Object Title

Sword

Sword

Date

1370-1430

Object Number

IX.950

Provenance

Purchased in 1952 (FROM WHERE?). The Arsenal at Alexandria; the Baron de Cosson Collection; apparently purchased by de Cosson from Bachereau of Paris (see letter from de Cosson to William Riggs of 23 Novenber 1892 - original of letter in Metropolitan Museum, New York, copy in inv. file (with de Cosson's sketches)); the William Randolph Hearst Collection,

Physical Description

Blackened iron hilt consisting of a hollow 'wheel' (discoid) pommel; a cross-guard which widens to a rounded point at its centre, towards the blade; and straight spatulate quillons of rectangular section, expanding and flattened in the plane of the blade towards their tips. The forward quillon is divided, the smaller, hook-like branch curving to meet the blade and forming a guard for the forefinger. Wooden grip bound with cord.


The straight two-edged blade (Oakeshott type XIX), of flattened hexagonal section, has a single narrow fuller on each face, extending from the hilt for 343 mm (13 1/2 in.), and a 45 mm (1 1/4 in.) long ricasso which has a very narrow fuller near each edge, curving in at the end of the ricasso to meet the central fuller. On the ricasso (split between both sides - CHECK) is an Arabic inscription which reads in translation 'Unalienably bequeathed by al-Malik al-Ashraf BarsbÛy - may his victory be glorious! - in the magazines of the victorious arms in the frontier city of Sikandar¯ya [Alexandria], the well guarded, from what came into his ownership, in the month of al-Muharran, of the year A.H. 836' [1432].

Featured in

Hundred Years War

Dimensions

Dimensions: Overall length: 1041 mm (41 in.), Blade length: 864 mm (34 in.) Weight: 765 g (1 lb 11 oz)

Inscriptions and Marks

On blade, on both sides, just beyond the end of the central fuller, stamped: a Lombardic M surmouted by a small cross.

Bibliographic References

Baron de Cosson, 'On an Italian sword of the XVth century bearing an Arabic inscription' (sword exhibited at meeting), Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 2nd ser. XIV, 1893, pp. 238-242.

Sir Guy Francis Laking, 'A record of European armour and arms through seven centuries', G. Bell, London, 1920-1922, II, p.287, fig. 667.

periodical may be different), at pp. 13-16 (ff-print numbering).

Claude Blair, 'European and American Arms' 1962, pl. 55 note p.85.

Sir James Mann, 'A European Sword of the Late XIVth Century with an Arabic Inscription': Eretz, Israel Vol 7, Jerusalem 1963, pp.76-77.

H. Seitz, Blankwaffen, 2 vols, Brunswick, Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1965-68, p. 151, Abb. 91, right (TO DO - search for associated text).

A.R.Dufty, European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London, HMSO 1974, pl. 4e.

L.G. Boccia and E.T. Coelho, Armi Bianche Italiane, Milan, 1975, pls 100, 101 caption on p. 336 (p-copy on inv. file).

A.V.B. Norman The Rapier and Small Sword 1460-1820, London 1980, p.33, pl.4.

R. E. Oakeshott, The Sword in the Age of Chivalry, London, revised edn., London etc., 1981, pp. 67-8, Pl. 39B (Type XIX).

A V B Norman and G M Wilson, Treasures from the Tower of London, Norwich, 1982, p. 44, no. 13 (illus.).

Coe, M.D. 'Swords and Hilt Weapons' 1989, p.46.

L. Kalus, 'Donations Pieuses d'Epees Medievales a l'Arsenal d'Alexandrie', Revue des Etudes Islamiques, 1990 (for 1982), pp. 1-174, at pp. 73-5, no. 76.

[R.] E. Oakeshott, Records of the medieval sword, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1991, p. 204 (Type XIX; pommel type G; cross style 5).

[R] E Oakeshott, The archaeology of weapons, reprint of 1st edn of 1960 [with additions including plates], Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 1994, Pl. 20 (13th page of plates back from p. 185).

Dorling Kindersley, Weapon. A visual history of arms & armour, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 2006, pp. 56 (col. illus.), 62-3 (col. illus., 3rd from top on p. 62).

CHECK against works cited in Norman and Wilson 1982 - TO DO.

