Dating Earliest Barrels: the Importance of the Position of the Touch Hole
Many arms historians, me included, will basically attribute a high priority to the position of the touch hole in dating a 14th to 15th century barrel. This is all the more important as those earliest barrels hardly show any other clear and defining criteria. On a close second view, however, each barrel does provide further criteria that have proven their reliability in 40 years of my own research studies. With those four decades of my work in the back of my mind, I now feel sufficiently reassured and wish to finally share my dating criteria as there are more relevant factors to barrels than merely touch holes.
Let's start out with the oldest known barrels. From both the illustrations in the Holkham (1326) and Christ Church (1326-7) manuscripts by Walter de Milemete, we are familiar with the basic vase-shaped round copper-alloy (bronze) barrels which marked the very beginning of firearms. Two household clay jugs of ca. 1300 in the Museum of London, if one neglects their handles, denote the everyday use of that basically obsolete Romanesque sense of style. So far, the famous Loshult gun, dating from ca. 1340-50, has remained the only real firearms find to prove that those illustrations were quite exact. Its touch hole is situated on top, near the rear end of the barrel, drilled or struck quite small and round, with no special accentuation to it by either a hollowing or a raised wall, but for the first time in history that oldest barrel does show another criterion: a flat brim or swamping of the bronze at the muzzle section where reinforcement makes sense. The rear end is rounded, unlike that of a vase which is of course flattened to provide a stand.
The Loshult gun is 30 cm long, its maximum outer diameter is 11 cm at the rear end and 4.7 cm at the muzzle, the irregular bore is 3.6 cm and provided firing gun arrows.
The fact that both illustrations by Walter de Milemete made the barrels appear much bigger than the Loshult gun is owed to the fact that, before the introduction of correct perspective in about 1500 by both Leonardo da Vinci and (north of the Alps) by Albrecht Dürer, medieval artists tended to magnify the most important persons or objects in their representations.
No other earliest bronze barrel has been known so far. The next-in-line instances and earliest known finds of wrought-iron barrels date from ca. the 1360-70's. They comprise the unusually large number of ca. 30 nearly identical short and round, but not stout, barrels wrought of wound band-iron that were found on the battleground of Aljubarrota in Portugal (today's view attached).
That battle took place on 14 August 1385 and was fought between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Crown of Castile. Forces commanded by King John I of Portugal and his general Nuno Álvares Pereira, with the support of English allies, opposed the army of King John I of Castile with its Aragonese, Italian and French allies at São Jorge place, between the towns of Leiria and Alcobaça, in central Portugal. The result was a decisive victory for the Portuguese, ruling out Castilian ambitions to the Portuguese throne, ending the 1383–85 Crisis and assuring John as King of Portugal.
One of those historical Aljubarrota barrels is in the author's study collection (attachments) and I attached (sadly poor) images of another. We may safely imagine them to be employed fixed to a long and thin wooden stock by the means of two flat iron bands.
Its length is only 13.4 cm, the maximum outer diameter is 4.3 cm at the rear, the touch hole is struck irregularly, ca. 2.5 x 3.6 mm and located 1 cm in front of the rear end, the 'bore' at the slightly swamped muzzle is 2.7 cm but I am sure that is was not drilled, just fire-wrought.
By the end of the 14th c., the stylistic sensitivity of the Gothic period had finally taken over and the short, stout barrels were now shaped either hexagonal or octagonal, with a slightly swamped accentuation of the muzzle. The round touch hole still was in most instances rather small and located on top, close to the rear end of the barrel.
In the author's collection there is a small, stout barrel of ca. 1390-1400, octagonal over its length.
This High-Gothic barrel is 16.3 cm long, the maximum diameter of 6.2 cm is at the flat rear end, the round touch hole is located 4.4 cm in front of the rear end (!) and measures 8 mm in diameter; it seems to have been struck in the white-warm iron and has a slight hollow to it, the bore has been drilled out quite irregularly somewhat later in its working life to 2.7 x 2.9 cm (!), and looking down the length of the bore one can clearly see where the center of the drill entered the bottom.
A very similar but heavier and longer barrel with the very same touch hole criteria is in Fernando's collection:
'Nando, my dear friend, ;)
could you please check the bore of your barrel whether is has been drilled, if it is also of irregular diameter at the barrel walls, and if the drill has left a pointed mark on the bottom?
After all, our two detached barrels, and two more in the Bern museum, both mounted in later stocks, still are the only known surviving samples of what must have been a mass production at the threshold to 1400! I'm afraid though that most of them were crudely altered and transformed to little noisemakers like firecrackers and saluting guns (German: Böller) in the Alpine regions for the centuries to come. Those that met a luckier fate, like ours, were probably just used as door stoppers.
Nevertheless, such plain and round wrought-iron barrels were made as long as the 1450's, mostly in Eastern Europe, especially in Czechia and Poland, and in Alpine regions. By the turn of the century, ca. 1400, handgun barrels got notably longer and more slender. The socketed barrel of the oldest known handgun in the word, a tiller gun of ca. 1400-10 and in the author's collection, measured from where the socket ends, is 32.2 cm long, of hexagonal outer shape, the touch hole showing no hollowed surrounding and situated immediately before the socket, 3.8 x 4.7 mm, the barrel only slightly swamped at the muzzle where the maximum outer diameter is 3.9 cm, at a the bore of 2 cm; the overall length of the gun is 125.6 cm. The hook is a working-life addition of ca. 1430, put on with a sleeve and riveted at the underside; its beginning is 10.4 cm backwards of the muzzle.
