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Chris Evans 12th March 2005 11:48 AM

Manual del Baratero - A Review
 
A Critical Review of the

`Manual del Baratero'


1. Loriega's translation of the MdB is very well done. I have read it in the original Spanish and this work gets it across in a most readable manner. The numerous annotations by the translator make the many obscure colloquialisms of the era understandable and the work as a whole gains an additional depth. But..... The book itself, despite the exalted status that many in the English speaking world awarded it, is a classic example of the naked emperor. The MdB is such a flawed work that to fully analyze its contents, would require writing another book. Here I will confine myself to just giving the collector who attempts to understand this weapon through this old work, an overview of the problems inherent in it.

2. The MdB is considered by most Spanish speaking academics a literary hoax. It purports to have been written by a master of arms but in fact its author was Mariano de Rementeria y Fica, a well known Basque academic and professor who lectured at the "Escuela Normal de Instruccion Primaria de Madrid" and not known as a fighting man. He may well have had a secret life wielding knives, but this is unlikely on account of his privileged social status and is borne out by the numerous absurdities and inconsistencies in the book, that no one with real expertise would have written. Many of these Loriega picked up and critically commented on, but there are many more that he glossed over, such as the author recommending a navaja with a blade at most (CE:why at most?) a hand in length and three or four fingers wide (pg2): This is the description of a bizarre 6"x3" hatchet blade and not that of a navaja! Most navajas of the period were considerably longer and had slim fish-shaped, pointed blades...And then this same blade is supposedly able to pierce through a 2" thick plank (CE:styrofoam?). Ha!

But wait, there is more: According to Loriega (pg41), the whole section on defending oneself unarmed was taken, word for word from a small sword fencing book, but with the sides reversed! And then there are a series of extremely dubious tricks and rouses such as throwing a navaja which is attached to the `diestro' with a string; Of a `Passata Sotto' with a knife, or tripping ones opponent with an item of clothing whilst leaving oneself wide open for a counterstrike - Was this guy for real?

On the fixed bladed cuchillo he had very little of substance to say and when it came to the scissors, even less, so the book has to be assessed on the strength of its applicability to the navaja.

3. The MdB is the only historical Spanish manual known of fighting with navajas. No surprises here: Right up to 1900, around 80% of the Spanish population was illiterate and this means nearly all of the working class, those who used navajas - There just wasn't anybody to write for!

But Mariano had other ideas. He obviously targeted the wealthy young `wannabes' of his day with the promise of an invincible knife system (nothing new here), and along the way make extra income, or did it for simple amusement. That this was his intention is revealed in the line in which he claims that any pampered youth, by following his instructions, will be able to defend himself against the violent `barateros' (pg11). I cannot say how well the book sold, but is is interesting that the publishing house sought to increase the book's appeal by hiding the author's true identity behind the initials of `MdR', although at least one edition bore his full name. Presumably he was sufficiently well known as a man of letters that the book would not sell with his name. Far better to suggest a mysterious fencing master as the author!

He also wrote a host of other manuals, ranging from cookery to parlor games, all bearing the title "Manual del...." He must have been a very gifted man if he was an expert on all those subjects as well. But then, he was a renowned translator of foreign works, so it would not have been too difficult for him to access numerous foreign sources, all inaccessible to his Spanish readers.

4. In summary, whatever literary value the MdB may have, when it comes to knife fighting, the book has a serious credibility problem!

In any event, the techniques advocated for the navaja, namely the passes from hand to hand and the gyrating footwork, by Mariano's own admission, were not typical in his day (he tried to improve on them!) and were probably imported from other countries, most probably France or Corsica. The preferred fight with navajas and cuchillos, in old Spain, was with cape or hat in the left hand and knife in the right, in the manner of renaissance sword play - We know this from numerous paintings and other reliable accounts of the period.

So, if one wants a good and readable translation, then this is the best so far. But as for knowledge of traditional Spanish knife fighting goes, we are no better off than we were until now - Egerton Castle in a couple of paragraphs said as much on the subject that is useful as Mariano did in the whole book!

Unfortunately, according to most authorities, fighting with navajas came to an end in Spain over a century ago and nobody bothered to record the techniques in detail, if there were any worth recording. The foremost living Spanish authority Forton considers that only those navajas that were made before 1900 were true to the name and so he defines the breed.

