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Matchlock 30th September 2014 08:25 PM

The Upcoming, Development, and Use of Gun Rests/Forks, ca. 1430 to 1650
12 Attachment(s)
This is another topic relating to early firearms that no weapons historian has ever done research, or at least published, on.

Most probably, black powder and firearms turned up in Northern Europe as early as the 2nd half of the 13th century. We may safely assume that gunners and gun makers alike started thinking about a simple tool that could be employed in field battle, for more than a century before hooks for barrels were invented in around 1430.
Hooks acted as a recoil stop, and made aiming safer. A forked rest slanted forward against the hook must have worked out fine, as depicted on 15th c. illustrations. Hooks do not turn up in contemporary historic sources before ca 1430, though, but rests do.
The simplest, and therefore oldest, solution obviously was resting the gun on a solid stand, and the next step most probably was to pivot it - in order to move its muzzle vertically and/or horizontally, for a quicker and safer aiming.

As the oldest sources of illustration depict, various solutions must have existed, and been tested, side by side, for at least decades.
The earliest dated sources that have been detected and published so far are miniature illuminations found in two manuscripts by Walter de Milemete, England, dated 1326 and 1327 respectively; and they show the simplest rest of all, from the very beginning, seemingly a table:
top four attachments

The author is convinced that, with the growing digitalization of codices preserved in libraries all over the Western world, it will only be a matter of maybe a decade or two before an earlier source will turn up.

What Walter de Milemete depicted as a table actually represents the prestage of a stock, a wooden casing for what was just a barrel - of cast bronze like a contemporary aquamanile, although the latter were often made of clay still in the 14th century:
attachments #5 and 6
showing a 14th c. German Gothic clay aquamanile

Neglect the handle, and the tubular and bell-mouthed shape of a contemporary jug
becomes evident;
attachment #6:
author's photo of two late 13th c. clay jugs in the Museum of London

This is also the basic form of the de Milemete, and
the Loshult barrels of ca. 1300-1350, the latter see
attachments #7-11.
The data of the Loshult barrel:
Length 31 cm, bore 36 mm at the breech (German: Pulversack) narrowing to 31 mm at the muzzle - corresponding to the diameter of the rear end, cord binding, of the gun arrows it fired; weight 9.050 kg.

The first firearm barrels adopted the shape of a tubular vessel of everyday use, apt to keep things like water or milk, but also delicately grained powder-like substances such as meal, sugar or salt. The earliest guns were shaped exactly like the average contemporary 13th to 14th c. household clay mug or jug (neglecting the handle), a can or a bucket made of wood, hammered brass, or iron.
As the origins of the words rura/roer/rör/Rohr/barrel/puxe/puchsn/Büchse/tube/Tube/canale/canna/cannetto/Kanne etc. all denote in the respective language, the basic shape of such a vessel must have been tubular, longitudinal, and round from the beginning. This form also met the Late-Romanesque sense of style which went down into all objects of everyday use, and was traditionally kept for very long, in spite of the break of the Early Gothic period in the 13th century; those were not the days of a throwaway society.

Various solutions for resting a portable gun in the field are depicted in the oldest illustrations.

Haquebuts, of course, were rather large and heavyweight wall guns that were mostly employed in fortified places, or on carriages; with the muzzle stuck out of the loophole in the wall, the hook would then safely prevent the recoil - with the wall taking it all, instead of the gunner.
But what about the lighter and portable guns in field battle, or at sieges?

The earliest barrels recorded to have been survived so far, all feature rather short barrels, varying between ca. 13 and 35 cm in length, but comparatively large bores, ca. 35-30 mm before ca. 1400, and narrowing to ca. 20 mm by the turn of the century.