In the 1430's, the iron first barrels with integral fire-welded recoil hooks on the underside seem to have appeared, and such hooks were added to older barrels the way just described. As one of the many results of my four decades of closest research and studies, the famous earliest gun in the Historisches Museum Bern, Switzerland, generally known as the Bern gun, cannot have been stocked with its present hook before the 1430's. The barrel of course is the oldest part and dates from ca. 1390-1400.
As I stated before, the Bohemian Hussite Wars of the 1430's in Czechia produced great numbers of long guns, among them many wrought-iron haquebuts, with the hooked barrels of many of them still surviving. Attached please find a colored drawing of ca. 1440-50 depicting Hussites in an armored carriage (war waggon) overwhelmed by Silesian forces, and haquebut barrels in Czech museums. The touch hole on these barrels is still situated on top, the general shape of the barrel is round or octagonal to round, with no notable swamping at the muzzle (image attached).
In the second half of the 15th c., and till ca. 1500, haquebut barrels sometimes had integrally wrought long and slender iron tillers, their rear end mostly shaped as a grip frame. We know of some Nuremberg made instances in the Bavarian Army Museum Igolstadt, ca. 30 km west of where I live, and of 14 surviving pieces in the Gothic town hall museum of Hasselt, Overijssel, The Netherlands (see attachments).
By ca. 1460, the octagonal outer shape of the barrel had been well established; the touch hole now began to slightly make its way to the right, at the beginning located on the first edge next to the top flat clockwise. At the same time it becomes notably larger, and diameters of 1.5 cm are not rare to find, although they must have resulted in a significant loss of gas. From that time on, similarly huge touch holes became common on most barrels. Also, the position on the first edge next to the top flat clockwise, in many cases remained the same until the end of the 15th c., especially in Alpine regions like Austria and Tyrol. I attached a barrel at a dealer who dated it 'ca. 1460' based on the position of its touch hole. The shape of the muzzle section, however, is the latest, 'youngest' stylistic criterion and therefore crucial for correctly dating any barrel, and the 'Maximilian' style crown-like muzzle hollowed between the spikes is a clear indication of ca. 1490-1500.
The presence, position and shape of sights are another important dating criterion on barrels. They first appeared around the mid-15th c. starting with a raised rear fire shield behind the touch hole on top of iron barrels, incised with a small central slot for aiming (attachments). At about the same period there was just a very subtle small raised portion of the swamped muzzle that acted as the first preliminary stage of a foresight. On my earliest Nuremberg/Passau barrel of the 1460's, a very rare instance of a hog's back barrel (Schweinsrückenlauf), an edge instead on top of an octagonal barrel fulfills the function of both sights over all its length. My next-in-line Passau barrel, bearing the earliest known city mark of Munich according to Erasmus Grasser's design of 1477 together with the date 1481, is the second-oldest dated handgun barrel in the world:
(after I discovered this barrel dated 1417 just a few days ago:
It has a fully developed rear sight, most probably dovetailed, with a central slot over all of its height (ca. 1.5 cm), right on the base (rear end) of the barrel, and one edge of the heavily swamped octagonal muzzle section acts as a foresight.
Here is more on it:
A great number of perfectly preserved Nuremberg-made wrought-iron haquebut barrels, more than 30 of them, are kept in the Oberhaus-Museum Passau in Lower Bavaria, some 130 km from where I live.
They can largely be divided in four groups.
The oldest of them were made in about the 1460's; they are generally slender and octagonal, with semi-large touch holes on the first right edge slightly hollowed at the lower brim, and a short, flat, accentuated muzzle ring next to a slightly withdrawn section of the barrel immediately before the swamping begins, forming sort of a flat snout (German: Schweinssrüssel-Mündung). Of course this slight withdrawal is an implication of the swamping process done by the gunsmith, with only the muzzle warmed to white heat.
Two highly important historical pieces among them, with a third one sold from that museum during WW II (together with one sample of the 1460's and ca. 1500 barrels respectively, which are all now in the author's collection), are struck with the date 1481, of slender octagonal shape throughout and their small (ca. 1.5 to 2 mm) touch holes already located on the right flat, and surrounded by a preliminary 'pan' hollowing with a raised lower brim, for applying with the thumb a lime water solution of a black powder igniting mass intended to set there. Thus the haquebuts could be kept at the armory loaded and primed until the day of their service when a touch with the read-hot igniting iron or a glowing matchcord/rope fuse sufficed to set off within a second. This I know for sure because the touch hole on my 1481 barrel was not visible; it was hidden by some black mass that I thought was some later inadequate stuff (like chewing gum, as it had been exhibited in a museum), so I scratched at it a bit. It was only at that very moment that it fell to small black pieces right before my eyes that I realized what I had destroyed: the original 500 year-old igniting mass!!! Who could have expected that?!
Moreover, that barrel still contained its black powder load, which of course I saved, beneath a thick layer of candy wrappers that generations of museum attenders had disposed of ... The ball had obviously rolled out at some previous point in the barrel's 533 years of history.
Some other Passau haquebut barrels denote by their shape that they were made in about 1480 as well.
All barrels of that ca. 1480 group have in common the heavily swamped, bell-mouthed muzzle section that allowed an easy loading procedure, especially when more than one ball were employed as shot. This is another sample of the importance of the shape of the muzzle section in dating. The rear sight is located at the extreme rear end of the barrel, the base when regarded as an architectural column; it is a block sight with a central vertical slot all the way down to the top flat. With cast-bronze barrels, it stayed in this position until the end of their era, as I will point out. On wrought-iron barrels after ca. 1510, this block sight tended to move forward towards the muzzle step by step until by ca. 1530 it was often located about two to four centimeters forward of the rear barrel end, and had transformed into a rectangular, edged tube with a horzontal lid, and in many cases a small, pierced sighting blade for individual aiming could be exchanged by moving it in and out from the side!
