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Jens Nordlunde 20th January 2005 08:30 PM

The Moser Collection 1912
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Here is a picture from Henri Moser’s catalogue from 1912, showing part of his collection.
Henri Moser von Charlottenfels gave his big collection of oriental weapons and other things to Historisches Museum in Bern, Switzerland in 1914. Henri Moser, although Swiss, grew up in Sct. Petersburg, where his farther was watchmaker of some renown as Fabergé used his watches. When Henri was old enough, he was sent to school in Switzerland, and returned later to Russia. As he found watch making a bit dull, he joined the army, and started travelling in Russia and other countries, after he had been promoted lieutenant. In the foreword to the 1912 catalogue he writes, that some of the weapons he bought for a bottle of Vodka. The main part of his Indian collection he bought in London.

B.I 20th January 2005 09:33 PM

a really fascinating man, jens. he and his wife both travelled east many times. there is a great image of him and his wife at a bazaar (in klays biography), with the sellers laying their wares out on front for them to browse and choose. it was the time to collect. i'm sure he participated in the the retrieval of pieces from st. irene when it was transfered to the military museum, hence the great ottoman pieces (armour). a man of great taste, although he tended to aim for the more ornate. as all the books i have on him are written in german (very annoying as they are well studied books), i was unaware that he bought in england. i assumed that most eastern pieces came from source, and through the parisian sales of the time.
like stibbert, he had an inclination to wear his collection on a regular basis :)

Andrew 21st January 2005 01:44 AM

Thank you for sharing this with us, Jens. Once again, you tempt me with Indian delicacies! :)

I can only assume such richly dressed weapons were reserved for the nobility. Are similar items still seen on the market?


Battara 21st January 2005 02:27 AM

Andrew, I can answer that question with a yes such quality, up to $10,000+ :eek: :(

Jens Nordlunde 21st January 2005 08:14 AM

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Like Battarra says, pieces like this can still be bought, but they are far apart, and the price is very high.
Here is another one.

RSWORD 21st January 2005 02:48 PM

I believe the 2nd picture grouping are Bhukaran examples. Lovely and quite rare. The piece in the middle with the large Rhino horn handle is especially lovely.

Jens Nordlunde 21st January 2005 03:22 PM

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The collection covers a very big area, but most of the illustrations are in b/w. MOser had also a fair amount of krises.

Michel 22nd January 2005 10:07 AM

Hi Jens,
Are the color photos you are showing in the catalogue of Moser ?
Did they make that good color photos in 1912 ?
I have almost the same photos, but not as good, in the book :By Shah Emir und Khan by Roger Balsiger und Ernst Klay. 1992 Meier Verlage. (unfortunately in German)
There are extraordinary photos in this book but the colors are not as good as yours.
The wife of Henry Moser, Marguerite Schoch is part of my family ( as his sister Henriette Schoch, as he married the daughter of his half sister) , that however did not help me find a copy of Moser's catalogue or his book :" A travers l'Asie Centrale", at a decent price .(it was quoted at 710.- $ in 2000 in London ! far beyond my possibilities )
I recall only two kris in my book, may be you have many more in the catalogue ?
Thank you for these excellent photos

tom hyle 22nd January 2005 12:32 PM

I'm fairly sure those are black and white photos that have been "tinted".

Jens Nordlunde 22nd January 2005 12:53 PM

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Hi Michel,

The Moser catalogue from 1912 was printed in Leipzig in a very limited number. 125 German copies, 100 French copies and 75 English copies. The size is big 42 * 53 cm. It consists of loose pages, a few printed in colour and the most in b/w. There is a foreword by Henri Moser and a short text to the plates. You are right, the pictures, especially the colour pictures are indeed very good.
Yes, some of the illustrations are shown in By Shah Emir und Khan by Roger Balsiger und Ernst Klay, you will no doubt recognise this one, shown on page 134. It is true that the book never was translated into English, I don’t think they would be able to sell enough books, and besides, then the French speaking would say why is it not in FrenchJ.
The Moser catalogue from 1955 is very difficult to find, and will if you succeed be very expensive.
Did you know that Henri Moser gave two blades – I think – to scientists so that they could analyse the steel?

Jens Nordlunde 22nd January 2005 12:57 PM

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Here are five different kinds of damascening, all blades from the Moser collection, the 1955 catalogue.

tom hyle 22nd January 2005 01:13 PM

To expand, I'm not 100% certain, but I think that colour photography per se did not exist on Earth in 1912.

