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Matchlock 19th May 2014 07:16 PM

Ca. 1520: One of the World's Oldest and Finest Matchlock Landsknecht Arquebuses
12 Attachment(s)
At 61, I have dedicated almost 40 years of my life solely to the research of earliest North Euopean Zeughaus (arsenal), 'military' firearms and all sorts of accouterments - from the humble beginnings in ca. 1330 until the end of the matchlock era. The latter was extended to the almost anachronistic Late Baroque period of the 1720's.
In all those years, I have never learned of, let alone come across, another short matchlock arquebus of such an early date, and preserved in this fine original state of both quality and condition - and it was for sale.

When it emerged on the world market all of a sudden, and out of the blue, I had to resort to all my compiled knowlegde within a very short span of time, only two weeks before that piece was going to be sold. There was one single fact that was perfectly clear to me from the very first glance at the photo of this arquebus: I would have to muster all my highly specialized knowledge based upon my private library of more than 3,000 books and catalogs, as well as my photo library comprising over 280,000 pictures taken by me in international museums, and especially in their reserve collections which are accessbible to just very few persons, and I would have to resort to all my courage - and of course collate all the money that would obviously be necessary to win that singular piece.
Had I failed to achieve all that within those two weeks, I would have never been granted a second chance in my lifetime.
And, of course, there was not one single existing specimen that I would have been able to exactly compare it to, and appraise its importance.

But there was one historical source of illustration that jumped right to my mind at once, because a huge copy of it, two square meters large, was (and still is) on a wall of my library. It was a painting by Ruprecht Heller, The Battle of Pavia, dated 1529, and is preserved at the National Museum in Stockholm, 272. Actually, that famous battle took place on 25 February 1525:

In various of my threads, I have pointed out the relevance of that painting regarding mercenary (Landsknecht) weapons and all sorts of accouterments, and have posted many close-ups.
Please use the forum search button, and enter 'Battle of Pavia 1525'.

In the foreground, a group of arquebusiers is depicted, equipped with short matchlock arquebuses, the downward curved buttstocks of very similar form as the one found on the gun in discussion.

This arquebus features a recycled, older arquebus barrel made of cast brass/'bronze', in ca. 1490-1510.
As I have stated several times, the contemporary term for the actual alloy of copper and pewter (or zinc) used to found gun barrels 500 years ago, was Messing (brass), denoting a copper-zinc alloy. Several guns in the famous 'Maximilian' arsenal books (German: Maximilianische Zeugbücher), illustrated by Jörg Kölderer between ca. 1495 and 1515 - with the most ample work accomplished in ca. 1502-1507 - , are labeled to be mounted with brass barrels.
A few samples of Kölderer's illustrations which are termed 'Messing hanndtbuchsen' (arquebuses with brass barrels) in Medieval German, are attached below, e.g. fol. 114, and also 'Messing hagkennpuchsen' (wall guns with brass barrels) respectively, e.g. fol. 131 and 132, both incod.icon. 222.

I realize that nowadays, the term 'bronze' for those Late Medieval barrels is often favored, for various reasons, basically because it evokes a more precious signification.

Please refer to my posts, e.g. in,
esp. posts #2 and #5.


Matchlock 19th May 2014 08:46 PM

10 Attachment(s)
Attached please find more close-ups of that group of arquebusiers depicted in the foreground, and equipped with short matchlock arquebuses, the downward curved buttstocks of exactly the same shape as the stock of my gun in discussion.


Matchlock 19th May 2014 08:54 PM

12 Attachment(s)
Finally, here is the real arquebus that may well have seen service in the Batlle of Pavia in 1525.

The first attachments depict the piece, in the atmosphere of my private museum, among other 700 to 500 year-old specimens from former German armories; plus a few close-ups.


Matchlock 19th May 2014 09:06 PM

11 Attachment(s)
As mentioned before, the cast brass/bronze barrel was re-used from an even earlier arquebus of 'Maximilian' type, ca. 1490-1510.
The dating criteria are based on its styistic elements: the barrel is divided into three stages, reflecting the Maximilian sense of style at the turn of the 15th to the 16th century, with the Renaissance replacing the Late Gothic stylistic characteristics.
The first, rear stage (German: Hinterstück) is dodecahedral, with the slotted rear sight cast integrally on the rear end (German: Bodenstück), and a maker's mark struck over the breech.