My earliest matchlock arquebus, the stock ca. 1520's, features a small, older and re-used bronze barrel of ca. 1490 which already has a tiny sighting blade mounted inside its founded rear block sight! A singular instance of the pursuit of optimum aiming at the turn of the Gothic to the Renaissance period 514 years ago!
The third group of Nuremberg haquebut barrels in Passau consists of a number of rather short, thick and stout barrels dating from ca. 1490-1500, and identically illustrated by Jörg Kölderer in the Tyrolean 'Armory Inventories' for Maximilian I, who was then king before becoming emperor in 1508 (attachments). They are round throughout, anticipating the new Early-Renaisssance style, their huge touch hole (ca. 1.5 cm) located on the right side and fitted with a pronounced hollowed and rounded sort of primitive pan. This form of a hollowed touch hole seems to be the immediate precursor of the laterally attached pan, at first without a pivoted swiveling pan cover which was first employed on cast-bronze barrels in ca. 1490-1500 (cf. a barrel in the Royal Armouries Leeds, and a French bronze haquebut wall gun barrel with additional trunnions in the museum of Grandson Castle in Switzerland.
The 'Maximilian' barrels in Passau are, like all other barrels from the Maximilian's Tyrolean armories, further characterized by the so-called 'Maximilian' crown's head muzzle section (German: Krönlein-Mündungskopf), separated from the rest of the round barrel by a short raised and often roped freeze, forming an octagonal crown with indented sections between the eight crown spikes. Once more, the importance of the shape of the muzzle section in dating a barrel is verified.
Some of that group of short barrels have rather small (ca. 2 cm) and extremely irregular bores that were left the crude way the gunsmith made them by folding the barrel around a hardened iron pattern and fire-welding the 'seam', and were not drilled afterwards. Such a sample is in the author's collection. So all it could fire was shot.
The last and fourth group of wrought-iron barrels kept in Passau are late haquebut barrels of ca. 1530-40, with one sample retaining its badly preserved but original stock, the snap-tinderlock missing. Those barrels are much longer than the rest, ca. 130 cm, made for so-called Doppelhaken (heavy wall guns); the barrels are three-staged, octagonal changing to two round sections, each stage separated by filed lines, and long, octagonal, swamped muzzle section. The rear stage bears a square tubular rear sight dove-tailed above the breech, and the muzzle section features a bead foresight. The relatively small (ca. 2-3 mm) right-hand touch hole is located in the center of a square pan with a rounded trough and a pivoted swiveling cover with an acorn-shaped drop-down grip (missing on most of them).
In the Army Museum of Stockholm and the Musée de l'Armée Paris there are finely preserved Nuremberg ca. 1540 haquebuts complete with their original stocks.
The next stage of ca. 1550-90 is represented by very long, slender and finely-wrought North Italian iron haquebut barrels with shaped hooks and long tubular rear sights.
Just for the principle of completeness, I wish to add that instances of hooks on wrought-iron wallgun barrels were made as long as the second half of the 18th century. And the old Gothic barrels were still used parallel to new productions, often restocked in the respective taste and combined with wheellock and flintlock mechanisms, way up to the mid-19th century when some of them saw their last service update by being transformed to percussion, like a few sold from the fortress of Hohenwerfen near Salzburg, Austria.
Those barrels, though hundreds of years old, proved resilient and indestructable, in spite of the fact that many of them got drilled out to a bigger bore! Only the strong black black powder of the second half of the 19th c. made of few of them burst, mostly bronze barrels.
And here the circle is complete. Cast-bronze barrels marked the beginning of it all. Although we have no more records of them since the Loshult gun (ca. 1350) until the so-called Tannenberg Barrel, which to some is still 'the oldest datable gun barrel, pre-1399', but which, as I have pointed out earlier, really was cast only around 1440-50, more samples are known by ca. 1460-80, and they were made as long as the mid-16th c., one sample in the museum of Verden in North Germany is even dated 1584.
Bronze barrels mostly followed stylistic criteria of their own. They seem to have been the first staged barrels, as the Tannenberg sample denotes, which does not yet have sights at all, and starting from ca. 1480 they came complete with an integrally cast rear sight on the rear end (base of the barrel, German Bodenstück) and a foresight. Foresights were an integrally cast part of the reinforced muzzle section.
Until ca. 1480, both Nuremberg and Tyrolean bronze barrels were mostly octagonal throughout, sometimes changing sides at about 40 per cent of their overall length, with pronouncedly bell-mouthed muzzles and the bore enlarged at the muzzle for easy loading. By about 1490, two-stage barrels, octogonal to round, prevailed, equiped with a short, accentuated round or octagonal muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf) with integrally cast low and narrow foresight that was as long as the muzzle section (ca. 2 cm). The rear sight was also integrally cast and rather low, ca. 8 mm high, as broad as the top flat of the barrel, and with a narrow central slot right down to that top flat.
A finely structured and filed, fully developed rectangular pan with a rounded shallow trough around the touch hole was also cast integrally, and a swiveling bronze or brass pan cover was pivoted on a horizontal bronze or iron rivet, with a finely wrought drop-down handle.
Also in the 1490's, a roped frieze (German: Schnurbandfries, Schnürlband) often emerged immediately in front of the muzzle section and in many cases stayed at least until the 1530's.