Latest excavations,
however, done on battle sites of ca. 1400-1402 in both the Netherlands and Eastern Germany, and within the previous twelve months, have brought to our knowledge the first two pieces of smallbore leaden clod shot, ca. 11-13 mm in diameter/caliber. They prove that smallbore tiller-stocked arquebuses must have been around by at least the late 14th century.
The author owes it to his good friend M. that one of those two tiny clod shot items has just entered his collection, and will be published soon, along with the other that was detected in Germany.
Together with them, among other remarkable variants of shot, a smallbore iron ball (!) covered by a thin layer of lead was detected.
The only plausible reason
for investing a disproportionately high amount of work is to minimalize material wear of barrels founded of comparably soft copper alloys (brass or bronze), at the same time saving the maximum impact of the iron core of the ball.
This fact is especially striking as all barrels recorded to be pre-ca. 1420-30 were made of wrought iron - the only exception being the Loshult gun.

- The short barrels of the so-called Aljubarrota type, datable to ca. 1350-75, all of round section throughout, made of wound band iron, fire welded and slightly swamped at both the rear end and the muzzle:,
post #2

- the octagonal barrel of the Bern gun, ca. 1390, now showing the beveled edges of the hexagonal or octagonal shapes influenced by the Gothic style, with the rear and the muzzle section still slightly swamped:,
posts #15 through 20.

- a very similar and contemporary barrel retaining one of its originally two iron stock bands, preserved in The Michael Trömner Collection:
post #15

As an exemption to that rule, earliest socketed barrels for tiller/stick stocks, made between ca. 1390 and 1430, do not have swamped rear sections.
That type of barrel is found on the world's oldest gun recorded to exist, ca. 1390-1410, also preserved in the author's collection; its socket is not yet wrought integrally with the barrel but consists of a rather delicate, fragile and rounded tubular iron sleeve folded around the rear end of the hexagonal barrel, with the oaken tiller stock attached by a nail:

As the author has shown before, the so-called Tannenberg gun, of cast bronze, traditionally dated "pre-1399" and termed "the world's oldest datable gun", actually cannot have been made before ca. 1430:
attachment #12.

The consequence of such large calibers means that the recoil of those earliest guns actually must have been quite hard. Moreover, the potential danger of bursting eminating from them is proven by the decidedly cautious and protective attitude denotes which the gunners were shown taking in the earliest illustrations of 1326/7.
Even after 1400, they were still usually portrayed leaning their upper body way back from the touch hole, and raising the left hand in a repelling gesture, out of sheer fear - obviously aware of the fiery and thunderous hell they are going to raise, and make burst open at the very moment of ignition, unleashing the demons, to leave a thick cloud of smoke, and the stink of sulphur. Only at best, though, and when the gunner was lucky.
In German, there is a saying, vorsichtshalber weit ab vom Schuss sein, meaning: better keep as far away from danger as possible. Like many others of those very old proverbs, it obviously derives from long-disctance weapons, such as the catapult, and especially black powder exploding to gases within nothing.

Lately, Dr. Alfred Geibig, curator of the historic arms and armor arsenal (Zeughaus) preserved at The Veste Coburg in Northern Bavaria, and the author had an intense brainstorming. Both were in unanimous consent that until at least the second half of the 17th century, employing bigger devices to throw heavy projectiles of various kinds with enormous sudden power, and especially guns - the most dangerous of them all - , must have primarily been a matter of try and error. It all started in Ancient Times, thousands of years ago, by testing the actual strength needed for a mechanic device like a catapult, to effectively throw a heavy stone at, or over, a city or castle wall; the next step was trying out various mixtures, and grades of graining, of black powder - including bravely experimenting with the diameter of touch holes and barrel bores.
Whatever the outcome, success or catastrophe, it all got noted, and barrelsmiths, founders, and gunners alike must have competed in a permanent race, simultaneously trying to find out, and prove, a surer and safer method. He who failed would drop right out of competition; the best that he could hope for was survive that test, and stay sound. Only the master whose powder and gun performed, and stood the test, would receive a major contract from the wealthiest warlord, receive big pay, and gain fame. The loser, though actually second best, was rumored to have proven a failure; all he could hope for was a second chance to apply for another test - with a lesser principal, and the hope of lesser pay.