Jens Nordlunde 22nd January 2005 01:24 PM

Hi Tom,

The colour plates are chromolithographs and the b/w plates are monolithographs.


Oriental-Arms 22nd January 2005 05:52 PM

The Moser collection
I had the privilege to visit the collection in 1994 with a colleague collector, while a small part of it was still on display at the entrance hall of the Museum. With the kind permission of Mr. Ernst Klay, the curator of the collection at that time, we were also allowed to visit the museum cellars, were most of the collection is housed. Incredible. I think it was the most exciting experience of my life as a collector of blades. The quantity and variety are beyond perception. We usually see in the reference books only those items of exceptional quality like the ones shown above, but the collection also includes thousands of rather simpler, more common items. Needless to mention that the collection also includes many examples of decorative arts of Central Asia. Best of the best, nothing to do with arms and armor. Unfortunately I understood that the display is now closed. “Lack of interest” so the museum says.

The 1912 catalog is indeed a rare fine book to have, but its cost is extremely high. The last one I believe was sold last year for 5000.00 Euro or so.

Andrew 22nd January 2005 06:57 PM

Jens, thank you so much for sharing pages from this rare catalog. I'd love to see more when you have the time. Unfortunately, I'm essentially a spectator, so will have little to add to any discussion. (Other than "oooh" and "ahhh" :D ).

Artzi, nice to see you. :)

Jens Nordlunde 22nd January 2005 08:02 PM

Hi Andrew,

Maybe you can be ‘trapped’ into the Indian area; there are still many parts of witch you have not seen.
I will bring more pictures to show you what you have ‘missed’. I am crying for you – but it is you choice.


Andrew 23rd January 2005 03:07 AM

Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Hi Andrew,

Maybe you can be ‘trapped’ into the Indian area; there are still many parts of witch you have not seen.
I will bring more pictures to show you what you have ‘missed’. I am crying for you – but it is you choice.


Hi Jens,

I'm not in any danger of abandoning my dha, but you do know my weaknesses. :D

In the black and white photo towards the top of the thread, I note an unusual "hooked" bladed katar. This configuration seems counter-intuitive for a punching weapon. Have you seen or handled one like it?


Jens Nordlunde 23rd January 2005 08:51 AM

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Hi Andrew,
The ‘hooked’ katar is indeed a most unusual katar type. Unfortunately I have only seen this type on pictures, and Moser has written very little about it. ‘Hooked katar with pierced side guards’. One thing you can be sure of is, that next time I get to Bern to see the collection; I will be looking for it.

Hi Artzi,
You are right, Henri Moser had a fantastic collection, 1300 weapons, and about the same number of manuscripts, textiles and other artefacts. It is a pity that Ernst is not at the museum any more, and that they have taken the exhibition of the weapon down – who knows when ti will be on exhibition again.

tom hyle 23rd January 2005 01:48 PM

the wootz samples are interesting. Note the rungs do not go all the way across on the Kirk Narduban example; the notches appear to have been forged down in making the curve/bevel. I notice the hooked katar is the kind with a rivetted blade. Thes blades are often or usually remounts from other sources (commonly cut up obsolete European swords though of course that is not the case here).

estcrh 24th September 2017 06:59 AM

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Does anyone have other Moser images?

estcrh 24th September 2017 07:15 AM

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corrado26 24th September 2017 11:49 AM

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Oh yes, I have the catalogue of 1955

estcrh 24th September 2017 12:34 PM

Originally Posted by corrado26
Oh yes, I have the catalogue of 1955
Thanks, hard to believe that there are so few images available and I can find none from the actual collection, just the catalogs.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 24th September 2017 12:52 PM


mariusgmioc 24th September 2017 01:10 PM

Fantastic thread!

For the first time I see a photo of the famed Kara Khorassan type of wootz. :)

corrado26 24th September 2017 03:01 PM

Originally Posted by estcrh
Thanks, hard to believe that there are so few images available and I can find none from the actual collection, just the catalogs.

Do you want to have more fotos?

ariel 24th September 2017 09:39 PM

I have the 1923 and 1955 editions. The 1912 was well above my pay grade: marital bliss is more important.