In ca. 1490, Nuremberg as the leading style designing German center, introduced a third rear stage on his bronze barrels. By ca. 1512-15, Nuremberg bronze barrels now had an elongated muzzle section (German: langer Mündungskopf) bearing a raised and rounded blade foresight that was moved back from the muzzle plane by ca. 2 cm. Our modern foresight is 500 years old! At the same time the first, rear barrel stage now beame rather short and mostly multi-sided: octagonal, twelve- or 16-sided, while the second stage was mostly round and the longest stage of the barrel. A finely preserved snap-tinderlock arquebus in the St. Petersburg Hermitage is the oldest known sample (inv.no. 5054, see attachments). Leonid Tarassuk, in Antique European and Armerican Firearms in the Hermitage Museum, 1972, no. 2 in his book, dated it 'ca. 1500, which is a bit too early; 1512-15 seems exactly correct. The stock is painted black, the right side of the buttstock bearing the red and white coat-of-arms of the Nuremberg patrician family Behaim (Pehaim).
A singular, fine, huge and heavy, perfectly preserved Nuremberg wall gun (German: doppelter Doppelhaken), with a weight of 35 kg, ca. 1515-20, features a finely wrought five-staged bronze barrel with elongated muzzle section; filed moldings and raised, rounded scales were employed to accentuate the respective stages:
The forth, round stage is the longest, and the muzzle section bears a low blade foresight over all of its length.
With barrels staged like that, those heavy wall guns emphasized their membership of the 'family' of cannon pieces. They were employed rested on a tripod, often equiped with two wheels, and had to be served by two men who aimed and ignited the heavy piece respectively (Richt- und Feuerschütze)
That Nuremberg style of design prevailed throughout the 1520's, and by ca. 1530, the first, rear stage was often round, and the muzzle sections now often were multi-sided, in most cases octagonal. By the 1540's and 1550's those bronze pieces were rare to find and only very few samples seem to have survived the various re-melting actions of the centuries to come. The Verden barrel dated 1584 I mentioned above is an absolute anachronism and most probably the last bronze wallgun barrel that was founded. Their era was over long since, and the last bronze arquebus barrels for long guns seem tho have been founded in the 1520's. By the 1530's, we have explicit Nuremberg records proving the fact that wrought-iron arquebus barrels now dominated the market.
One last point: hooks, their shape, size and position also play a minor role in dating barrels. When an early barrel features a hook fixed with a sleeve over the barrel this may mean that the hook is a later addition. As stated, hooks normally appeared in the 1430's and were fire-welded integrally to the underside of the the barrels, their position varying from about the midst of the barrel to right beneath the muzzle. Earliest hooks are mostly rather small and triangular, but the correct interpretation of this definition requires a whole lot of experience. Hooks on tiller barrels are not normally pierced; when they are, it was usually to move them suspended on a stable pin, a tripod or a triangle for easier management in firing. On barrels that originally were fully stocked, the hook was often pierced to use it as one of the loops for attaching the stock by transversal wooden or iron pins. On heavy pieces, these pins mostly consisted of iron or iron nails.
Hooks on bronze barrels were cast integrally, mostly of flat rounded shape and often staged, structured and segmented. On the latest bronze barrels of the 1530s, hooks sometimes are placed backwards as far as the middle of the barrel. Interestingly, hooks were attached at the center of gravity of the barrel.
When dating a piece, always watch out for the latest = newest = ''youngest' of all criteria, and only when you are certain that that criterion is 'period' and not a later alteration or addition, you have found the most probable date when the item was made! All the other, older criteria - like the form, size and position of the touch hole - then are just obsolete, old-style relicts carried on traditionally.
Now that was one magnum opus. I'm totally exhausted but I guess it was worth the toil. :shrug: :cool: :eek:
I regret not being aware of the fact that anybody has ever tried to set up such dating criteria so far - there is not one single instance in about 3,000 books in my library, except some preliminary outlines by Arne Hoff in Feuerwaffen (2 vols), and Hoff was sadly wrong in almost everything he tried to establish on early barrels. E.g., I went to Copenhagen to see the barrel that he stated to be dated 1515. It was a piece of the second half of the 16th c., and the cyphers 1515 are not struck like a date but rather like a later inventory no.
What I have tried to establish is all a result of my own painstaking research. Before deciding on publishing and sharing them, I have tried to verify these criteria with several hundreds of barrels I saw over the decades - in museums, private collections, auction houses, at dealers, in books and catalogs, on the internet.
My criteria have stood the test, all of them, believe me. I am my most demanding critic.
An important request:
Please do not reply to this post for the next 24 hours, as I am planning to add many, many attachments and do not wish them to be separated from the text!
Thank you so much!
Thank you so much for being waiting that patiently!
That post meant 20 hrs work within a day and a half, and of course I could not manage doing all the necessary editing within the narrow time limit provided by the webmaster.
Now let's go on with the attachments, in order to enable you to grasp see what I intended to show.
- overwiew of the row of earliest wrought-iron barrels in my collection, from the left:
- Aljubarrota barrel, ca. 1360-70:
- octagonal barrel with alternatingly broad and narrow flats, retaining one of its originally two iron bands for fixing the barrel to the stock, with some small nails still preserved; excavated from brickearth in the Hürtgenwald woods, Eifel, West Germany, in the 1960's, the second iron retaining band and the stock were left in the ground!
two small handcannon barrels, the left hexagonal, the other octagonal, ca. 1400
two more, one octagonal, the other round and with three rings for reinforcement, ca. 1400
- heavy, round barrel of hand cannon, early 15th c., found together with two iron balls (all retained), the massive barrel walls interestingly burst and deformed both left and right to the muzzle
- exact copy of the so-called Tannenberg gun in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg, a lightweight bronze barrel finely wrought, filed and in two stages, octagonal with shifted flats at about 40 percent of its length, bell-mouthed muzzle. This direct comparison with barrels of ca. 1400 makes it perfectly clear that the Tannenberg barrel cannot be 'pre-1399' but should be dated correctly ca. 1440-50!