After that basic thinking, let us get back to the first barrels with recoil hooks, and what they meant for field use of transportable handgonnes, generally termed long guns from ca. the 2nd half of the 14th c.
From the foregoing, we may conclude that every gunner and gun master very soon started thinking of a device to reduce the recoil of portable "long guns" that had to be carried outside a fortified place and fired there - with the gunner taking both the impact of the recoil, as well as the fact that both aiming and firing the piece should be made easier, in the original sense of the word.

To be continued in follower post.


Matchlock 1st October 2014 02:11 AM

11 Attachment(s)
In the second oldest dated/closely datable source of contemporary illustration, in Bellifortis (German: der Kriegsstarke; the strong one in war), written and illustrated by Konrad Kyeser of Eichstätt, Bavaria, ca. 1405, later on we will detect the earliest picture of a High Gothic tiller long gun being fired, obviously fitted with a wrought iron edged .. and socketed barrel reflecting the Gothic taste, and a much longer wooden tiller stock; the barrel is rested on a wooden fork.

In Cod.vind. 3069, ÖNB Wien, dated 1411, there are studies of a remarkable variety of methods, all being experiments how to rest and adjust guns at the turn of the centrury. Two watercolors illustrate the use of a thread, some show the guns pivoted, some represent early stages of a forked rest, and the last depicts a gunner firing his tiller arquebus at short distance, and through a slot is his targe which he uses as a rest:
see attachments #1 through 11,
depicting fols. 20r, 10r, 26r, 18v, 24r, 33r, 20v, 25v, 24v, 19v;
appearing in order.

Regarding the proportions of persons and objects, the fact should be considered that before ca. 1490, and ingenious painters like Leonardo da Vinci and Albrecht Dürer, who were both influenced by the break of dawn of the Modern Age starting with the Renaissance period in Italy, illustrations were not correct representations of reality, neither in terms of perspective nor actual dimensions.
Consequently, Medieval artists pictured every person and object which they felt were most important to point out to viewers, much bigger than lesser persons, or everyday objects widely known.

Looking at Kyeser's illustration from this aspect, we are able to imagine the actual dimensions of both the gun and the forked wooden rest. In fact, both were quite small and thin, when compared to the gunner. Kyeser made these objects look so big because the fork was obviously quite a new invention, a fact that he wished to point out to his fellowmen.

A surviving contemporary of Kyeser's period is world's oldest known surviving long gun, ca. 1390-1410, preserved in The Michael Trömner Collection:
Bottom attachment

To be continued in follower post.


Matchlock 1st October 2014 02:42 AM

12 Attachment(s)

The actual dimensions of the earliest completely preserved gun of ca. 1390-1410 closely compare to three very similar contemporary guns, illustrated in

- Cod.vind. ?, dated 1410, ÖNB Vienna
top attachment

- Cod.vind. 3069,
by the same artist, possiblyJohann Hartlieb, dated 1411, ÖNB Vienna
(see 11 atts. to previous post)

- Bellifortis, 1405,
atts. #2 through 5,
incl. a self portrait of Konrad Kyeser

Please also note the earliest representation of an igniting iron, depicted rectangularly curved, and very delicate overall, especially at the tip.
the author's thread on igniting irons and linstocks, as well as the oldest actually existing igniting iron recorded,
in The Michael Trömner Collection:
- earliest igniting iron in author's collection, for comparison

To be continued in follower post.


Matchlock 1st October 2014 02:43 AM

12 Attachment(s)

Atts. 1-3
is a representation dating to ca. 1460-70, of a gunner aiming a short firearm on horseback, the gun rested on a fork.
The illustration copied from Wendelin Boeheim: Handbuch der Waffenkunde. Leipzig, 1890, p. 445, fig. 522.
A variant of that drawing is also attached.