The original pan was cast integrally, on the right-hand side of the barrel - please cf. my threads


Both that first pan and cover were removed when the barrel got its present cherry wood full stock in about 1520, retaining most of its original varnish after almost 500 years.

The second, round stage (German: Mittelstück) is separated from the first by a delicately filed, raised brim, forming the longest barrel section. It terminates in another delicate and raised brim, before merging into the third stage, the short and noticeably reinforced, round muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf), being characteristic of barrels from ca. 1490-1510; it bears a long and low, integral blade foresight over its entire length - another indication of early 16th century barrels.
An important reference for the specific shape of the muzzle - short, reinforced and round - is another relevant guiding principle for assigning a date to a firearm, backing up the limited span of time when the barrel of my gun must have been made. These are the dating criteria set up by the autor, and confirmed by all contemporary sources of illustration, and period artwork in general, as well as by existing objects; cf. the illuminated Maximilian armory inventories, e.g. the guns shown in post #1.

The bore, of course, is smooth, and characteristic of arquebus barrels of that period, when the bores of these light infantry firerarms differ in diameter between ca. 11 and 16 mm. On the underside of the barrel, normally covered by the stock, there are the typic and crude file marks found on all early barrels, as the surfaces of cast barrels had to be finished by using the file as well as those made of wrought iron.

Here comes the lock mechanism. The first lock of this arquebus was most probably a snap matchlock mechanism, its single parts not yet united on a common lock plate, and the cocked serpentine triggered by a lateral push button.
Such mechanisms are depicted on Heller's painting of The Battle of Pavia - see attachments to previous posts - and are retained on a number of long arquebuses of about 1525, preserved in the Západočeské Muzeum Pilsen, Czechia (four attachments), as well as on a wall gun by Peter Hofkircher, ca. 1525-30, at the Graz armory in Styria, Austria (following two attachments). I did extensive research in both of these old armories, taking more than 4,300 photos.
This primary, primitive and accident-sensitive mechanism obviously was out of order soon, and the gun probably got laid away in some arsenal, as obsolete and outdated - for both its mechanism and the shape of the buttstock, the latter regarded as impractical by the mid 17th century. This was the very reason why some of those early guns actually survived up to the 21st century, and sometimes preserved in 'untouched' condition.
But the present matchlock mechanism, the wrought iron lock plate and integral pan, showing the round trough typic of pans up to ca. 1550, its swiveling cover and the fireshield, all obviously dating from about 1560, and evoking the impression of a more valuable wheellock merchanism to the inexperienced eye of a superficial contemporary.
See my thread on matchlocks pretending to be wheellocks, ca. 1560-1620:

The serpentine (match holder), though, is of early 17th century Suhl type, denoting that this 'sleeper' of an obsolete arquebus saw service again: more than a century later, which was ca. the 1640's.
In that final phase of the Thirty Years War, and in extremis, literally any gun that would still fire got reactivated and crudely converted, often times by adding a topical igniting mechanism. The Old European armories, like the Landeszeughaus (armory) of Graz, Styria, still preserve numerous pieces of evidence, e.g. wrought iron Late Gothic haquebut barrels from wall guns of ca. 1490 to 1530, datable closely by both their characteristic sectioning and the shape and length of the respective muzzle section. Most of them retain their original minium (red lead) paint, and were restocked and combined with a matchlock mechanism in the 1630's], and later (attachments).

As several parts of the mechanism on this arquebus were assembled from different periods, ranging from ca. 1560-1620, there is only one conclusion: the piece had become an obsolete gun anyway, so a detached and older lock mechanism from ca. 1560, identifiable by its very long and narrow rear end of the lock plate, was 'modernized' by re-using an older serpentine from about 1600-20, its shape denoting a Suhl/Thuringia make. The unusually narrow strip of wood benath the underside of the lock plate, hardly supporting the lock action, gives proof of the fact that the present mechanism was crudely mounted, by enlarging the former lock recess, and attached by two side nails. Nobody cared, and the piece was ready to fire again.

Thus, this early Landsknecht's arquebus bears witness of having been used in different big wars for at least 130 years, with the barrel withstanding firing for an even longer period, from ca. 1500 to at least 1650.
In conclusion, it can be called an unusually early and rare, historically important and characteristic arsenal gun, its correct and exact identification constituting a demanding task for 21st century weaponry research.

