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Matchlock 26th September 2012 07:10 PM

14th-15th c.: How Powder and Ball etc. Were Kept Before Powder Flasks Appeared
12 Attachment(s)
As both additional and preliminary notes to my thread on earliest trapezoid powder flasks of the 16th c.,

I would like to post the few earliest sources of period artwork depicting vessels like bags, belt pouches, ammunition chests (Zeugtruhen) and late 15th-early 16th c. powder horns.
Again, this is a subject nobody has cared to do research in so far.

The earliest known dated illustrated sources seems to be as late as the 1480's. Unfortunately, we do not know how arquebusiers carried their ammunition on them for about 100 years before. They must have used some kind of leather bags or pouches though which must have been logically equiped with compartments for powder, balls and wadding - plus some early sort of powder measure for one round.
By the early 16th c., depictions of powder horns, bandoliers and flasks have become quite frequent; such small accouterments did not seem important enough to illustrate during the 14th and 15th centuries although they must have been in use.
Remember: clothes did not have pockets before ca. 1600!

The earliest devices to go and carry ammunition and small accouterments, such as wadding or cleaning tools, seem to have been leather bags and pouches, either worn on the belt or around the shoulder. Early-16th c. arquebusiers are also frequently shown to carry leather 'purses' which actually were belt bags and contained a lot of small compartments, accomplishing manifold purposes and helping the soldier carry all those little things of importance - including ammuntion and tools for his arquebus. In many cases, an additional powder horn and shoulder bandolier with powder measures for each round can be identified.

Powder horns
are recorded from the 1480's to the 1530's when flasks - either wooden and trapezoid or wooden and round, as well as of staghorn (antlers) - seem to have taken over.

Interesting enough, powder horns saw a late 18th c. revival as scrimshaw horns in the U.S. colonies.

Attachments, from top to bottom, showing excerpts from
- the Swiss Berne Chronicle, 1483, by Diebold Schilling
- the Lower Bavarian Landshut Armory Inventory (Zeughausinventar), 1485, by Ullrich Beßnitzer (small wooden powder measures, the predecessors of bandoliers!)
- the Tyrolean Maximilian Armory Inventories (Maximilianische Zeugbücher), 1495-1515
- Hans Schäufelein, The Triumphal Procession of the Emperor Maximlian I, ca. 1513
- a North German watercolor of ca. 1515-20, in the Museum of the Fürstentum Lüneburg
- the Löffelholz ms, Nuremberg, ca. 1525-30, depicting a shooting range with an ammunition chest and powder measures and - in color - all the many arquebusier's accouterments!
- the Battle of Pavia, 1525, in a painting by Ruprecht Heller in the National Museum Stockholm, and a series of Brussels tapestries in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
- The Battle of Alesia, Bavaria, 1533, by Melchior Feselen
- Nuremberg Landsknecht woodcuts of the 1530's
- a Swiss Landsknecht watercolor by Johann v. Schwarzenberg, 1530's-40, Kantonsbil. Appenzell, CM ms. 13, 54r


Matchlock 26th September 2012 08:49 PM

12 Attachment(s)
The remaining attachments.

Matchlock 26th September 2012 09:30 PM

8 Attachment(s)
And the rest, including

- a stone sculpture of an arquebusier and his horn, ca. 1490-1500, in the cathedral in Chartreuse, France

- and a painting of the Resurrection, from the Herscheider Altar, ca. 1510, in Burg Altena, depicting an arquebusier with his leather belt bag, small round priming flask worn on the chest, and powder horn


Matchlock 26th September 2012 11:16 PM

The First Cartridges!
3 Attachment(s)
I addition to the attachments from the shooting rage of ca. 1520-30 posted above, depicted in the Löffelholz manuscript, I wish to point out some details.

The first close-up attached shows an arquebusier's ammunition chest containing a couple of loads (Ladungen) explictly labeled as comprising powder and ball in the description (!), spare powder in the drawer on the left, and balls assorted at the bottom.
This makes this tiny bottled load (illustrated not to scale because it was important for the Late-medieval artist!) the ancestor of paper cartridges which are recorded by at least the midldle of the 16th c.
Illustrated on the right is a powder bucket, and a funnel for fiilling the powder below.

Another close-up of such a bottled load is attached.


Matchlock 26th September 2012 11:57 PM

For more information, please refer to my related threads and posts:


Matchlock 28th September 2012 01:06 PM

6 Attachment(s)
In the Museo d'Arti Applicate (Museum of Applied Arts), Milan, there is a highly interesting and small, beveled container of thin, embossed and blued/browned iron, the top fitted with a hinged lid, the sides fitted with four loops for suspension.
It is dated 18th c. by the museum and believed to have been used for grenades.
Its measurements are 19 x 18 x 11 cm, at a weight of 60 grams.