Notes

This is one of a number of swords bearing Arabic inscriptions recording their deposit in the Arsenal at Alexandria between 1365 and 1436/37. The most important publication is D G Alexander, 'European swords in the collections of Isambul. Pt I. Swords from the Arsenal of Alexandria', 'Waffen- und Kostumkunde', vol. 27(2), 1985, pp. 81-118, where 75 swords are listed. See also C Thomas, 'The medieval swords of Leeds Castle', 'The Spring 1985 London Park Lane Arms Fair [handbook]', 1985, pp. 10-29 and Combe and de Cosson 1937 (above, under Publications). Other swords from the Alexandria arsenal in the Royal Armouries are: IX.915 and AL.40 (at Sept. 2006 on loan from the Leeds Castle Foundation - see Thomas 1985, pp. 12 (fig. 3) 24-6). A third sword IX.1370, with an inscription dated 1430-31, was sold to Glasgow Museums in 1976 (Glasgow no. A7627i). It appears that these swords were acquired by the Mamluks, either as booty, as tribute payments, or as diplomatic gifts. The date of deposit of the present sword makes one of the first two causes most likely (see Alexander 1985, p. 82).
The sword belongs to a group of which others survive in Istambul, all of which are dated 1432 (Alexander 1985, nos 20-2; his Group VII, p. 85; resp. Askeri Museum nos 2393, 2400, Topkapi Museum, no. 10477, Askeri Museum, no. 21245). Alexander nos 20 and 22 are especially similar, but lack the ring for the forefinger. Nos 21 and 23 have the ring but have quillons of a different type. Also with similar cross-guard and blade but different pommel are nos 48 (Askeri Museum, no. 17385, dated 1367-8) and no. 49 (Askeri Museum no. 14782, dated 1368-9) (both Alexander's group XI). No. 65, dated 1415-16 (Askeri Museum 235; Alexander's Group XIII) has a different pommel, similar quillons but with differently shaped ends and has the forefinger ring.
A manuscript addition to the Typed Inventory notes that 'several comaparable cross-guards are in the Musee Dubree at Nantes'.
The blade is of Oakeshott type XIX, for which see Oakeshott 1991, pp. 197-205. More are illustrated in Alexander 1985, nos 20-23 and 63 (see above). The present sword is Oakeshott 1991 no. XIX.7 and the blade and quillons are very similar to a sword in the Royal Ontario Museum (Oakeshott 1991, p. 200, no. XIX.3) which has an inscription recording its deposit in the Alexandria arsenal in 1368 (noted by Norman and Wilson 1982) and indeed also to two swords in the Askeri Museum (Alexander nos 48 and 49, see above) which are similarly dated. Among other examples of this blade type illustrated by Oakeshott is Royal Armouries IX.2794 (excavated in London and not inscribed).
Although a manuscript note (in Guy Wilson's hand?) in the Typed Inventory entry for this sword records that there is a full translation of the inscription in the inv. file, a manuscript note adds that this translation has been lost, but that it is first recorded in Laking, 'A Record of European Armour and Arms', Vol II Pt. 8 p.290. The note continues to say that this translation conflicts with the translation given in Mann's article, which follows de Cosson's translation (done for him by Dr Rieu of the British Museum, published in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, 1892, p.241, the sword then being in de Cosson's collection). This translation runs 'Army of El-Malik el Ashraf Seif Bars Bey; may his victory be exalted. In the storehouse of victorious arms in the fortress Alexandria the men guarded' (Arabic). 'With one man in ten' (Turkish). 'Moharram A.H. 836' (1432). The translation given under Description, above, is taken from Norman and Wilson 1982 (which is the same as given by Combe and de Cosson 1937) but it excludes the 'With one man in ten'. As there is writing on both sides of the ricasso it is possible that this latter phrase occurs on the outside which has less writing than the inside. THIS SHOULD BE CHECKED.
A similar blade mark (Lombardic M and cross) occurs on the four similar swords in Istambul (Alexander 1985, nos 20-23, see above, all dated 1432) where each time it is accompnaied by a pair of sunbursts. It also occurs on the detached blade Royal Armouries IX.495 and on a sword inscribed PIERVS ME FECIT in the Real Armería, Madrid (no. G.4) which was presented by Pope Eugenius IV to Juan II of Castille in 1446 (Boccia and Coehlo 1975, pls 103-4, caption on pp. 337-8).