Object Title

Basket hilted sword

Basket hilted sword



Object Number



Purchased at Sotheby's, 25 July 1947, lot 84. Purchased from Fenton with IX.874

Physical Description

Hilt 1700-1740; blade probably earlier. Russet iron hilt of characteristic Scottish type and of very good quality, with bars of rectangular section. Engraved on the front of the guard, towards the root of main knuckle-guard, is a monogram of two Is and a W, presumably the owner's initials. Wooden grip covered with fish-skin and spirally bound with a white metal (most probably silver) ribbon; a white metal (most probably silver) ferrule at either end. Under the pommel are the remains of a tassel.

Broad, two-edged blade with three shallow fullers at the forte (rising at the ricasso and extending fro approx. 210 mm (8 1/4 in.), these fullers flanked by two vestigial fullers on the ricasso.


Dimensions: Overall length: 1014 mm (39.9 in.), Length of blade: 838 mm (33 in.) Weight: 3 lb 2 oz

Inscriptions and Marks

On hilt, on rear quillon, on side towards blade: I S over G [ISG] (see marks cards and Dufty and Borg 1970) for the maker, one of the John Simpsons of Glasgow.On blade, on each face stamped and inlaid in copper: an orb and cross (the cross with two horizontal arms) (see marks cards and Dufty and Borg 1970).On blade, on each face, in the three fullers, stamped:15XX ))(( XX 15ANDRIA FERARA with, on each side, four square dots arranged in lozenge.15XX ))(( XX


Bibliographic References

A.R. Dufty and A. Borg, European Swords and Daggers in the Tower of London, London, 1974, p. 25, Pls 54a (hilt and top of blade), 108 (IS over G and orb and cross marks).

Charles E. Whitelaw (ed. Sarah Barter), Scottish arms makers, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1977, front of dust jacket (illus. of front of hilt showing monogram).

P.J. Lankester, 'A Basket-Hilted Sword Marked 'AC' in the Royal Armouries' Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, XIII Supplement September 1990, pp. 40, 52 note 34; pp. 41, 42, 53 note 50.

C Mazansky, British basket-hilted swords. A typology of basket-type sword hilts, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2005, p. 103, type F, pommel 'basket-hilt' type 4 (illus.): 'c.1710-40'.


On the maker's mark and identification, A.V.B. Norman has most recently written (National Trust for Scotland, 'Culloden : the swords and the sorrows' (exhib. cat.), National Trust for Scotland, Edinburgh, 1996, p. 28, no. 1:7) 'The initials on the hilt are believed to be those of one of the two John Simpsons, father and son, arnmourers in Glasgow (for the lives of both see C.E. Whitelaw, 'Notes on swords with signed hilts by Glasgow and Stirling makers', 'Transactions of the the Glasgow Archaeological Society', new ser., VIII, pt 4 (supplement), 1934, p. 19-22). The older man was admitted to the Incorporation of Hammermen in 1683, was appointed King's Armourer in 1715, and was dead by 1717. The younger man was admitted to the Incorporation in 1711, and was dead by 1749 (Whitelaw 1977, p. 221). Probably they both used the same mark, but the younger differentiated his by placing a small Y after the S, presumably standing for 'Younger' [e.g. Royal Collection, Laking no. 744] (A.V.B. Norman, 'The John Simpsons of Glasgow', 'Despatch' (Journal of the Scottish Military Collectors Society), no. 131, Spring 1993, p. 22) John Simpson, the second of that name, armourer in Glasgow, was admitted a freeman of the Incorporation of Hammermen of Glasgow in 1711. He died in 1749.'. Norman does not specifically comment on the possibility that the younger John Simpson may have dropped the use of the Y after his father's death.
For the probability that the letter marks were punched (at least initially) rather than engraved, see Lankester 1990, pp. 40, 41.
The following is a list of some other hilts bearing the same maker's initials: these are too numerous to attempt a complete list:
Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, reg. no. '40-45er (formerly Whitelaw Collection, no. 891).
Two in the Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland - a 'horseman's' hilt - no. L.1949/60 (Colville Collection, No. SW 32) (illus. see Lankester 1990, fig. 4; for other references, see 'ibid.', note 32); and a conventional hilt, no. 1965.699 & A (A.V.B. Norman, 'Arms and Armour in the Royal Scottish Museum' (exhib. cat.), p. 22, no. 31 (illus in un-numbered plate); J. Wallace, 'Scottish Swords and Dirks', Arms and Armour Press, London, 1970, p. 32 (illus.)).
The Royal Collection (Windsor Castle), Laking no. 744 - signed ISy' over G (Norman 1993).
In Leeds Museums and Galleries, acc. no. A.1995.0200 (see R.C. Woosnam-Savage, 'Two Scottish swords in an English collection: a short note', 'Park Lane Arms Fair' (cat.), 17, 2000, pp. 20-22, at p. 21 (illus.).
The James D. Forman Collection, the hilt having the arms of Lindsay; see G.C. Neumann, 'Swords and Blades of the American Revolution', Newton Abbot, 1973, No. 235.S.
Two in the Geoffrey Jenkinson Collection; see National Trust for Scotland, 'Culloden : the swords and the sorrows' (exhib. cat.), National Trust for Scotland, Edinburgh, 1996, nos 1:7 - a 'horseman's' hilt), 1:8.
In the Collections Raoul et Jean Brunon (C. AriÞs, 'Armes Blanches Militaires Franþaises', V (3o' fascicule, 1967), figs 1-7, though the mark was not identified).
One in a private collection: William Reid, 'A new-found sword by John Simpson', in David H. Caldwell (ed.), 'Scottish weapons and fortifications, 1100-1800', John Donald, Edinburgh, 1981, pp. 403-407.
Several more examples are found in private collections and have appeared in auction sales and elsewhere on the market.