By the early 16th c., and inspired by Maximilian I., who spent more money on firearms and war than he could actually raise, the Innsbruck artist Jörg Kölderer illustrated one of the 'Maximilian' arsenal inventories (Zeugbücher) in 1507, depicting a highly unusual three barreled gun with wrought-iron barrels, and the highly figured stock painted light green, which was characteristic of the Late Gothic/Early Renaissance period of style. The snapping tinderlock mechanism was most probably released by a
laterally mounted push-button trigger; the zoomorphic (serpentine) tinder holder is shown cocked, with a piece of tinder clamped in its jaws. It would only ignite the powder on the pan of the right one of the two short barrels, though; the remaining two had to be set off manually.

The author photographed a similar but seven barreled! snap-matchlock arquebus, Northern Italy, ca. 1525-30, in the collections of the Army Museum Prague, located on the Hradschin fortress:
Atts. 4-7

The following woodcuts date from ca. 1530, depicting the entry of the Emperor Charles V into Bologna in 1529, to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor (copyrighted by The British Library Board):
- remaining atts.,
to be
cont'd later.

It is highly unusual to see the arquebusiers carry rests, together with those relatively short and lightweight arquebuses of the 1520's to the early 1530's; after all, those guns measured only between ca. 80 and 110 cm overall, at a weight of ca. 4 kg.

There is no evidence that gun rests were in general use, and part if the standard arquebusiers equipment, before the mid-16th c.; they were known since at least the late 14th c., no doubt, but most certainly reserved for special aiming.
Otherwise they would show up
more often in contemporary historic sources of illustration; in fact, they very seldom do before the 1550's.

To be continued in follower posts by the weekend.

Must have a few days' break ...

************************************************** *****

To be continued in follower posts by the weekend:

The author has knowledge of parts of a Swabian manuscript dating to ca. 1525-35, containing an illustration of a Landsknecht aiming his tinderlock arquebus at a bird, and using his Großes Messer (sword) as a rest:
Atts. ...

At the same time, these illustrations of ca. 1530 support assigning an exact date to the very few actually surviving relatively lightweight snap-tinderlock arquebuses characterized by that earliest type of wide flared fish-tail like shape of buttstock, as well as the butt trap and cover on the right-hand side of the butt.

Talking about gun rests, please allow an excursion on the "hardware", the arquebuses of the 1530's.

These actually are the earliest Nuremberg stylistic forerunners, or prototypes, of the triagular so-called Spanish musket buttstock of ca. 1555-60, which, in turn, influenced the Nuremberg style of the oldest long and heavyweight matchlock muskets (overall length 1.56 to 1.60 m, weight ca. 7-8 kgs).
Of course it was those mid-16th c. long and heavy monsters, as well as the contemporary petronels, that made an utensil like a forked rest almost an indispensable prerequisite, and it was to be kept kept for at least 100 years to come with 'military' muskets, until the end of the Thirty Years War. We even find it depicted in exercise manuals of the 1660's and 1670's. It should be kept in mind, though, that these authors all relied on, and copied from, Hendrick Goltzius and Jacob de Gheyn; thus, we cannot tell for sure whether those latest manuals really represented the actual topic standard.

The earliest muskets
from this Nuremberg group known to have survived are two specimens preserved in the Styrian Landeszeughaus Graz, the combined mechanisms originally uniting a snap-tinderlock holder released by a small lower trigger, and a matchlock serpentine activated by a long bar trigger (the snapping cock and small trigger obviously removed later from both lock plates), the barrels dated 1567 and 1568 respectively, and struck with the marks of Nuremberg barrelsmiths, as well as with the Nuremberg proof mark (inv.nos. 402, 403).
A third sample
was sold at auction at Hermann Historica's, Munich, 6 October 2009, lot 1022, together with an original musket rest. The matchlock mechanism was of usual construction, featuring a single serpentine moving the match backwards, and on to the pan, when the long bar trigger is pressed upwards; the barrel was also dated 1568 and struck with Nuremberg marks.
Atts. ...

As the author put forward as one of his theses years ago, that type of arquebuses seems to have been developed in Nuremberg, in the late 1520's, so Carlos's dating of ca. 1529-30 is absolutely correct.