- two extremely rare, long and heavy octagonal wrought-iron barrels with hollowed predecessors of pans around the big touch holes, for attaching a priming mass - see explanation to my my barrel dated 1481 above; certainly from multi-barreled gun arrangements (see following attachment); ca. 1470-90:
- a singular and important small handgun, ca. mid-15th c., the octagonal barrel retaining its original limewood stock fixed by two iron bands (now loose) showing remains of red lead minium paint, in the rear center of the stock a movable iron ring for attachment to a wall; most interestingly, that gun was ignited with an igniting iron or a linstock directly into a hollowed touch hole in the center of a deep hole within the surrounding limewood!
- an extremely rare small alcove cannon (German: Nischengeschütz) retaining its original oaken block stock and fixed to it by an iron ring that is secured to the underside with two big female screws; the round barrel a shortened and re-used iron tiller barrel, ca. 1440, tapering towards the rear end; the shortened tiller pierces the stock and is secured by a third female screw:
- the Aljubarrota barrel revisited: details of the wound band-iron structure, the touch hole and the small arrowhead mark in front of it
- the little round handcannon of ca. 1400 with reinforcing rings
- source of period artwork to that little rond handcannon barrel of ca. 1400: a depiction of a baptismal font, ca. 1400-20, Prague
More attachments to post #1:
- a singular, highly important piece: the oldest-known complete long gun in the word, ca. 1400-10, a High-Gothic tiller gun with oak stock, socketed hexagonal barrel retaining its original red-lead minium paint, primitive spring-loaded match holder and small slipped-on recoil hook (both working-time additions of ca. 1430):
- exact representation of such a gun dated 1411: Johann Hartlieb: Kriegsbuch, Austrian National Library Vienna, cod.vind. 3039, fol. 38v
- from the same source: the use of superimposed loads! for such guns, fol. 11r
I can not be exact in stating whether the walls are irregular in the context; thty don't look smooth, but that can be rust. However definitely there is no drill point mark in the bottom and the circumference at the said bottom looks to me a little irregular :o .
Difficult to take pictures of a barrel interior, for a non expert like me, with a basic digital camera :shrug: .
Great image, 'Nando, thank you!
It looks as if the bore of your barrel has not been drilled out. :)
Could you perhaps take its weight?
I added pictures of my barrel with eight alternatingly broad and narrow flats, and retaining one of its originally two iron bands; I will take its weight tomorrow.
- also from Johann Hartlieb's Kriegsbuch, 1411: the use of superimposed loads! for such guns, fol. 11r
- my three Nuremberg haquebut barrels from the Fortress Oberhaus, Passau, all preserved in pristine condition, retaining their original red-lead minium paint beneath a later coat of black arsenal lacquer;
- ca. 1460-70
- dated 1481, the world's second oldest dated barrel, struck with the earliest known Munich town mark, the Münchner Kindl (the Munich Kid), according to Erasmus Grasser's design of 1477
- ca. 1490-1500, from one of the Maximilian Tyrolean arsenals, with huge touch hole and 'Maximilian' style crown's head muzzle section accentutated by a roped frieze; the original rear socket for a tiller stock shortened and prepared for a full stock
- another, from the very same Nuremberg series, retaining its original socket and octagonal oak tiller stock, preserved in the reserve collection of the Gäubodenmuseum Straubing, Lower Bavaria
The Aljubarrota barrels
Hi again Michl,
I can see that you made your home work in what concerns the Aljubarrota battle ;) .
If memory doens't fail, i guess i (we) have already been through this subject.
I was aware that there are hand cannons from such period being connotated with this battle.
I once paged a little book called Prestige de l'armurerie portugaise. La part de Liege and, there it was, in page 42, a hand cannon quoted as having been found on the Aljubarrota battle field.
After reading this, i reached contact with Lt. Colonel of Artillery Nuno Rubim, a person recognized for his expertize in this field by his pairs, who had written an article called (from the portuguese): About the technical possibility of the use of artillery in the battle of Aljubarrota ... ofwhich i will here attach the link for a humble translation ... appologizing for the possible repetition :o .
The following was his answer to my question:
In the various survey campaigns in the Aljubarrota field never any trace of light fire weapons was found. And there were several (surveys), the last one carried out under the auspices of Professor Gouveia Monteiro, from the University ogf Coimbra whom, about them wrote a work.
In fact neither was referenced any (heavy) artillery fire mouth, which raises lots of doubts about the fact that there may have ever appeared any example there. But i totally believe on what Fernão Lopes (*) wrote... as i let it clear in my article.
On the other hand i only have documental references about the use of light firearms in Portugal by the middle XV century.
(*) Fernão Lopes (1380/90-1460) was the chronicler who mentioned the presence of 16 trons (onomotopaic name for bombards) brought by the Spaniards and even used in the famous battle.
After facing this apparently solid information, i enquired the author of Prestige de lármurerie (Rainer Daehnhardt), asking him how certain he was of any evidence of the use of hand cannons in Aljubarrota. He answered by saying that the evidence was the logic that, portable artillery out to have appeared practically at same time as heavy one, so surely it was present in that battle.
Having said all the above, it is up to us to choose the side to which pend in this story.
I am not at all pretending to question this specific topic in the contents of your study : i have once made this little research concerning only the provenance of my own cannons :o .
Nuno Rubim's article translation.