Loriega claims to be the heir of a hitherto unknown living Spanish navaja tradition; This is useful, but, regardless of this tradition's practical merits (it may well be excellent), it nevertheless cannot be accepted as authentic because there are no reliable period records available to validate its techniques against. It is simply not possible to say whether it has remained truly Spanish or else has absorbed foreign styles over the last hundred plus something years. This certainly is the case with Filipino Arnis, just to name one combative art, which since WWII re-configured itself along Japanese karate principles.

Chris Evans

LabanTayo 13th March 2005 05:40 PM

if i remember correctly, blades were present in the philippines before the spanish raped the philippines.
(sorry everyone on the forum from spain, this is not directed towards you or spain in the present. i dont hold you accountable for what happened 400 hundred years ago. but, at least the spanish introduced Paella!!!! mmm mmm good :) ).
so, did the spanish steal filipino techniques, or vice versa? the malay / indo / philippine archipelego was a blade oriented society before spanish/dutch/portugese/british arrival. the philippines may have adopted some spanish fighting techniques and terminology, but i have never seen a spanish fencer/fighter move like filipino arnisador/fighter.

but as for your WWII comment, not all philippine fighting arts adopted the japanese stances. the ones that did, did so, because the filipinos were entranced by foriegn martial arts and had to adopt the japanese postures to make it more "fascinating" to the filipinos. but if you do your research and actually study with these systems, you will find the "true" filipino martial arts hidden within the system.

Chris Evans 14th March 2005 12:50 AM

Hi Laban,

=====================================
"...not all philippine fighting arts adopted the japanese stances. the ones that did, did so, because the filipinos were entranced by foriegn martial arts and had to adopt the japanese postures to make it more "fascinating" to the filipinos. but if you do your research and actually study with these systems, you will find the "true" filipino martial arts hidden within the system."
=====================================
Good point. I am aware that you have old arnis, if I remeber correctly, and the new.

Some 20yrs ago, a highly ranked karateka friend of mine went to your country and studied Arnis. He became fairly good at it after a short time because all his karate movements fitted in. He did mention the old style, but according to his observations it was very much in the minority for a number of reasons, including training methodology. I don't know how it is these days.

I don't think that any combative art can remain immune to foreign influences for long, unless it is practiced in a sheltered environment. The very fact that one's life is at stake compels change if the original techniques are inadequate or too difficult to teach/learn. Even karate has picked up a fair bit of Thai and English boxing.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 18th March 2005 09:57 AM

Chris,

I got interested in navajas after reading Sevillian stee. Really cool knives. Did you read it, what did you think of it and where can I buy a navaja. I live in Australia.

Best wishes
Frank

Chris Evans 19th March 2005 04:18 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank
Chris,

I got interested in navajas after reading Sevillian stee. Really cool knives. Did you read it, what did you think of it and where can I buy a navaja. I live in Australia.

Best wishes
Frank


Hi Frank,

1. I have read that book and do not think that it is the kind of work that serious collectors or historians of knives would use as a reference.

If you want to become acquainted with navajas you should read the works of the Spanish authority, Rafael Martinez del Peral y Forton. Unfortunately most of his works have as yet not been translated into English, save one: "Navajas Antiguas - Las Mejores Piezas de Coleccion", a magnificent book of 237 colour photo plates, with captions in Sanish-English and illustrating navajas from the era in which they were used in earnest. The standard reference on the subject is "La Navaja Espanola Antigua" by the same author.

1.1 You can buy Forton's books here (they sell all the others that are not listed at the site):

http://www.navajasantiguas.com/index1.html


2. Depends what you mean by a navaja; In Spanish that word applies to any folding knife. If you mean specifically those legendary clasp knifes that were used as both tools and weapons, then they went out of use over a 100 years ago and unless you have one made to order or go to an antique shop, you'll have trouble buying one. What's being sold these day as navajas are low quality thematic interpretations that only vaguely resemble the knives of the past and are aimed solely at the souvenier market - A bit like the wall-hanger stainless steel junk swords from Toledo. Only traditionalists and collectors in Spain bother with real navajas, their design and size having rendered them obsolete. I am not aware of anybody importing navajas into Australia, but there could be someone.

2.1 One notable exception to the above is the range offered by the Spanish cutler Exposito. Whilst his knives only loosely resemble those used up to 1900, being utilitarian in design, they are the last readily available examples of traditional Spanish folders, the kind that largely disappeared by 1970. Stay away from their `Serie Albacete' (the ones in the wooden display cases) since these are intended as souvenirs.The prices of Exposito knives are reasonable and the quality is fairly good.