The reddish cherry wood full stock, with its thick varnish of original brown lacquer, is shaped in the characteristic early 16th century manner. The forestock is faceted the usual way before the mid 16th century, and the stock is attached to the barrel by three transverse wooden pins, probably the original, making safe contact with loops on the underside of the barrel Most remarkably, it features neither a ramrod channel, nor any other provision for a ramrod - indicating that this arquebus was, in all probability, made as an auxiliary weapon for e.g. a gunner, allowing him to fire one final shot before getting run down by the enemies. Reloading an arquebus was an action practically impossible for a gunner, anyhow.

Remarkable traces of a modern museum display are retained on the underside of the stock, where two holes were drilled, still showing the threads of wood screws, securing the piece to a wooden stand.
In 1990, in the museum of the town of Gerolzhofen, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, I photographed a long wall gun, the barrel early 17th century, and struck with Suhl marks, and restocked in ca. 1670 - screwed to its simple wooden stand in the same manner. This was obviously done regardlessly of inflicting damage to the old stock ... see three attachments below.

The measurements of the arquebus are:
overall length 99.8 cm, length of barrel 62.4 cm, cal. 16 mm smoothbore, weight 4.3 kg.

All author's photos.


Matchlock 19th May 2014 09:24 PM

6 Attachment(s)
A few more views of the arquebus, and the attachments relating to the text in the previous post, and appearing in the succession mentioned in the description.

All author's photos.


Matchlock 20th May 2014 01:00 AM

12 Attachment(s)
The remaining attachments to post #2ff .

First of all, here are more views of my arquebus.

Following are three impressions of wall guns/haquebuts in the Graz Armory, the wrought iron barrels in this photo all ca. 1490-1530, and retaining their original Late-Gothic minium (red lead) paint; restocked in the 1630's, and later.

More attachments of these wallguns to follow.

All author's photos.


kai 20th May 2014 07:07 AM

Hello Michael,

Congrats for acquiring such an important piece for your collection!

I'm apparently not seeing the forest for the trees: Is there any matchlock with such a downcurved stock shown in the painting? Looks also quite different from the other examples?


Matchlock 20th May 2014 10:55 AM

12 Attachment(s)
Hello Kai,

Thanks for congratulating but you left me kind of flabbergasted :rolleyes:, learning that you did not see any notable similarities.

I reattached a few close-ups, together with photos of my arquebus. The rear end of the buttstock of my arquebus is downcurved and broadened; with all petronels, this is the part that the arquebusier had to grasp firmly and hold the gun, trying to withstand the recoil - and, of course, control it. Otherwise, the recoil would have hit his stomach, or probably smashed his ribs. So the hand actually covers the part of the buttstock that is downcurved the most, and this is why the downcurved rear end of the buttstock is not shown on the painting.
On the close-ups selected from the painting, there is a definite decurved upper line of all buttstocks shown, and all the arquebusiers are depicted with their hands covering the rear end of the buttstock, holding the guns right in front of their chests.
Please note as well the reinforced short muzzle section on all the arquebuses shown, mine included.

To me, the only differences between the guns shown and my arquebus are, as explained, the presence of the snap tinderlock mechanism - which was there originally, of course, and is still visible on the guns on the painting. That mechanism, as fragile as obsolete, was employed for only a few years, probably less than a decade, and for obvious reasons. On my surviving arquebus, it was replaced during the Thirty Years War, making this portion of the gun look quite distinct now from what it did in the 1520's. Moreover, the barrels on Heller's painting seem to consist of wrought iron, instead of brass.

I also attached details from two other contemporary sources of illustration of The Battle of Pavia, elucidating the historical fact that different types of guns were employed by mercenaries in the same battle. Older, Late Gothic style influenced arquebuses featuring a multi-faceted form of the so-called German Landsknechtsschaft (a straight and polygonal, highly faceted type of buttstock found on 15th century mercenaries arquebuses, and consequently named after them in German), and mounted with either wrought-iron or cast brass barrels, were used side by side with the new, Renaissance style 'molded' arquebuses. The latter had smoother stocks, in some cases anticipating the form of the downcurved petronel buttstock, which was to come in use widely by the mid 16th century.

The first attachments following are details taken from a series of large tapestries, made in Brussels workshops around 1530, and after sketches depicting 'frozen' scenes, which had been drawn 'live', and by artists who actually were real war reporters. These seven tapestries are now preserved at the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples, Sicily. They represent the older, Gothic type of straight and polygonal mercenaries type of stock, mounted with snap tinderlocks and either wrought iron or brass barrels.