This beast weighs 7,4 Kgs. with its 23cms length and 33 m/m bore.
On we go with attachments to post #1:
- my highly important historical Passau/Munich barrel dated 1481, with the oldest known fully developed block rear sight, and struck with the earliest known Munich town mark, the Münchner Kindl, according to Erasmus Grasser's design of 1477; underneath a black coat of 17th or 18th c. arsenal lacquer this, like all three of my Passau barrels, retains its original Gothic red lead minium paint! Please note the bell-mouthed muzzle.
What is most interesting about this and two other historical pieces bearing the same date and still preserved in Passau: together with others (a fourth barrel struck with the date 1481 is preserved in the arsenal of the Fortress Coburg, Northern Bavaria), they were bought by the Passau arsenal in the Fortress Oberhaus, situated high above the city of Passau and never taken, in 1481 when two rivaling candidates, Georg von Hessler and Friedrich Mauerkircher, ran on the Passau prince-archbishopship. In 1482, these haquebuts saw service when parts of the city of Passau lay under heavy fire from the Fortress Oberhaus! And one of them is in my collection 533 years later - imagine! :cool: :eek:
More close-ups of my 1481 barrel.
This dated piece is an important anchor point for dating barrels of the second half of the 15th c.!
You're right, this a revisit to the Aljubarrota topic, and I have a copy of Prestige de l'armurerie portugaise. La part de Liege in my library.
I also guess I mentioned before that that b/w photo depicted an original round Aljubarrota barrel wrought of wound band iron, but with another barrel, of later, octagonal shape, forced into its muzzle!
I have seen other instances of that kind of curiosity; seems like some hoaxter drove some barrels into each other, partly resulting in seemingly having two touch holes!
I do believe that hand firearms were employed in the Aljubarrota battle; after all, we have records of light firearms for foot soldiers from the City of Perugia in the 1350's.
In any case, barrels stopped being made of band iron in around 1400. In the Musée de l'Armée Paris I photographed a huge wrought-iron cannon barrel of wound band iron (imagine the toil the gunsmiths of that period had!), now standing upright to emphasize its shape, which of course was inspired by architectural columns. It was stylistically identical to the Aljubarrota barrels and featured the same swamped reinforcement of the muzzle area!
It was correctly dated 'ca. 1350' by the museum.
Here are the next-in-line attachments to post #1:
On top, an octagonal wrought-iron handgonne barrel with hollowed area around the touch hole, early 15th c., , and
a wrought-iron ring rod tiller haquebut, with pointed hook, ca. 1430-40, both Musée de l'Armée Paris.
Next I wish to introduce a sensational small haquebut of ca. 1450-60 retaining its original larch wood (!) full stock originally painted red all over, both wood and iron. Together with three others, also illustrated in the first image, it was said to come from the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Arsenal) Vienna, in the surroundings of which many pieces were reported to have been found scattered around and were taken by people after an American bomb hit in the eastern wing in 1944.
The four were sold with Hermann Historica, Munich, 31. auction, 14 October 1994.
The measurements of the one on top of the picture of four, the smallest of them all, lot 451:
overall length 104 cm, barrel length 26.5 cm, bore at muzzle 25 mm, narrowing down to ca. 18 mm about 4 cm backwards of the muzzle plane (for gun arrows!), weight ca. 4 kg.
The narrowing bore indicated that that small arquebus (German: Viertelhaken) ws designed to fire gun arrows, mostly incendiary arrows sent flying in a parabola onto the wooden shingle roofs of a besieged town - cf. the Hauslab manuscript, dated 1442, preserved in the Royal Armouries Leeds; I attached two details showing such small arquebuses along with crossbows, firing incendiary arrows.
The slightly downcurved buttstock was drop-shaped like the tiller of a Gothic crossbow, with a narrow ridge on top (see close-up)! On the left rear side, the buttstock was deeply branded with an arsenal mark, the Gothic numeral 4, and incised on the barrel was the Roman cypher VIII, plus an additional magic symbol struck by the barrelsmith: three dots.
The octagonal barrel changed flats at about mid-section, with one edge on top at the slightly swamped muzzle acting as a foresight. The relatively small touch hole with a surrounding slight hollow had a raised fire shield at its rear, behind which there was a v-shaped notch: the earliest predecessor of a rear sight that I have ever noticed Mid-15th c.!
The little straight hook was already wrought integrally, protruding from the forestock, about 4 cm in front of the muzzle, and deeply struck two times with a barrelsmith's mark, an anchor in a shield, on both sides! A very similar mark is seen on the hook of a haquebut still preserved in the Vienna arsenal.
Well, did I buy it? No.
It fetched a tremendous price, much more than the other three haquebuts, which all were just nothing compared to that earliest piece. With an estimate of 10,000 Deutsche Mark, bidding started as high as 17'000 DM. For the whole length of the bidding process, the auctioneer kept staring at me encouraging me to enter the battle, but I just signaled 'no'. Although I was not involved, it went up to 20,000 DM hammer price, plus 23 per cent auction fees. That was about 12,500 euro, and I had been told before that they had a commission bid of 24,000 DM on it, so I first would have had to outbid that.
Why did I restrain myself? Originally, both the barrel and stock of that fascinating little guy were painted completely painted with red lead minium. The armory inventories of Maximilian I depict such guns painted in red and green all over, the basic colors of the Late-Gothic period!
The sad fact was that somebody had used leach to get rid off what he thought was a later coating - resulting in countless remaining speckles of that red paint all over the surfaces of both barrel and stock, and even deep down in the age cracks of the larch wood. It had entered the wormholes, just everywhere. The stock showed the characteristic fine fibrousness of leached wood. That cruel mistreatment just could never be mended, it will always be there.
