Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   19th century fencing foils (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7583)

William V. 18th November 2008 04:44 PM

19th century fencing foils
 
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Hello over there :)

On the special whish of a single person I'm going to present to the forum a matching pair of late 19th century fencing foils. The "ethnographic" aspect may be found in their special grip. They are fitted with a so called "German handle" which means that the quillons are attached directly below the guard, leaving a very small ricasso (in contrast to the Italian style).
The blades were imported by J.H. Lau at 75 Chambers Street, New York. They are both forged at Solingen (Germany) etched with some kind of floral pattern. I assume that they were not used for actual fencing but are nevertheless in a very good condition.

Does anyone have further information on J.H. Lau? I found out a great deal, but I'm still looking for a date when he opened his shop in NY.

All the best


William

Ed 19th November 2008 03:02 AM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by William V.
Hello over there :)

On the special whish of a single person I'm going to present to the forum a matching pair of late 19th century fencing foils. The "ethnographic" aspect may be found in their special grip. They are fitted with a so called "German handle" which means that the quillons are attached directly below the guard, leaving a very small ricasso (in contrast to the Italian style).
The blades were imported by J.H. Lau at 75 Chambers Street, New York. They are both forged at Solingen (Germany) etched with some kind of floral pattern. I assume that they were not used for actual fencing but are nevertheless in a very good condition.

Does anyone have further information on J.H. Lau? I found out a great deal, but I'm still looking for a date when he opened his shop in NY.

All the best


William


Hi.

He was a tall man as the clip demonstrates. And he entered the country in 1889.

Fortunately you can search over at the New York Times.



Here is the first page of a search I made

There are a lot of hits, perhaps what you are looking for is in there somewhere. You might find copies of the NYC Directory and see where his establishment makes it's first appearance.

Good luck.

Jim McDougall 19th November 2008 03:12 AM

Outstanding photos William! and welcome to our forum!!! :)

These foils are extremely nice, and I have often wondered how the types varied. I have only ever known of the modern versions of French, Italian and foils or sabres. It seems interesting that these appear almost vestigial versions of the famed Spanish cuphilt.

I'd like to know more on the different types of foils used in the 19th century, and hope we can include more on some of the makers and outfitters who provided them. A most interesting sector in arms collecting!!!!

All the best,
Jim

William V. 19th November 2008 08:28 AM

Thanks for the replies ;)

@ Ed:
Very good hint. But unfortunately I have already searched through all hints on the NY Times archive. The date you mentioned is 1869 :o
But I'm not sure if all the dates an information are related to the same person :shrug:
They could have been 2 persons with the same name....
Unfortunately the TIMES is quiet on the matter when he started his business. Further inquiries with the Brooklyn Library haven't brought up anything new. The NY Library offered a service to check for material but charges 60 Dollar per hour even if they don't find anything.
Thanks for the hint on the " NYC Directory", I'll see what I can find :)

@Jim
regarding the different grips: There are a lot more. Especially in Italy it seems common that every great "maestro de armas" up to the 1930' developed his own handle according to his own method of fencing.
I might post more on the different styles (depending on the time :D ).

So far for now,

all the best

William

Jim McDougall 21st November 2008 03:58 PM

Hi William,
It would really be great to have some more examples of the type hilts and styles of these civilian foils. With your posts I was compelled to see if I could find more on these very undiscussed weapons in the world of arms and armour and have found that there are few, if any, resources with any amount of comprehensive information.
While the history of fencing is well represented by a number of books, one of the most thorough that I have found, "By The Sword" (Richard Cohen, 2002), is well written and gives fascinating accounts and history, but little in any description of the weaponry.
The only specific references I found noted the effort to find a weapon that was specifically for sport and presumably practice, in the court of Louis XIV in France, was the "...blunted, rectangular section foil". It describes further the first masks of c.1750 of tin with peep holes or horizontal slits for the eyes, which while offering protection, still left potential for injury, much as with the jousting helms in medieval times. Much as in that case, there did occur eye injuries with the blade entering through the holes. By 1770, the first wire mesh masks were introduced.

With that, we are left wondering just what the earliest foils looked like, were they very different from those seen today? Were there distinct differences in the features of the foil preferred by the various countries who practiced this civilian sport? Did these change in any particular way as the sport developed?

These are some of the things I hope we can bring into this discussion thread, and I'm really glad you have brought this fascinating subject to the forum! :)
Thank you!

All the very best,
Jim

Chris Evans 22nd November 2008 08:09 AM

Hi William,

Those look to me like decorative display foils. Their hilts aproximate that of the Flamberg type transitional rapier, but without the pas dáne (see E.Castle).