The next-in-line images show three details from another tapestry, also illustrating the Late Gothic type of the Landsknechtsschaft, followed by a contemporary woodcut.

Finally, there is a painting in the Royal Armouries Leeds, 1-142; all of the close-up photos taken by the author, in 1990.

Thus, various and differing forms of gun stocks, old and new alike, were used side by side in the 1520's. What seems to have been common to all of them though, and consequently may be called a characteristic criterion for dating guns of the mid 1520's to the early 1530's, is the snap tinderlock mechanism, with only the serpentine mounted on a small rectangular plate, consisting of brass on almost all surviving specimens from that period, while all the other mechanical parts were set into and nailed to the stock, partly covered by inlaid stripes of wood (German: Schwamm-Schnapp-Teilschloß).
Yet there are other stylistic features typical of guns between ca. 1520 and 1530: the multi-staged and highly faceted barrels, terminating in a lengthened, round muzzle section. In some instances, these barrels were manufactured employing an older and traditional material, which was cast brass/bronze, although they faced being replaced by wrought iron increasingly. That latter development also accounts for the historical facts that we rarely find brass barrels shaped by the characteristic Renaissance sense of style of the late 1520's to the mid-1530's, and that the Nuremberg production and export of cast brass barrels for long guns (arquebuses), booming since the second half of the 15th century, had decreased rapidly by the late 1520's. Well-established workshops of brass/bronze founders, like the Pehaims and the Pegnitzers, soon lost their former signification, while blacksmiths workshops flourished, on the strength of their wrought iron barrels.


Matchlock 20th May 2014 11:51 AM

11 Attachment(s)
Attachments, appearing in succession relating to the text in post #8.

All author's photos, except the one labeled Board of Trustees of the Armouries.


Matchlock 20th May 2014 12:57 PM

7 Attachment(s)
The attachments of restocked wall guns in the Graz Armory continued from post #6; for the description see post #2. The barrel tangs and pans of these barrels testify earlier amendments carried through in the Graz arsenal between ca. 1530 and 1560. The rear sights partly date back to either that period, or, as in the case illustrated here, were added during the first half of the Thirty Years War.

Photos #3 through #7 show one of the oldest Graz barrels, of octagonal section throughout, and terminating in a short, heavily swamped muzzle section, indented with the hammer to evoke the impression of a crown (German: Maximilianischer Krönlein-Mündungskopf).
For more on this Late Gothic design of both columns and barrels shaperd likewise, cf. my thread

The present stock may well be the first, or was replaced in the early 16th century the latest. The plate for a matchlock mechanism (with the serpentine missing) is a Thirty Years War addition.

Above the breech, and right in front of the rear sight, there is a wellknown, because often seen and deeply struck barrelsmith's mark, a so-called house mark, representing a certain workshop or maker by the symbol in a shield.
The author has documented this mark on about 80 various wrought iron wall gun barrels, all of them datable to ca. 1490-1510, among them a haquebut retaining its original ash wood stock, and a detached barrel belonging to the very same series, both specimens in the author's collection:

Most of these barrels are preserved in Bavarian museums nowadays, with the Veste Oberhaus in Passau housing the largest number of about 30 pieces; more barrels struck with this mark are kept in the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt, the Historisches Museum in Regensburg, the Stadtmuseum in Schweinfurt, and some more are in private collections like mine.

I was told by the Graz administration that Winfried Tittmann had attributed this mark to Peter Pögl of Thörl near Innsbruck, The Tyrol, who furnished large numbers of wrought iron haquebut barrels and cannon balls (!) for the Maximilian Armories.
This attribution may be doubted, on the grounds that the vast majority of those barrels struck with this very same mark has been in German, especially in Bavarian armories, since the time of their production more than 500 years ago, while only very few specimen have survived in Austrian museums.
The largest amount by far of those haquebut barrels, about 30, is preserved in the Veste (fortress) Oberhaus in Passau, Lower Bavaria.