These contemporary illustrations also back up the author's statement that the only two samples of that type of arquebuses known to exist so far, should be dated "ca. 1530":
- a gun preserved in the Hungarian National Museum of Budapest; cf. Johann Szendrei: Ungarische kriegsgeschichtliche Denkmäler in der Millenniums-Landes-Ausstellung. Budapest, 1896, p. 697, ill. #3061, and p. 499, ill. #3026 (detail showing buttstock and lock).
Atts. ...

When regarding the present wheellock mechanism, it is important to note that its lock plate (!) seems to have been mounted in Hungary, in the 1540's, replacing the original Nuremberg snap-tinderlock mechanism of ca. 1530. What is also very remarkable
from the view of historic weaponry is the present dog/pyrite holder: most probably, it is an addition of the Thirty Years War period, about a century later, when all older guns that would still fire saw re-use, as well as some 17th c. technical updates.
It is of Tschinke type, ca. 1630's - a quite special Silesian/Polish sort of a light smallbore wheellock gun which, with most of its mechanism mounted on the outer side of the lock plate, and the shape of the dog reminding of the 1560's style. This mechanism was based on the ca. 1525-40 wheellock arquebus style.

The first wheellock mechanisms with outer main spring seem to have originated in Italy, like the earliest known wheellock arquebus/"pistol" of ca. 1525-30; it is quite small, measuring 31 cm overall, at a bore of 11 mm. This has been known to historic weaponry since at least 1885 - cf. Moritz Thierbach: Die geschichtliche Entwickelung (sic) der Handfeuerwaffen, nach den in den deutschen Sammlungen vorhandenen Originalen. Leipzig, 1886, p. 37f.; pl. 4, fig. 80.

It was sold Sotheby's, 9 June 1961, lot 121, and acquired by the Tower of London. It is now preserved in the collections of the Royal Armouries Leeds, ...
Atts. ...

These early Italian wheellocks were obviously soon exported to Eastern European countries, especially Hungary, where they continued to be made in much the same style through ca. 1550.

- a snap-tinderlock arquebus of ca. 1527-1535, preserved at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt (depot/storge rooms), W 61.100.The original snap-tinderlock mechanism is missing from the gunbut the outline of the stock recess denotes the characteristic shape, showing a raised tip behind the serpentine, which, in this case, actually was a cock as it had to be cocked, and released by the trigger. This arquebus also features the earliest German type of a trigger guard:
Atts. ...

The limewood stock
is heavily wormed, and was consolidated quite inadadequately, obviously just left to soak in artificial wax solution for too long, and without cleaning the wax off the surfaces. This treatment resulted in completely ruining the original surface of one of a tiny number of surviving stocks from that period, and of the rarest type; not a trace of its characteristic original dark brown lacquer is left.

As the author has stated before, one of the outcomes of his extensive research done over almost four decades was the fact that limewood was preferred for stocking Nuremberg-made arquebuses between ca. 1490 and 1540; second to lime were pear and cherry wood, whereas North Italian stock makers usually employed walnut for small firearms; the early 16th Italian centers where these arquebuses were mostly Val Trompia/Brescia, and Emilia.
The center of Emilia seems to have been the first in Italy to define a proof mark for both barrels and blades (mostly those for cinquedeae) made in their workshops, and passing official control tests: the Late Gothic minuscule e, struck horizontally:
Atts. ...

It is a well-known fact that the Habsburg Emperor Charles V was very fond of weapons, especially those with wheellock ignition, which he all bought from Bavarian gunsmiths:
In 1530, when Charles V took part in the Augsburg Diet (German: Augsburger Reichstag), acknowleding the Augsburg Confession (German: Augsburger Religionsfriede: cuius regio, eius religio;, he purchased his first short wheellock arquebus, the barrel dated 1530, from the Augsburg gunsmith Bartholomäus Marquart, who became famous his double struck sickle mark (Real Armería Madrid, K-32).
From ca. 1535, he also bought some extremely fine small wheellock arquebuses/"pistols" from another Bavarian gunsmith, P
eter Peck in Munich, whose works are ranked top in the world's most important collections, like the Real Armería Madrid or the Metropolitan Museum of Art N.Y.