Stylistic comparisons clearly denote that the riveted petaled decoration on the lid is characteristic of the Late-Gothic period, 15th c., corresponding to the decoration on a huge number of wooden caskets and chests, mostly West or North German or French.

In my eyes, this little portable container was most probably meant to carry the ammunition of an arquebusier: a forerunner of mid-16th c. cartridge boxes.


Matchlock 28th September 2012 03:45 PM

3 Attachment(s)
The Battle of Pavia, 1525, revisited.
Three details from an attachment to post #2, a Brussels tapestry in the Museo di Capodimonte Naples, showing the top mounts of early powder horns comprising nozzle and vertical cut-off measure.


Matchlock 28th September 2012 04:18 PM

2 Attachment(s)
This is the oldest known large powder horn (29 cm) that ever occurred to me, ca. 1540-60.
The basal plate on the iron top mount shows a Late-Gothic embossed and curved decoration and a combined spring-loaded top lever and cap, on the underside (belly) there is a spanner for a wheellock.

All the iron mounts retain a lot of their original blueing, the item is heavily patinated overall.

Sold Czerny's, 16.2.2002, lot 266.


Matchlock 28th September 2012 11:10 PM

7 Attachment(s)
Two more Late-Gothic German ammunition chests/caskets partitioned for various accouterments are illustrated in the Kunst- und Wunderbuch (Book of Arts, Crafts and Miracles), Weimar, ca. 1520.

Please note small leather pouches (for bullets?) and longish measures in the fist chest, a very early ball mold in the second, plus another similar mold!


Matchlock 8th December 2013 01:35 PM

3 Attachment(s)
A Swiss musketeers bandolier, ca. 1600-30, featuring the unusually small number of only five wooden and leather-covered powder measures, plus a priming flask with tapering nozzle, a ball pouch and a length of characteristically 'stiff' Swiss matchcord (Wittstock, Museum of the Thirty Years War, from Fischer, Lucerne).


Matchlock 8th December 2013 02:38 PM

3 Attachment(s)
When regarding representations like the ones in post #1, reading descriptions such as leatherin pulvertaschen (Old German for leather powder bags), we may resume that the arquebusier of ca. 1500 just reached with his hand into his powder bag, grabbed a portion of powder and rammed it down the barrel of his arquebus together with the ball. Most probably he basically carried a small powder measure in that bag as well.

By the early 17th century, the musketeers trousers had integral pockets, and we know of inofficial reports of early-Thirty Years War soldiers who, instead of using the flask or bandolier, just grabbed a portion of powder from their pants pockets, thus being quicker on the reload than others obeying the strict rules. How many cruel accidents may have happened that way we can all but speculate. And of course, with no wad to hold the sub-caliber rolling ball in the barrel, they could not fire downhill without losing the ball ...


Matchlock 15th March 2014 12:48 PM

For early 16th c. arquebusier's bandeliers with small powder measures of tinned iron etc., please see


Matchlock 19th March 2014 10:58 AM

4 Attachment(s)
Here are two characteristic so-called soldier's 'purses', although the term 'purse' is way too narrowly considered and short-sighted.
Only the few small pouches with pull cords were meant for coins, while the other compartments had to hold all the tiny everyday things - in a period before ca. 1600 when pockets in garments had not been invented! For an arquebusier, accouterments like powder, wadding, pieces of cloth, a little bottle with oil and cleaning tools like a worm and a scourer were indispensable.

So, as I pointed out in my book

the term 'side bag' or 'belt bag' is more apt.

Both these bags were made in Nuremberg, ca. 1525-30. The first features some tricky and really cunning hidden mechanics to correctly open the iron frame, plus 8 compartments for various utensils and 5 pouches for coins; it once was in my collection. The second I photographed in the GNM (Germanic National Museum) Nuremberg.


Martin Moser 22nd March 2014 04:28 PM

Hi Michael,

a very nice purse indeed (and of course as I am especially interested in all things leather)!

Originally Posted by Matchlock
... in a period before ca. 1600 when pockets in garments had not been invented!

While you are certainly right for the most part, for the record there actually is a leather jerkin found in the wreck of the ship Mary Rose (sank 1545) that has a single pocket on the inside of the jerkin's left flap (Julie Gardiner: Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose (The Archaeology of the Mary Rose). p39).


Matchlock 22nd March 2014 04:48 PM

Hi Martin,

Alright, a jerkin made for a certain soldier and for a special purpose may be the proverbial exception that proves the rule. :)


Spiridonov 12th June 2017 11:48 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Medieval german Containers for medicines looks like powder measures from Landshut Armory Inventory (Zeughausinventar) 1485

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