But, BTW, I just caught my better half reading ( not leafing through!) Kirill Rivkin's book on Eastern sword! All is not lost:-)

estcrh 24th September 2017 10:04 PM

Originally Posted by corrado26
Do you want to have more fotos?

Of course, I have searched in several languages but not much shows up.

ariel 25th September 2017 09:52 AM

With 12 years delay :-))) my comment on Tom Hyle's doubts re. color photography in 1912: yes, it existed. Google " "Prokudin-Gorsky".

He was a Russian photographer and made color pictures of different areas of Russian Empire between 1905 - 1915. His pics of Central Asian persons show local weapons in great detail.

Oriental-Arms 27th September 2017 06:32 PM

Visit to the Moser collection
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Several photos from my visit with colleague collector to the Moser collection in the cellars of Bern Historisches Museum, April 1994. I do not have good photos of specific items but one can be impressed from the magnitude and variety of the collection.

estcrh 27th September 2017 10:40 PM

Originally Posted by Oriental-Arms
Several photos from my visit with colleague collector to the Moser collection in the cellars of Bern Historisches Museum, April 1994. I do not have good photos of specific items but one can be impressed from the magnitude and variety of the collection.
I am impressed alright, now I know were most of the worlds Persian shamshirs are.

Jens Nordlunde 30th September 2017 08:39 PM

I have been there a few times. The first time the exhibition was not on, but a friend and I were allowed to have a look behind the doors. The second time it was on exhibition, and the last time only very few things were shown.
Should you ever go to Bern, you should contact the museum, and it will be possible to see the reserves.
Besides from that, Berne is a very old and beautiful town.

Kurt 1st October 2017 09:43 AM

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Hi Atzi ,
This was a nice time, you could easily visit the depo.
One call was enough.
Now you have to register and if you are lucky you will get an appointment.
The latest, you have to pay for an observer who oversees you.

estcrh 1st October 2017 01:43 PM

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“Something that remains after we are gone”: the life and collection of Henri Moser

The Wallace Collection’s library holds a number of rare books, which our visitors can view on request. In this blog by Helen Jones, Library Cataloguer, she explores Oriental arms and armour: Collection Henri Moser, Charlottenfels (1912)

This mysterious and, apart from its size, inconspicuous wooden box houses one of our most attractive items: a portfolio of plates showing the collection of oriental arms and armour of Henri Moser (1844-1923). When I first found the wooden box in a cupboard in one of the curator’s offices several years ago, I was very surprised when I opened it and saw what it contained. I see the same reaction whenever I open the box to show the portfolio to any of our visitors – most people actually say “Wow!” It just goes to show that you should (quite literally in this case!) never judge a book by its cover…

Henri Moser was a Swiss national, born in Russia, where his father had a clock making business. He returned to Switzerland as a child, where he lived at the family home of Charlottenfels, an extensive neo-classical villa near Schaffhausen. His father wanted him to take over the family business in Russia, but after an argument, Henri instead decided to spend the next few decades periodically travelling all over Central Asia, collecting art objects and arms and armour as he went. He led a very adventurous life, taking on many different roles to finance his travels; soldier, baker, master of Turkish baths, in one post in Zerafshan, Uzbekistan, he even acted as an advisor on irrigation!

On his permanent return to Europe, none the richer though doubtless wiser for all this travels, he exhibited his collection in several cities and wrote accounts of his voyages. He finally made his fortune speculating in copper from Kazakhstan and by 1907, was a rich man. When he eventually decided to settle back in Switzerland, he repurchased Charlottenfels, which by that point had left his family’s estate, and displayed his collections there. In 1914, he gave his collection to the Historisches Museum in Bern and funded the building of a new wing of the museum, where the collection is still kept, though only part of it is currently on display.

Our copy of this catalogue is one of only 75 English copies issued; the entire print run (German, French and English) only consisted of 300 copies in total. It is unclear when the portfolio was acquired or given to the Wallace Collection but a visiting curator from the Bernisches Historisches Museum told us that it is likely that Henri Moser would have given a copy to the Wallace Collection when he or his secretary visited to see our own collection of Oriental arms and armour.

The boxes were apparently given with the portfolios, as the curator knew of other copies with the same wooden covers. This cleared up a mystery that I had been wondering about since I found the portfolio: was the box original or was it made here? It was obviously made specifically for this item as the portfolio fits the box so well. As I was examining the box to photograph it for this blog post, I also noticed something I had never seen before: the remnants of a label on which you can just make out the words “Collection Moser” and the publisher in very faded print – another piece of evidence that the box was custom made for the catalogue.