The Michael Trömner Collection is one of two private collections known to preserve a gun by Peter Peck, which, at the same time, is the only long gun
the barrel of which is struck with Peter Peck's Gothic minuscule p mark; it is a heavy matchlock musket of ca. 1575-80:

This is where the excursion has to end; back to the gun rests.

To be continued in follower posts.


Matchlock 1st October 2014 02:44 AM


fernando 1st October 2014 12:30 PM

These are not posts; these are treatises.
Danke Schoen, Miguel :cool:

Matchlock 1st October 2014 01:27 PM

Originally Posted by fernando
These are not posts; these are treatises.
Danke Schoen, Miguel :cool:

No kidding, 'Nando,;)
my dear friend,

That's exactly what they are - it's a very hard ground to plow, for the first time ever.
It's one helluva work ... 36 hours without sleep!:(:shrug::cool::eek:
I must get rid of that stuff, and send it all to you guys out there.
Eu te agradeço, meu caro amigo!


Cavalco 1st October 2014 06:49 PM

Originally Posted by fernando
These are not posts; these are treatises.
Danke Schoen, Miguel :cool:

I support told by Fernando... A "Treatise of arms"

Matchlock 1st October 2014 07:10 PM

Originally Posted by Cavalco
I support told by Fernando... A "Treatise of arms"
That's cute!:cool::eek:

Marcus den toom 2nd October 2014 09:31 AM

I has to be said Michl, this thread and you are amazing ;) :cool:
Hopefully i am not too forward posting these pictures. They mainly depict the heavier guns/cannons of times long gone.

Attachment 1: One of the simplest ways to support such a heavy weapon was by means of wooden beams. Also on a side note, the archers shoot with what appears to be incendiary arrows!! from: A fortified town under siege. From the Swiss Amtliche Berner Chronik of 1483.

Attachment 2: An aimable cannon with stand and a smaller cannon on a simple but very widely used plank with wheels. Quit a lot of the manuscripts i see have this second design. The Hague, KB, 128 C 1 I fol. 403v Book 17: Chapter 1 Siege of a city (can't find the date on this one)

Attachment 3: Similar to the second picture, but this time the witnesses go bananas and look in fear. As Michl pointed out earlier in this thread, firearms where feared on both sides of the barrel ;). Jean Boutillier, Somme rural, Bruges ca. 1471 (BnF, Français 202, fol. 15v)

Attachment 4: A rider, similar to the ones shown earlier, with gun and rest mounted on the horse/saddle. Mariano di Iacopo [Jacopo] (aka Mariano Taccola; and also referred to during his life as the 'Archimedes of Siena') (1381-1453 and in this instance after 1430).

Attachment 5: A town under attack, two soldiers with stocked hand guns (and one with a faint hook?). Note also the ignition iron (?). It is glowing red hot.

Matchlock 2nd October 2014 01:04 PM

[QUOTE=Marcus den toom]I has to be said Michl, this thread and you are amazing ;) :cool:
Hopefully i am not too forward posting these pictures. They mainly depict the heavier guns/cannons of times long gone.

Thank you so much, Marcus,

Those sources of illustration you've found are at least as amazing as the ones I gathered together over four decades - they're just great, and so are you!
You have been doing very fine, and your're learning so fast.
It makes an old Landsknecht veteran of weaponry, like me at 61, so proud of you! ;):cool:

Best wishes, my friend,

Marcus den toom 15th September 2017 03:10 PM

5 Attachment(s)
Furthering on this thread of Michl, i found these ignition irons
Some of them are show redhot, either straight or with a little pick/hook at the end.

Not many would have survived or can be identified i fear.

fernando 15th September 2017 03:45 PM

Very good, Marcus; keep going :cool: .

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