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A Very Rare Type of Scottish Officers’ Basket Hilted Sword dating to the Second Quarter of the 18th century

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Price: £9,500

Ref: 42902742

Item Description

A robust Scottish Infantry Officers’ Basket Hilted Sword of a rare and distinctive design. The sword is unusual in that it is a true “attic find” preserved in original “as found” condition as the photographs show. The hilt style is unique to our knowledge but displays some features similar to the hilts produced in the workshop of Walter Allan of Stirling towards the middle and into the third quarters of the 18th century, and was most likely made in Stirling.

The basket guard is typical for Scottish hilts of the time forged from thick iron  structural bars consisting of a knucklebow, side guard bars which extend downwards into the forward loop guards, rear guard bars, secondary rear guard bars and a downward facing wrist guard with a scrolled flattened terminal emanating from the rear quillon.  The knucklebow and side guard bars converge at the top at the pommel ring inside which the neck of the plain dome-shaped pommel sits which has a ribbed button on top.

The uniqueness lies in the absence of the two frontal guard plates usually found to the left and right of the knucklebow on traditional Scottish hilts. These have been replaced by convex crescents on each side which join top and bottom to create an oval shape with subsidiary crescents on the inside joined onto a central oblong panel decorated with frets at the edges and horizontal lines. The structure is further strengthened by a fretted horizontal bar which extends from each side guard bar across the front. The spaces between the crescent edges and the side guard bars are filled with a lozenge shaped vertical bar with counter facing merlons top and bottom with a diamond shape between the merlon crescents at the top and a heart at the bottom. The spaces between the side guard bars and the rear guard bars are filled with a similar lozenge with merlons and a heart beneath with a similar facing merlon near the top after which the bar extends to join the rear guard bar at the top. Underneath a rectangular groove has been cut into the hilt in the Scottish manner to accommodate and secure the shoulders of the ricasso of the blade.

The inside of the hilt assembly is a wonderful survivor. The wooden core of the grip is spirally fluted and covered with shagreen.  Once bound with metal wire this is now missing. The shagreen at the top of the grip has worn away at the place where most friction would be caused by the base of the palm of the hand of the user near the wrist by holding the sword in a usual manner on many occasions over a long period of time during the working life of the sword. The grip retains its original red and blue woollen fringe between the top of the grip and pommel base pressed into its present shape over the period of use. The full liner is of early form with a thick leather base onto which is stitched the secondary lining of thinner leather fronted with red cloth and with the remains of a blue silken hem around the edge in a few places. The secondary inside leather is now fragile, torn and the stitching distressed. The cloth exterior has an old layer of dust and accumulated age visible beneath the front of the basket guard.

The 35 inch (89 cm) single edged blade has a short ricasso near the hilt with fullers inside each blunt edge. Two central fullers extend from the hilt for 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)  inside each of which the blade maker’s name “ANDRIA FARARA” is stamped interspersed with stamped stars. A “Running Wolf” is clearly incised beyond the fullers on one side and repeated, although now less visible, on the reverse.

It seems that the blade is of late 17th / early 18th century date and was double edged when it was made. It was most likely refurbished for mounting onto this sword as was common practice in Scotland in re-utilising old blades as fashions changed. Towards the mid 18th century “backsword” blades were increasing in number and this blade has had its back edge filed down to create the blunt spine which tapers to the tip. The sword is well balanced in hand and 41.5 inches (105.5 cm) long overall.

The hilt retains its accumulated russet patina which has gathered since the sword was de-commissioned which somewhat disguises the overall high quality of its design and construction. The sword is frozen in time in the second quarter of the 18th century and shows how the Scottish basket hilt continued to evolve to create this distinctive military style, some of the features of which, were adopted in later Scottish and English cavalry hilts as the basket hilt continued to evolve in the third quarter of the 18th century.

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