Cheers
Chris

broadaxe 22nd November 2008 11:35 AM

foils etc.
 
Hello all. I had my own short time of interest in 19th century fencing weapons, it isa subject yet to be thoroughly researched, as Jim said. By the way, it is not less "ehtnographical" than any other flyssa or shamshir (just for example).
Matching sets of highly decorated foils and epees were sold as "case of swords" = presentation gifts and trophies to champions and maestros.
The foil appeared first at the second half of the 17th century, just as a drill substitute to a sharp smallsword. Later on, when fencing was booming as a popular sport in Western Europe It has became as fencing tool of its own, especially with women & children because of its lighter weight and sometimes shorter length. One must remember that honor duelling was still a regular did at the end of the 19th century and it was customary for all gentlemen to be trained in swordplay as a matter of manhood; the heavier epee with its longer stiffer blade and large bowl guard was considred as the weapon of honor, so cases of matching decorated epees were reserved for serious affairs.
I think you will find interest in those links: http://www.tcasfencing.com/antique_fencing_catalog.htm
http://www.fencingmuseum.com/index.htm

Jim McDougall 23rd November 2008 02:57 AM

Outstanding input Broadaxe! and welcome!
BTW, no need to worry about ethnographic or not. The reason we began the European Armoury was to diversify into other fields of arms and armour study.

All best regards,
Jim

Jim McDougall 23rd November 2008 05:18 AM

While not strictly concerning fencing foils, discovered an interesting note from early classical antiquity with most distant relation to fencing, from about the 12th century BC,

"...the long rapier, which was the commonest type in the shaft graves, was not Mycenaean in origin, but had been developed by the Minoan bronzesmiths of Crete".
"...it is a huge weapon,-many of the extant examples exceed three feet in length, without the elaborate hilt attachments with which they were originally fitted- but this in itself reduced its practical value. A heavy blow on the edge of the sword, if it did not shatter the slender blade was likely to snap the even thinner tang, so that hilt and blade parted company. In many cases the swords have been found with thier tangs broken in this way, probably during use. Strictly these are thrusting weapons and thier designed use must have been largely limited to the fencing duels, between single champions, we see represented on some signet rings of the period".
"Arms and Armour of the Greeks"
A.M.Snodgrass, 1967 , pp.15-16
Just thought it was interesting while we discuss the history of fencing.

All best regards,
Jim

broadaxe 23rd November 2008 05:04 PM

Jim, the citation is very interesting indeed.
Back the original subject, I'm aware of two individuals who are being regarded as a "living source" of classical and olympic fencing. Interestingly both were fencing instructors (one of them still is) and both hold private fencing museums:
Maitre (maestro) Rudy Van Oeveren http://musee.escrime.free.fr/
Maitre Jaque Castanet http://www.antiquaire-escrime.com.fr/index.htm
I have met with Mr. Castanet in person and visited his museum - it is most fascinating, and one can touch (and buy...) almost everything. Note the antique-looking swept-hilt foil on the opening page, it is possibly the oldest known survivng foil, circa 1670. For me, the section of sharp epees was the most interesting part, he has pairs of varied hilts including cup-hilt style that were used in Spanish colonies. If there is interest I can upload here some pics I took there.

Jim McDougall 24th November 2008 05:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by broadaxe
Jim, the citation is very interesting indeed.
Back the original subject, I'm aware of two individuals who are being regarded as a "living source" of classical and olympic fencing. Interestingly both were fencing instructors (one of them still is) and both hold private fencing museums:
Maitre (maestro) Rudy Van Oeveren http://musee.escrime.free.fr/
Maitre Jaque Castanet http://www.antiquaire-escrime.com.fr/index.htm
I have met with Mr. Castanet in person and visited his museum - it is most fascinating, and one can touch (and buy...) almost everything. Note the antique-looking swept-hilt foil on the opening page, it is possibly the oldest known survivng foil, circa 1670. For me, the section of sharp epees was the most interesting part, he has pairs of varied hilts including cup-hilt style that were used in Spanish colonies. If there is interest I can upload here some pics I took there.



Outstanding Broadaxe!!! There is indeed interest, so please post :)
Thank you for sharing these links!!

All the best,
Jim

kronckew 24th November 2008 10:50 AM

yes, broadaxe, please post more. i have a nostalgic fondness for the epee as i was trained in it and fenced on my varsity college team 40 odd years or so ago. (we had a very good hungarian coach, an ex- hungarian cavalry officer).

http://i153.photobucket.com/albums/...f/Yearbook2.jpg

broadaxe 26th November 2008 10:30 AM

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Hungarians are very famous as fencers, espacialy with epee.
Here are some pics, feel free to post questions, I hope I can answer all :o

Chris Evans 26th November 2008 12:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by broadaxe
Hungarians are very famous as fencers, espacialy with epee.
Here are some pics, feel free to post questions, I hope I can answer all :o


Hi,

Absolutely fantastic - Thank you for sharing them.