I documented it photographically as comprehensively as possible.
Had that piece been preserved in undistorted condition, I would have bought it at that time; it would have been my greatest wish come true. I have thought about it every now and then but I feel I would act the same again. To make sidesteps like that, I've been way too strict in only choosing pieces in optimum condition for more than 30 years of my active collecting life, with having had to renounce on almost everything else. I do not even own a car. Too much money for a ruined item.
But that was one heck of a collector's story.
Now do enjoy the photographs I took, they are of good quality and worth studying.
From top to bottom:
Short arquebus operated by two men, aimer and igniter (German: Richt- und Feuerschütze), from cod.man. 3062, dated 1437, Austrian National Library Vienna 2 attachments).
Three illustrations from the Hauslab ms, dated 1442, depicting incendiary arrows fired from crossbows and short arquebuses alike (Roxal Armourires Leeds).
More photos of that early small Viertelhaken for firing gun arrows, ca. 1450-60.
Please note the earliest predecessor of a combined fire shield and rear sight, as well as the touch hole with its hollowed surrounding area.
More of that Viertelhaken.
- the traces of crude leaching on the stock
- the remains of original red lead minium paint on top of the hook were it protrudes from the stock
- the drop-shaped cross section of the buttstock that resembles the tiller of a Late-Gothic crossbow
- and the barrelsmith's anchor mark struck two times on both sides of the hook.
The remainder of photos of that Viertelhaken.
Note the top edge of the barrel acting as a foresight, and the only area of the stock where the leach did not do much harm: right below the muzzle.
Now imagine that small gun completely painted red 570 years ago - what a colorful impact those haquebuts must have conveyed originally!
Illustrations by Bartholomäus Freysleben, 1495-1500, and Jörg Kölderer, 1507, from the Maximilian armory inventories, depict the original color effect of stocks and barrels painted red and green, the Late-Gothic basic colors.
Further attachments to post #1:
- Bohemian/Czech wrought-iron haquebut barrels, ca. 1430-40 (Hussite Wars) to 1460, the earliest without a pronounced muzzle section.
- A socketed Nuremberg wrought-iron barrel, ca. 1450-60, retaining much of its original red lead minium paint (German: Mennige), with short, swamped snout-shaped muzzle, the hook deeply struck with the barrelsmith's mark, an arrow which has proven to be a characteristic Nuremberg workshop mark that was carried on as long as the 1530's. It is found on Nuremberg arquebus barrels dated 1537 in the Bavarian Army Museum Ingolstadt, and on cranequins.
l. overall 99 cm, weight ca. 10 kg, maximum outer diameter 7.8 cm at socket, in front of the touch hole 5.3 cm, hook 10 cm in front of muzzle, bore 25 mm.
Further attachments to post #13, depicting the haquebut on the bottom on the first photo of four, at Hermann Historica's, 14 October 1994, lot 452.
Overall length 112 cm, weight ca. 12-15 kg, ca. 1470-80.
The octagonal barrel with touch hole pierced irregularly on the top flat, surrounded by a wall that acted as an igniting pan and a low fire shield to the shooter simultaneously; not sighted. The long, flat hook struck twice with the Vienna city mark, a cross within a shield. Short, swamped muzzle flat. The faceted, six-sided oak stock with an early form of what was to become the Landsknecht buttstock, branded with an illegible Gothic arsenal numbering (4, surmounted by 7?). Like all haquebuts still preserved in the Vienna arsenal, this stock, too, hardly had any trace of patina left. It makes one doubt whether it was the original.
Further attachments to two more haquebuts introduced in post #13.
A heavy tiller haquebut (German: ganzer Haken), lot 453, overall length 126.5 cm, barrel length 40 cm, weight ca. 12 kg, ca. 1480-90, for an Alpine region like Austria.
The hexagonal wrought-iron barrel struck with various magic symbols (three dots, a cross and X symbol) and a primitive numbering above the breech; short, heavily swamped muzzle section with one edge turned upwards to act as a foresight, accentuated by a small frieze roped decoratively (German: Schnürlbandfries). Short, stepped hook. Relatively small touch hole at rear end of barrel, with spaciously hollowed, surrounding trough for a priming mass, and low rear fire shield, the oak wood tiller buttstock of early Landsknecht type, incised with a long horizontal, V-shaped forerunner of a rear sight immediately in front of the rear barrel section, and branded with an indistinct armorial shield, maybe an arsenal mark of Vienna.
Three long tiller haquebuts still preserved in the Vienna arsenal (Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Wien) bear the same branded symbol (see two attachments), their stocks heavily leached, the wrought-iron barrels retaining traces of their original red lead minium coating.
Three more images of lot 453.
And another heavy tiller haquebut (German: ganzer Haken), lot 454, overall length 153 cm, the longest of the group of four at Hermann Historica's, barrel length 42.5 cm, weight ca. 10-12 kg, ca. 1460-70, maybe even somewhat earlier.
The wrought-iron octagonal barrel with long, segmented rear socket for the long, rounded oaken tiller stock which, just like the barrel, retained traces of original green paint! The rear end of the stock was shaped for easier handling. At the rear of the top barrel flat there was a round touch hole surrounded by a hollowed pan for the priming mass, and with a raised fire shield to the rear; the top flat punched over all its length with magic symbols: the inscription of the Holy Cross: INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum), various cryptic symbols, scales and X-shaped symbols. Slightly swamped muzzle, small stepped hook.
Of that group of four haquebuts, this one retained most of its original undistorted coloring and patina. If it had not been for the most 'modern' criterion, the roped muzzle frieze, I would have dated the barrel to the mid-15th c.
