feature on Scottish basket hilts towards the end of the 17th century. The basket hilt of our sword has been intentionally forged to appear slightly asymmetrical when viewed from the front with the basket appearing slightly swollen to the right compared to the left. This is another mark of quality indicating that the hilt was made for a right hand user. The wider side of the hilt is designed to accommodate the fingers of the hand which grips it whereas the opposite side requires less space to accommodate the thumb. 

Fig 8: Guard arm terminals and pommel from the Front Side
Fug 9: Guard arm terminals and pommel from the Left Side

The bun-shaped pommel has a flat circular button on top. Four sets of grooved triple lines radiate from the button, the middle line being wider than the two on its flanks, and terminate at a groove cut around the pommel middle. Further similar lines between form convex crescents with the arches rising towards the pommel button. A further four sets of lines radiate from the button and terminate at the tops of the crescents. The early decorative feature of equally spaced rows of punched dots is applied to the wide middle grooves. The guard arm terminals tuck securely into the groove cut around the pommel middle in the usual Scottish manner for this time. The spirally grooved wooden grip is covered with shagreen and bound with finely twisted copper wire. Copper “Turks Heads” are also applied to the grip top and bottom.

Fig 10: Grip and liner inside the hilt
Fig 11: Blade markings Right Side

The grip retains its leather liner stitched with red cloth on the outside. The sword also retains its original stitched leather scabbard tooled with geometric patterns on the outside and original iron mounts.

Fig 12: Underneath the hilt
Fig 13: Underneath the hilt

The tapering double edged blade is 34 inches (86.5 cm) long and of exceptional quality. It was most likely made in a workshop in Solingen in Germany. It has a pronounced ricasso 1.75 inches (4.5 cm) long with a blade-smith’s mark on one side. A double fuller extends down the blade from the hilt on each side which terminates a short distance from the tip. Inside the fullers near the hilt each side is another blade-smiths mark consisting of a series of  “X” marks, crescents and letters.

Overall the sword is 39.5 inches (just over 100 cm) long. Provenance: The collection of the late Baron of Earlshall. Peter Finer Ltd.

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