Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Jim McDougall 15th October 2017 01:22 AM

As many are now aware, the classic thread, "Early European Trademarks" was lost through a technical malfunction last week. This thread was opened in 2007 with the purpose of cataloguing and discussing well known blade markings, inscriptions and symbolic decoration typically seen on blades of Europe.
It is well known of course that these blades often diffused into ethnographic settings through trade and other means, and often the native artisans began to copy these on blades as well.

The original thread served well in archiving considerable data and examples of these marks etc. which was clearly widely used by the arms and armour community at large as a resource in the study of both areas of edged weapons.

The standard resources which have information on marks found on blades are compendiums which are now long out of print and often hard to find and expensive.
However, the recently published work by Staffan Kinman, research director of the Swedish Arms and Armor Society:
"European Makers of Edged Weapons and Their Marks" (2015)
is superb and comprehensive, compiling much of the material of these hard to find volumes.
Details on acquiring this have been listed in the Swap Forum for some time.

Meanwhile, the objective here is to observe and discuss the many variations or unusual examples which are often found, and to expand our knowledge base on this topic beyond those already included in these works.

Also, we hope to learn more on origins, and scope of use of these marks, as well as how many became known in other contexts with different connotations symbolically and so on.

While the malfunction losing the original was unfortunate, I think we can develop this new thread to be even better, and with a more status quo perspective on the examples and subject matter acquired over the past decade.

As posts or material from the old thread is found and retrieved, I hope these might be integrated into the content here by reposting it inclusively here.

My sincere thanks to Lee, Ibrahiim and Shayde for their efforts in trying to retrieve the lost material of the old thread, and in advance to those of you for any assistance further and in the development of this one.

By using the search function and key words for the marks or topic being sought, you will direct to the content of this thread rather than having to go to classic threads and through the bulk of the posts.

Jim McDougall 15th October 2017 08:24 PM

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With his thread being the new repository of data on blade markings, I wanted to start off with probably one of the most familiar and often noted examples, the so called running wolf of Passau.

While the purpose of this thread is primarily to gather and discuss not only well known marks and inscriptions, it serves also, and even more so, in identifying sundry and often obscurely known types.


These typically highly stylized chiseled renderings of what are held to be images of a running wolf began in Passau in the 14th century when the use of such a mark was awarded officially to knife makers. Soon it of course expanded to blade makers.
As the blade making industry in Solingen flourished later, it seems that in some cases they produced some blades by contract for Passau shops, and with these they added the now well established wolf mark. As this became more positively associated with quality, it was steadily purloined by other makers outside those circumstances.

These familiar images have often been perceived in earlier years as makers marks or guild marks, but clearly their placement typically was outside those parameters as they became so often used outside such definitions.

Also confounding is the fact that these are individually chiseled in far less than artistic or even distinguishable character, and almost random as none seem to even be the same. This has typically defied the notion that they were applied in the same shop, or by the same maker or worker.

One of the most commonly seen groupings of these running wolf marks is the chart which appeared in "Cut and Thrust Weapons" (Wagner, 1967).
The chart suggests that there is some chronological development of these in their style, however it is my view that these simply reflect the period of blade examples they were drawn from.
These randomly styled images depended on the skill or manner of the person applying them, and are so erratically dissimilar in so many cases, many are completely indistinguishable, often as if placement was simply a token gesture.

The use of these running wolf marks seems to have ceased in Passau and later in Solingen, by the 18th century. However with the diaspora of German makers in the 17th century during the 30 Years War, the use of the running wolf prevailed in yet another location, in England, with the advent of the famed Hounslow sword factory. Here however, it is believed that the blades were largely produced in Germany and often so marked with the more distinguishable version of the wolf. These were typically inlaid in latten (brass), but it seems that some were added with the Hounslow makers name.

With the demise of the Hounslow factory just after mid 17th century, some years later another blade making enterprise was begun, with the mysterious 'Hollow Sword Blade Co. (referring to the hollows ground into the faces of the blade). This situated in northern England in Durham in a place called Shotley Bridge. Here the makers were descendants of the German smiths of Solingen via Hounslow, and they began adding their own version of the running wolf, with a bit of British spin....becoming the 'running fox' (more discernible and with plumed tail).
The use of this fox may have been brought about years later in Birmingham England primarily by Samuel Harvey, who used his initials SH on the fox. Other examples of the fox without initials may have been used by John Dawes also of Birmingham.
The idea presumably was to draw on the reputation of Shotley Bridge as well as Hounslow and Solingen with this famed mark of imbued quality, as Birmingham blades earlier were regarded poorly for their defects.
The use of these foxes seem to have subsided by around 1770-80 period.

Aside from their many occurrences used in many cross cultural and ethnographic contexts on blades either traded or otherwise acquired in colonial and foreign regions, the 'running wolf' did appear in regularly used application in the Caucasus in about the latter 18th century (perhaps earlier). The German blades coming into these areas through Black Sea trade entrepots were highly regarded, and soon Chechen bladesmiths began to duplicate these images of the wolf imbuing their quality and power.
These blades found characteristically on the famed shashkas often bore the wolf, which they termed 'ters maymal' (which has not been adequately translated as fa as I know).

This is my overview of these running wolf (and fox) markings, and I hope for corrections or additions as I am writing from memory. I hope those reading might add examples and more comments.