Two more images of lot 454.
An important and extremely rare, small, wrought-iron handgonne barrel for throwing incendiary arrows or stone balls (German: Steinbüchse), ca. 1360-80.
Of octagonal section throughout, large conical touch hole, the muzzle widened and with heavily swamped section. It would have originally been fastened to a long stock with two iron bands.
The rear end is still rounded, denoting its close proximity to the Loshult gun!
Length 20 cm, bore 25 mm at muzzle.
Sold Hermann Historica, Munich, 7 April 2008.
Further attachments to post #1:
The top attachments show the haquebut barrels in the Fortress Oberhaus, Passau, Lower Bavaria. The original red lead minium paint can be seen on many pieces underneath a 17th/18th c. layer of black arsenal coating!
A heavy and stout, round, wrought-iron Nuremberg-made haquebut barrel, ca. 1490-1500, originally coming from one of the Tyrolean arsenals of Maximilian I; author's collection, deaccesssioned from the Fortress Oberhaus, Passau, in WW II.
Originally, this was a socketed tiller haquebut and looked like the ones in numerous watercolor illustrations by Bartholomäus Freysleben (1490-1500) and Jörg Kölderer (1507) in their illuminated arsenal inventories made for King Maximilian I.
All Passau barrels belonging to this group, and those still preserved in the Oberhaus-Museum, were altered in ca. 1520-25, during the Peasant Wars, by shortening the socket and using part of it to form both a rear sight and a rear barrel loop for a transversal pin fixing the barrel to a full stock. A second pin went through the pierced hook.
Let's proceed with attachments to post #1:
There is only one single haquebut from that Maximilian series known to have retained its original socket and octagonal tiller stock; as I stated before, it is kept in the reserve collection of the Gäubodenmuseum Straubing, Lower Bavaria, some 50 km east of where I live; for easier comparison, I repeated its attachment here.
The other images show my haquebuts and close-ups of that Maximilian piece.
More attachments to post #1:
Another group of five haquebuts, of similar shape but varying in size - among them two average haquebuts (German: ganze Haken), weighing about 8 and 12 kg respectively, and two huge and heavy wall guns weighing ca. 20 kg (German: Doppelhaken) - , was discovered standing upright on a board on the wall of a long and narrow bricked-up room (!) in the Castle of Kronburg, near Memmingen, Bavaria, after WW II when the castle had to be restored. They all retained their original ash wood full stocks, the buttstocks shaped exactly like the ones illustrated in the Ingenieurkunst- u. Wunderbuch, ca. 1520, Weimar, cod. 328, fol. 213r, and by Erhard Schön, Nürnberg, 1535 (scans attached). The barrels do not have rear sights but there are bead foresights on the muzzle section.
What is most remarkable about those five guns is the fact that the barrels have retained their original sockets, even with remains of their original tiller stocks in those sockets, and thus they were fully stocked in ash in the early 1520's!
Those haquebuts were, together with books and other arms from Schloss Kronburg, sold at auction with Venator KG, Cologne, 30-31 October 1953, lots 8-12. Each of them was estimated at 250 DM but they went way below that limit. A copy of that sales catalog is in my library.
I have succeeded in tracing back the present whereabouts of four of them. The two shortest of them were bought in 1953 by a Berlin collector, Herr Paul, and after his death I acquired one of them in 2001:
Meanwhile, the two huge samples are in the collection of a friend of mine in Austria, while the fourth haquebut, the smallest of them all, is in a German private collection. One was at sale with Hermann Historica's, Munich, 20. May 2010, lot 1010, the other came through a German dealer in 2009.
All of them are preserved in fine, 'untouched' and heavily patinated condition, with all the edges of the wood still very crisp, and the barrels retaining much of their original red lead minium coat of paint.
The sample in my collection is the second smallest of the four.
Overall length 1.34 m, barrel length without socket 67 cm, socket 22 cm, maximum outer diameter 6.0 cm, minimum o.d. 4.0 cm, bore 25 mm, weight 12 kg.
One of the originally five haquebuts is lost.
More of the Kronburg haquebuts.
Although Hermann Historica's catalog description stated that the stock was of oak, it really was of ash.
Illustrations by Bartholomäus Freysleben (1490-1500) and Jörg Kölderer (1507), from the Tyrolean arsenal inventories for Maximilian I, depicting exactly that type of tiller haquebuts, the barrel painted red with minium (red lead).
Some more instances.
A heavy tiller wall gun (German: Doppelhaken) retaining its original long tiller (oak?) stock, ca. 1500-10; barrel of round section throughout, conical touch hole, swamped muzzle; long, rectangular hook.
Overall length 1.74 m.
Sold Hermann Historica, Munich, 14 October 1988.
A heavy, fully stocked wall gun (Doppelhaken), most probably Austria, ca. 1515-20, the barrel of round section throughout, with elongated, swamped, octagonal muzzle section (decisive for assigning its date), one edge turned upward to act as a foresight, small touch hole located on half-right side, with large hollowed pan-like trough to hold the priming mass and guide the igniting iron; attached to the oaken full stock by two 'folded' iron bands, the hook pulled over the barrel by a cuff, scroll buttstock.
Overall length 178 cm.
These heavy wall guns were no longer long guns, they actually were the smallest pieces of artillery, often mounted on a tripod, and served by two men, aimer and igniter (Richt- und Feuerschütze).
Source of period artwork from Jörg Kölderer's illustrations of 1507, from the arsenal inventories of the Tyrolean armories of King Maximilian I.
Sold Hermann Historica, Munich, 22 April 1988.
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