Some years ago, I sa a similar collection (in variety and scope) in Buenos Aires. Walked out with a very light wallet and a couple of swords.

Cheers
Chris

fernando 26th November 2008 07:59 PM

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Beautyful pieces you show there, Broadaxe. Do they belong to you ? What a fascinating colection :cool: .
If you people don't mind, let me take the opportunity to have in this thread some authorities in this area, and ask for coments on one "and half" foils i have; unfortunately one of them has a blade broken by its half length.
The entire one has a 87 cms blade and still keeps a very thin brass wire wraped around the leather grip. I never knew what the term BEDEL means.
All the marks on the blade are well visible. There is also the figure 5 engraved; i wonder if that represents the size of the sword.
The other example has a completely identical grip, only missing the wraping wire. The blade has only one mark, ASOLINGEN; i wonder what the letter "A" added to the word Solingen means.
Coments on these pieces would be much welcome, namely on their provenance and possible age.
Fernando

broadaxe 26th November 2008 10:13 PM

Hi Fernando. All the photos were taken at the private museum of Maitre Jaque Castanet in France. For me this is just a side field of interest. The number 5 stands for length of the blade, which is the adult standard. For youth it used to be #3, and there was a rare longer blade, #7. I don't remember the exact measures. The style of your hilt can be dated to the mid-19th century; please check if the fittings are nickel-plated steel thus indicate later age.

Jim McDougall 26th November 2008 11:15 PM

WOW! Broadaxe.....now THATS what I'm talkin' about!!!
Thank you so much for posting these, and its wonderful to see such a grouping of fencing swords and masks.

Pretty much speechless at this point :) I'll think of something to say, I think!

All the very best,
Jim

celtan 27th November 2008 10:55 AM

In Spain, a bedel is someone in charge of a building, and sometimes the term is used for minor administrative hotel employees.

In this case though, I believe its the name of the store that sold the epees. Aciers Bedel, or Steels Bedel.

The A before Solingen could likewise refer to Aceros or Acieres Solingen.

Best

M



Quote:
Originally Posted by
The entire one has a 87 cms blade and still keeps a very thin brass wire wraped around the leather grip. I never knew what the term BEDEL means.
All the marks on the blade are well visible. There is also the figure [b
5 [/b] engraved; i wonder if that represents the size of the sword.
The other example has a completely identical grip, only missing the wraping wire. The blade has only one mark, ASOLINGEN; i wonder what the letter "A" added to the word Solingen means.

William V. 27th November 2008 02:40 PM

Hello @ all

Sorry for not posting earlier... my job got the better of me :(

@Fernando:
The 5 indicates indeed the lenght of the weapon (normally "5" was 88 cm), the blade was forged in Solingen most probably by the Weyersberg company (before 1883). I suppose that the "Bedel" is the seller of the weapon and the word (as already said) "acier" meaning "steel", is a kind of proofmark that the metal is truly steel. The fact that "acier" is french for "steel" implies that Bedel is a french distributor (by chance I stumbled across 2 other weapons located in France with the same marking, which speaks for this hypothesis).
The "VjB" is probably the full name of the seller, the last letter standing for "Bedel".
The only thing irritating me is the strange king's head, he looks quite different to the original:
http://www.wkc-solingen.de/ueberuns/index.html

Do you mind posting a high-resolution picture of the head only?
Another interesting point is the question why a french distributor should sell german blades? They had Klingenthal and Chatterault around the corner :shrug:

Regarding the other weapon:
Are there any other markings on the blade except the "ASolingen"?
The way I see it the "A" is the french for "at" Solingen. Indicating that the blade was forged at Solingen. This would show that the blade was for the foreign market.

@Broadaxe:

WOW :eek:
I knew the page of Mr Castanet but am truly amazed by the material he has there. Perhaps I should plan a short trip to Paris ;)
Really nice pictures.

So far and all the best

William

broadaxe 27th November 2008 03:46 PM

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The place of Mr. Castanet is not actualy in Paris but is very easy to get, about 20 minutes to the south riding the RER train. One should call for appointment.
As there is interest here are some more pics.