You can buy one here:

http://www.cuchilleria-exposito.com...o/principal.htm

2.2 If you want to buy a good replica try here:

http://www.knivesart.com/web/index.html

Or for a real antique try here:
http://www.knivescollection.com/cat...t_antichi_e.asp

Cheers
Chris

Frank 20th March 2005 02:35 AM

Chris

Thanks for all that info. I have to start taking Spanish lesons (lol)

You say that "fighting with navajas came to an end in Spain over a hundred years ago". What proof have you of this.

Frank

Chris Evans 20th March 2005 10:50 PM

Hi Frank,

The use of navajas started to decline sharply from around 1868 and by 1900 its usage was over. After that date a small number of new generation utilitarian folding knives based on the old navajas (as still made by Exposito) continued to be manufactured, but the demand and output remained relatively small.

We know this from cutlery industry figures re production and importation of navajas. This is a fact beyond debate, for to argue otherwise it would have to be demonstrated where the navajas that were supposedly being used came from.

Something that is not widely known is that during the halcyon days of the navaja, the mid 1800s, the majority were made in France and not in Spain (so much for the famous Santolios and Sevillanas!) - By that time the Spanish cutlery industry was in severe and irreversible decline.

Because of this, we know the number of navajas imported into Spain with great accuracy. Between 1850 and 1862 an average of a million and a quarter of such navajas were brought into Spain annually, yet by 1869 this figure fell to a paltry 690,000 and there was no increase in the local manufacture to make up the difference. By 1900 the Spanish cutlery industry almost disappeared and there was no importation.

So any talk of Spain having retained a navaja culture flies in face of hard facts.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 24th March 2005 03:53 AM

Chris

I came across someone who showed me a real old navaja. he said it was made in 1860. It was large all right and with a wide blade but was very slow and hard to open. Had it been sharp you would have to be real careful opening it and closing it. Didn't feel right, or not as right as my Voyager, kinda clumsy. He said he paid $1000 for it.

I like to know how they opened them in a fight. This one was so slow to open that I would have had to run away to buy time. My Voyager just flicks open. Were they all like this?

Frank

Chris Evans 24th March 2005 08:13 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Hi Frank,

1. Which of these two photos did that navaja you saw resemble? The uppermost one with the etched & painted blade is a native Spanish navaja with a secure ratchet lock and the lower one, with the broad blade, a French import, without a full lock.

2. Most navajas were very slow to open and close and were rather poor weapons. They are certainly not comparable to modern tactical folders in this regard.

This was the only reason why they were half tolerated by the authorities. I say "half tolerated" because after the early eighteenth century all effective weapons were banned in Spain. This included navajas that could be locked into the open position and thus used violently.

In time and in some jurisdictions, lockable navajas were turned a blind eye but every now and then there were crackdowns and the law was enforced - This is the reason why the Spanish cutlery industry was decimated by 1850.

Most navajas in the nineteenth century were of French origins and did not have a lock, only a very strong spine-spring - Needless to say they made for poor weapons and because of this the authorities more or less accepted them. Only the locally made navajas tended to have secure locks, but by the 1850s these were very much in the minority and largely outlawed.

Have a great Easter
Chris

Frank 25th March 2005 09:08 AM

Chris

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
1. Which of these two photos did that navaja you saw resemble? The uppermost one with the etched & painted blade is a native Spanish navaja with a secure ratchet lock and the lower one, with the broad blade, a French import, without a full lock.


It was exactly like the one on the bottom. It was very hard to open and close. Had to apply a lot of pressure on the blade. No locks or levers, just pressure on the blade.

Regards
Frank

Chris Evans 26th March 2005 05:51 AM

Hi Frank,

Yes, that's a French navaja. Contrary to common perceptions, by the middle of the nineteenth century, they made up the vast majority of navajas in Spain and the Spanish ratcheting `Santolios' and `Sevillanas' were very much in the minority. Between 1850 and 1870 over twenty million such folders were imported into Spain, a staggering number if we consider the then adult male population being only around 4 million!

What I find even more interesting is that whilst they were large and looked fearsome, in truth they made for rather poor weapons, because they lacked a proper blade lock, relying on mere spring pressure fixation and were very slow to open. The absence of a secure lock is what made these knives acceptable to the authorities and the significance of this fact cannot be overstated.