One of the barrels in the author's collection, struck with this mark, originally comes from the Passau armory, and so does the historically highly important piece dated 1481, which is the world's second oldest known dated barrel of any 'long gun' small gun - apart from a very doubtful brass/bronze haquebut barrel in the museum of Gerolzhofen, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, which is struck ! with the spurious date 1474. Usually, and among other features of that piece in question, dates on cast barrels were founded integrally in high relief, and chiseled afterwards.
I will post more on this barrel in a thread of its own, proving that the date 1474 is a fake, obviously done in the German Historismus period, and most probably in 1874, to commemorate 'the good old Gothic period'. Futhermore, all three of the Gerolzhofen cast barrels were crudely transformed to percussion and obviously fired in the mid or second half of the 19thh century. As they could not cope up with the stronger 19th century black powder, two of them are in burst condition now.

Other haquebut barrels struck with this mark are preserved in the Historisches Museum in Regensburg, all of them bought from the Fortress Oberhaus in Passau, and via a dealer, during World War II; in the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt, all of them coming from the former Bavarian Hauptzeughaus (main arsenal) in Munich; in the Veste Coburg, and in the Stadtmuseum in Schweinfurt, and in a few private collections, among them that of the author.

Back to discussing the attribution of the barrelsmith's mark:
As Peter Pögl's father, Sebald Pögl I, used a mark depicting a short hammer, its fore end split and shaped like the foot of a goat (German: Geißfußhammer), employed to extract nails, it appears less likely for his son to create a mark of such a different design.
Moreover, the fact that only very few barrels have survived in Austrian museums, and with so many of them still existing in Bavaria, it seems more probable that they were originally made in a big workshop in Nuremberg, from where most of the 15th and 16th century weapons werde exported to literally the Old World.
In Germany, there is a Medieval saying: Nürnberger Tand geht in alle Land, meaning that the majority of all kinds of goods produced was made in Nuremberg workshops.


Finally, the last attachments:

- 3 photos of a 17th century wall gun (in the foreground), the stock screwed to a wooden stand (museum of the town of Gerolzhofen) - in the same manner that my arquebus was obviously 'secured'; cf. post #4, last paragraph.

All author's photos.


All author's photos.

Matchlock 20th May 2014 05:52 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Here are the attachments to post #4, documenting the exhibition in the museum of Gerolzhofen, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, which I photographed in 1990.
The long matchlock wall gun in the foreground, with the light stock and the buttstock pierced ovally to receive the fingers of the gunman, is fixed to a wooden stand by two screws entering the underside of the forestock.
(More on the Late Gothic cast brass/bronze barrels beside it soon).

Two screw holes, with the threads still visible, have been drilled in the forestock of my arquebus in discussion as well; so my gun, too, was on display in a museum, in the same manner.


cornelistromp 22nd May 2014 04:02 PM

Hi Michael,

This is really a superb/amazing example of a Landsknecht Arquebuse!
congratulations, it must have been absolutely worth the waiting.


Matchlock 23rd May 2014 07:47 PM

Thanks a zillion, Jasper, ;) :cool:

It was indeed!


Matchlock 23rd May 2014 08:00 PM

12 Attachment(s)
Attached find a whole lot more detailed photos of my arquebus, with the Maximilian brass barrel of ca. 1490-1500!

Attaching more that 100 huge photos of one single object in discussion - that's something which print media will never be able to achieve!



Matchlock 23rd May 2014 08:28 PM

5 Attachment(s)
On it goes.

Matchlock 27th May 2014 11:09 AM

12 Attachment(s)
A comparison of the shape of the eponymous, downcurved buttstocks of the earliest prestage of petronel stocks, like the one from about 1520 on my arquebus in discussion, with the fully evolved, bent buttstocks of a group of Nuremberg manufactured petronels in the Landeszeughaus Graz - one of them is dated 1568 -, definitely shows a close relationship.

The petronel illustrated at the bottom (last three attachments), with the pronouncedly curved buttstock, is one of the latest of this type, ca. 1580's. The barrel is struck with Nuremberg makers marks and the quality proof mark of that city.
This is remarkabe as it attests the fact that the Nuremberg style got adopted very quickly by of the numerous workshops resided in Suhl/Thuringia. By ca. 1590-1600, the form of both the lock plate and serpentine had become characteristic of matchlocks made in Suhl, where enormous quantities of 'military' guns were manufactured, and exported to most armories and arsenals of Middle and Northern Europe.

Attachments: all author's photos, and copyrighted.


Norman McCormick 30th May 2014 08:16 PM

Hi Michael,
Many, many congratulations on this latest acquisition for your already outstanding and important collection, :cool: :cool: :cool: this piece could not have found a better home. :) :) :)
Kind Regards,

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