Jim McDougall 27th November 2008 05:39 PM

These are absolutely wonderful photos Broadaxe, and its like taking a trip to this completely captivating shop! It is the kind of magical place someone could spend many hours in wandering through, and admiring all the treasures. It reminds me of the antique weapons stores which existed once upon a time (before ebay) and as a youngster, my awe as I wandered through them.
* interesting old Masonic sword there with the skull and crossbones, and in seeing that with my younger eyes, I would have imagined it as a pirate captains trusty sword :)

Thank you William and Manuel for the input describing these markings and notes on the pieces shown.......I feel another notebook coming on !!! I have often thought of putting together information on fencing weapons, and here we have a great start.

Thank you guys!!!!

All the best,
Jim

fernando 27th November 2008 07:05 PM

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Thanks a lot for your input, Broadaxe, Manolo and William.
Yes William, i see your point about these foils having been imported from Germany to France, when the late had their own production. Mybe this was due to the ever famous Sollingen prestige?
By the way, despite being almost invisible in the pictures,k the letter S can be discerned inside the central section of the decoration efects; maybe this stands for Solingen?
You are right in that the King's head is rather different than the traditional one from Weyersberg. The Monarch in my example has a moustache and a beard ... quite intriguing. Would there be another German (or not) sword maker with a King's head mark ? There must be an explanation for this.

Concerning the other example i have posted, the only mark is indeed ASOLINGEN. I stress that the grip is precisely the same model, whereas the blade is slightly thinner.
Both these examples were acquired in the same place and at the same moment (in Portugal); so i would bet they surely belonged to the same owner.
Fernando

William V. 27th November 2008 09:37 PM

Thanks for the fast pictures Fernando...

Regarding the kings head: maybe there is some kind of forgery into this.
As you said, Weyersberg / Solingen was a well known name too: So why not copy the marking and change it slightly to be sure to get no legal issues?
Is just a wild guess, but with your permission I will ask at Weyersberg directly (they are really nice people) if they ever used this kind of marking (or know of a forger who did.

Regarding the "S": As far as I know, you are right. It stands for Solingen. By the way: Blades intended to be sold to a foreign country are (as far as I know marked with an "A", perhaps for german: "Ausland" which means "Foreign Country"). In addition to this, it is interesting to know that Klingenthal used the same symbol with a "K" (logically for "Klingenthal") in it :rolleyes:

@ Jim: Always a pleasure to help ;)

William

Jim McDougall 28th November 2008 03:48 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by William V.
Thanks for the fast pictures Fernando...

Regarding the kings head: maybe there is some kind of forgery into this.
As you said, Weyersberg / Solingen was a well known name too: So why not copy the marking and change it slightly to be sure to get no legal issues?
Is just a wild guess, but with your permission I will ask at Weyersberg directly (they are really nice people) if they ever used this kind of marking (or know of a forger who did.

Regarding the "S": As far as I know, you are right. It stands for Solingen. By the way: Blades intended to be sold to a foreign country are (as far as I know marked with an "A", perhaps for german: "Ausland" which means "Foreign Country"). In addition to this, it is interesting to know that Klingenthal used the same symbol with a "K" (logically for "Klingenthal") in it :rolleyes:

@ Jim: Always a pleasure to help ;)

William






More excellent information William. I would never had known the 'A' might have meant that. The marketing and commercial acumen of Solingen was in a word, magnificent! This huge export machine overpowered locally made products even in Spain, and probably in many cases, France.

The use of spurious makers marks, popular wording etc. was well aligned for clients as well. The kings head was also used early by Johannes Wundes if my memory serves, and was a venerable mark by these times. It seems blades sometimes had numerous kings heads stamped in groupings, as many as four sometimes. In my thinking, this might have something to do with the numerous stamps used as hallmarks on silverwork, perhaps suggesting quality of that level? Just a thought for multiple stamps on regular blades.

There is so much historical data reflected in the curious markings and stamps we find on weapons, and that is why I hope to continue compiling more in these threads for future research. Using the search feature will reveal the most current data on these subjects.

All the best,
Jim

katana 29th November 2008 07:19 PM

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Hi,
Like Fernando, I also wanted to post these two fencing foils, ( hope you don't mind) The first I believe to be French mid to late 19th C , blade marked ' C G ' with a crown above ...no idea as to the meaning .The blade tip is sharply pointed :eek: and sinisterly ...judging by the rust pitting this 'point' was made a long time ago. Used for duelling ?? ...... I have no idea ...would anyone know if this was common modification.

The second I think is possibly older.....lots of micro pitting to the guard and blade. The wooden handle has a carved chequered pattern which has bee heavily 'rubbed' from extensive use :cool: No discernable marks but may have lost them due to rust/pitting.