My questions have always been:
Have any examples which might have been placed by the same hand or shop ever been found? I think some 'wolf' marks have some basic similarities, enough to suggest they were at least observing certain characteristic lines. The orientation always seems the same (Solingen examples always seem upside down as opposed to other marks or inscriptions on blade).

Were these, after their original purported use as 'guild' marks, later perceived as talismanic applications? Passau was noted for such things, as described by Wagner (1967) often termed "Passau Art".

1.) The 'chart' from Wagner (1967)
2.) The Samuel Harvey fox c. 1750 ('Birmingham fox')
3.) Presumed Shotley Bridge 'fox', note the upside down orientation as seen in German placed running wolf mark. It remains unclear whether or not both types were used at Shotley as examples marked SHOTLEY and BRIDG obverse side and German wolf are known. As seen in fig. (4)

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 15th October 2017 11:54 PM

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Thanks Jim and congratulations on starting the new and revised edition of this key Forum thread.

I read with interest your notes on the Shotley Bridge situation and wondered if in fact Shotley Bridge ever produced the Running Fox (bushy tail) or if in fact it was only done at Birmingham. Please see for reference

Certainly the Solingen version of the Running Wolf.. (in fact not a stamp but a hammer and chiseled stick like motif) ..was a Shotley Bridge addition; or at least appeared on their swords. Their is some contention even with this since it could be that blades for refinishing were smuggled from Solingen to the Shotley makers by Mohll himself and it is possible they were struck in Solingen previously. It is also entirely feasible that the Running Wolf were done in Shotley Bridge; Solingen being the origin of those swordmakers.

What is clear is the Running Wolf became a mark placed by various schools of sword production and copied by many others in a similar way to Eye lash /Hogs Back marks / ANDREA FERRERA and other classic marks to infer quality. The Running Wolf or Passau Wolf has moved across international boundaries and almost takes on an air of Talismanic proportions.

Here is the mark on an Omani Dancing Sword randomly struck and somewhat unrecognizable... I place the Running Fox of Samuel Harvey Birmingham with initials and a Solingen Running Wolf for comparison.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 16th October 2017 10:52 AM

PASSAU WOLF. Getting down to the bare historical facts..From

Quote"Passau's city arms shows a red wolf on a silver ground - something unusual within emblems of dioceses. Because it seemed little religious to some people, the wolf was portrayed sometimes with sacral symbols such as a bishop's wand, but this never was used officially.
Since Passau was a clerical principality employing elected bishops of different houses (instead of inheritance within one family), it was difficult to agree upon one lasting city arms. The wolf is said to be bishop Wolfker's (1191-1204) emblem. Other books mention bishop Rüdiger von Radeck (1233-1250), whose family emblem showed the head of a red wolf to which the city arms is attributed. Why and who chose the wolf as Passau's heraldic animal, is still unclear today.

Historic dates on the emblem:

1259, Jan. 29 Bishop Otto von Lonsdorf starts to use a seal showing a wolf. The end of the document says:
Et notandum, quod hec est prima littera, ubi in sigillo a tergo secretum nostrum imprimi fecimus. Quod lupum in scuto pro signo insculptum continet et superscriptionem continet SECRETVM CELA.
(… and it is to take notice that this is the first document in which we impress our secrecay seal into the seal on the back. It shows a wolf in the shield and says "Keep the secret!")
1298 The citizens used a city arms during the rebellion, but had to hand it over lateron.
Before 1300 The wolf is regarded as symbol of the town, but still is not the city arms. It can be found as warrenty and trade mark on blades of swords.
1350 The wolf appears in the Zurich's roll of city arms on the flag of Passau's bishop.
1368 The city of Passau is granted the seal showing a red wolf in a shield.
1432 The bishop concedes the city arms in his speech "Fünferlspruch".
1460 The wolf in the backseal becomes the symbol of the city." Unquote.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 16th October 2017 10:57 AM

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Quote"Sword, highly composite, the steel blade nearly flat with a short fuller near the hilt and stamped on either side with two different blademaker's marks, a running wolf, and the inscription SAHAGOM. The grip silver, octagonal in section, ornamented alternately with scrolls in relief and nielloed designs of: Tarquin and Lucretia, Hero and Leander, Judgement of Paris, etc. The arms of the silver-gilt, S-curved cross are spirally twisted and chased with leaves on the front side only. The cross terminals have been engraved to resemble small quatrefoils. The cross includes an integral collar, decorated with a foliate scroll; the pommel area above the grip (but made in one with it) has been decorated with a band of gilding, the area also decorated with foliage in an attempt to match it to the cross collar."Unquote.

shayde78 17th October 2017 03:32 AM

Thank you for recreating this thread from scratch. Such an important repository of information that is much appreciated.

Jim McDougall 18th October 2017 11:26 PM

Well done Shayde! Thank you for your great help with this. With your input and all the work Lee and Fernando put in, Fernando was able to restructure much of the original thread (up to #120) on the thread listed TEST on European Armoury.
We'll still keep the new markings thread going here.

shayde78 19th October 2017 12:30 AM

You are kind, but I did very little compared to the lift you, Fernando, and Lee have already undertaken. Wish I could do more, but I appreciate everyone's dedication of time and mental energy.

Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Well done Shayde! Thank you for your great help with this. With your input and all the work Lee and Fernando put in, Fernando was able to restructure much of the original thread (up to #120) on the thread listed TEST on European Armoury.
We'll still keep the new markings thread going here.

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