The portfolio contains hardly any text; just an introductory booklet of 18 pages with a few details on each item depicted on the plates. The majority of the work is made up of black and white plates showing photographs of items in Henri Moser’s collection. Some of the plates, however, are in colour and are really beautifully printed. The printing process used was probably chromolithography, where each colour has to be printed separately and in perfect alignment to get a complete image. When the images are imperfectly aligned the effect is similar to looking at a 3-D image without the requisite glasses – it seems fuzzy and out of focus.

The human eye is very good at detecting even (or perhaps particularly) very minor mistakes in such images so perfection in the printing process was not just desirable but necessary. The work was published in Leipzig, Germany, but the plates were printed in Vienna, and it is obvious that Moser was very pleased with the results: “By my express wish the plates have been printed by the imperial printing press in Vienna; the reputation of this establishment is no longer in its initial stage, and I cannot express too highly my appreciation of my pleasing relations with the manager and artists of this firm.”

The portfolio is made of buckram over card, intricately tooled in gold on the cover in the manner of a decorated Islamic leather book binding. The inside of the portfolio is covered with a pattern reminiscent of Persian weaving or carpets. It is obvious that no expense was spared in the production of this magnificent publication as even the smallest of details has been considered; between each layer of plates is a sheet of tissue paper to prevent them sticking together or rubbing.

The collection itself is magnificent and in many ways comparable to the Wallace Collection’s. Many of the swords and daggers have similar jade or enamelled hilts and the helmets with mail are also like those in our Oriental Armoury. The reproduction of the watercolour at the beginning shows an impression of the arrangement of Moser’s collection at Charlottenfels.

Moser was an enthusiastic Orientalist and is obvious from the preface that he wanted to contribute to scholarship on the subject and that he was in contact with other European experts on arms and armour, such as Charles Buttin. The quote on the title page “Our aim is to perform something that remains after we are gone” appears to have been a genuine motto for him, as shown in the publication of this catalogue, the presentation of his collection to the city of Bern and, on his death, the gift of Charlottenfels itself to the Canton of Schaffhausen.

Further more detailed catalogues of the Moser collection at the Bernisches Historisches Museum have since been published, but none are as beautiful or as lavish as this one. Portfolios often suffer greatly from the passage of time; card and cloth breaks at the folds, the plates slip around and become damaged and the paper disintegrates. All of these problems have been avoided in this case, because of the high quality of the materials, but mostly because of the humble wooden box that has kept this wonderful item safe and secure since it was first published.

By Helen Jones, Library Cataloguer


I am indebted to Svetlana Gorshenina’s Explorateurs en Asie centrale : voyageurs et aventuriers de Marco Polo à Ella Maillart (Genève : Olizane, 2003) for information Henri Moser’s life and travels.

The Wallace Collection Posted by The Wallace Collection
5 January 2017

Jens Nordlunde 1st October 2017 02:37 PM

Yes Henri Moser's father was a watchmaker in St. Petersburg, but a very skilled one, as he was working for Fabergé.
It is said, that some of the swords Moser got, he paid with a bottle of snaps.
If I remember correctly, in the paper drawn up between Moser and the council of Bern, it says that the collection should be on exhibition at all times, but the museum says, that due to lack of money, they can only show a small part of the collection.
Please correct me, if I remember wrongly about the paper between Moser and the council of Bern.

The 1912 catalogue is almost impossible to find, and like Artzi wrote, very expensive. The 1955 catalogue is difficult to find, and quite expensive as well - and it is in German.
I have heard somewhere, that there is a manuscript of the daggers, the manuscript is almost finished, and the pictures photographed - but the museum does not have the money to publish it!!!
Have you tried to read between the lines:-).

Jens Nordlunde 1st October 2017 08:21 PM

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Should anyone wonder what Henri Moser looked like - here is a picture of him.

estcrh 3rd October 2017 09:56 PM

Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
I have heard somewhere, that there is a manuscript of the daggers, the manuscript is almost finished, and the pictures photographed - but the museum does not have the money to publish it!!!
Have you tried to read between the lines:-).
Have they attempted to solicit funds from interested parties? Sounds like a worthy project.

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