All comments gratefully received....thank you

Regards David

broadaxe 29th November 2008 11:36 PM

Katana, your first foil (actually - the only foil, for the second item please follow) is very interesting: straight hilt made of what seems like leather washers, with a very small pommel; wide soulders at the ricasso. I can risk by say it has been made privately or custom ordered.
Please specify blade length, weight and point of balance. Now, duelling foils are not nonexisting but very rare, simply becuase the thin square/rectangular blade is too flexible.

The other item is a sport/olympic saber. Judging from its wooden grip, design of the bowl guard and I could almost swear it is made of steel - please check it (the guard I mean) with a magnet - it is circa 1920-1930's.

katana 30th November 2008 12:12 AM

Thank you for the reply Broadaxe :) ,
the handle is wood (unknown species) with concentric grooves, gives good 'grip' when held.


Blade length to raised shoulder 83 cms
Overall length is 98 cms
handle (including pommel) is 13cm
POB is 12cms from the raised shoulder.....27.5 cms from the pommel 'end'
weight is 310 grammes.

Would you have any idea what 'C.G' with a crown above (the crown is 'crested' with a cross) I have tried to photograph this but it will not show up clearly.

Thank you for the info on the sabre, the bowl is steel ...there is no evidence of any plating or remains of plating on any of the various steel components. Do you think there was originally ? Thank you

Kind Regards David

broadaxe 30th November 2008 08:27 AM

Unfortunately the initials C.G. do not ring any bell :confused:
The POB is down the blade (comparing to a modern foil), due to the small pommel, and this is also an evidence of an amateure making. I think the broad shoulders were intended to give more weight up the blade - the same way it was on practice longswords of the 15th c. in order to have a safe flexible blade with good balance similar to a fighting sword's. The length is somewhat shorter then the standard. Nevertheless, the work look of high quality.
Steel guard sabers used to have nickel plating and/or coloring, but I don't know if this used to be a must.

katana 30th November 2008 12:54 PM

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Hi Broadaxe :) ,
thanks again for your comments. I always thought the foil was unusual. As I said before, the sharp point is 'old', using a magnifying glass I can see the same patination and slight pitting as the blade. The blade isn't as 'whippy' as you might expect. To give you some comparison if the foil is pushed, point first into the wall (pressing on the pommel) there is very little flex. If the same pressure is applied to the Sabre the blade flexes around 3" ( I used a spring balance weighing scales to push the pommels ..both were 'forced' by 5.5 kgs ...approx. 12lbs).
The foil would have no problem in stabbing (quite deeply ) assuming it missed bone :eek: I also found this, perhaps my half hearted thoughts of this being a dueling 'sword' is'nt so wrong :shrug:


"...The foil was invented in France as a training weapon in the middle of the 18th century in order to practice fast and elegant thrust fencing. Fencers blunted the point by wrapping a foil around the blade or fastening a knob on the point ("blossom", French fleuret). In addition to practising, some fencers took away the protection and used the sharp foil for duels. German students took up that practice and developed the Pariser ("Parisian") thrusting small sword for the Stoßmensur ("thrusting mensur"). After the dress sword was abolished, the Pariser became the only weapon for academic thrust fencing in Germany.

Since fencing on thrust with a sharp point is quite dangerous, many students died from their lungs being pierced (Lungenfuchser) which made breathing difficult or impossible. However, the counter movement had already started in Göttingen in the 1760s. Here the Göttinger Hieber was invented, the predecessor of the modern Korbschläger, a new weapon for cut fencing. In the following years, the Glockenschläger was invented in East German universities for cut fencing as well.

Thrust fencing (using Pariser) and cut fencing using Korbschläger or Glockenschläger) existed in parallel in Germany during the first decades of the 19th century - with local preferences. So thrust fencing was especially popular in Jena, Erlangen, Würzburg and Ingolstadt/Landshut, two towns where the predecessors of Munich university were located. The last thrust Mensur is recorded to have taken place in Würzburg in 1860.

Until the first half of the 19th century all types of academic fencing can be seen as duels, since all fencing with sharp weapons was about honour. No combat with sharp blades took place without a formal insult....."

Regards David

A Pariser..

William V. 30th November 2008 07:55 PM

Hi Katana,

regarding the foil (the saber is not that interesting ;)):
Like broadaxe I have no idea which forge might use "CG" under a crown but it was not uncommon to use foils as a substitute for duelling epees. In fact this habit was critisised by contemporary sources (e.g. G. Hergsell in his "Duell-Codex").
Nevertheless: If you could try to get a decent picture I would try to find out more on the weapon.

All the best

William


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