The absence of a lock made thrusting a rather risky, though not impossible, proposition and when used in fights, they must have relied more on the sweeping cut.

I just cannot help feeling that folklore aside, the Spaniards of old were not quite as ready to fight to the death as they are nowadays made out to be.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 30th March 2005 05:23 AM

Chris,

I see what you mean about French navajas. What about those huge sword length navajas as shown on page 71 of the Manual del Baratero. Surely they were meant for fighting. Why did the authoritys allow them?

Best wishes
Frank

Chris Evans 31st March 2005 03:51 AM

Hi Frank,

1. There has been a long standing tradition in Spain and Italy, just just to name two, where cutlers make oversize knives to enter into trade shows or kept as displays in their shops as capability statements. These are known in Spanish as "navajas de muestra/exposicion", literally showpieces. In the book `La Cuchilleria Artistica de Albacete' there is a photo of one such navaja, that was 48" long (closed) and weighed 26Lbs!

1.2 Contrary to the wishful thinking of Hispanophile romantics, these oversized navajas never saw use. The maximum blade length for navajas, before they become unpractically heavy or too weak at the hinge, is around 12". Even so, according to the Spanish authority Forton, on average, old navajas had blades of only 6"-9".

2. Re Illustration on pg71 of MdB:

First, we have to remember that Dore's decorative pictures were added, to later editions and were not part of the original. This was obviously done to increase the book's selling appeal.

Dore was requested to provide decorative pictures for the MdB and he rose to the occasion as only he could; With an excellent feel for what would sell the book, he depicted `Guapos/Matamoros/Barateros' (Spanish tough guys) brandishing gigantic and fantastic navajas in sword like manner. This ability to dramatize pictorially is what made Dore the most sought after illustrator of his age.

Nevertheless, the weapon on pg71 looks more like a weird machete rather than a navaja; Had it been a real folder, it would have weighed well over 5Lbs!

Something that ought to be pointed out is that Dore must have had little familiarity with navajas because all those that he drew only vaguely resemble these famous Spanish knives. But then, this is a fault shared even by Spanish artists of that era, underscoring the seldom appreciated fact that the navaja was the weapon of the masses and alien to the gentry, to whose ranks most painters belonged. So we have to be very careful in taking artists works as accurate depictions.

2.1 For inspiration, Dore could have based his pictures on showpiece navajas. Nevertheless, it bears commenting upon that the picture on pg71 looks remarkably like the principal character of an oil canvas by the painter Antonio Medina shown on pg 190 of Forton's `La Navaja Antigua Espanola' - Hummm.....

3. As soon as I get my scanner going I will post some pics of these showpiece navajas.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 1st April 2005 09:39 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi Frank,

This photo is from the book, `Introduccion Al Estudio De La Cuchilleria Artistica De Albacete' by Jose Sanchez Ferrer:

It is a showpiece navaja made by Cuchilleria Sarrion. It is 124cm closed and weighs 11,5Kg!

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 1st April 2005 09:50 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi Frank,

This photo is also from the book, `Introduccion Al Estudio De La Cuchilleria Artistica De Albacete' by Jose Sanchez Ferrer:


This is a show case of exhibition pieces of varying length, all made by the master cutlers Jose Exposito Fernadez and Jose Exposito Picaso. Whilst it is highly unlikely that any of these masterpieces would ever see use, the two monsters, with blades crossed, were most assuredly not meant to do other than adorn.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 1st April 2005 10:34 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Hi Frank,

The upper photo is Dore's illustration that appeared in later editions of the MdB. The lower is Antonio Medina's oil canvas and replicated here from Forton's `La Antigua Navaja Espanola'.

The resemblance between the two navaja wielding characters is too strong to ignore. Seems like that neither had much of a mind for accurately depicting a navaja, nor was one of them averse to plagiarize. And Dore certainly liked to exaggerate to obtain a dramatic effect - He lengthened the navaja ridiculously!

Cheers
Chris

Frank 5th April 2005 02:24 AM

Hi Chris,

Thanks for those pics. Seems like everybody who touches this subject is telling fibs. It's unreal.

I have been looking around on the web and have seen a number of shops selling navajas. You said that the cutlery industry nearly disappeared by 1900. What's going on? I mean when did they recover and who are they making all these navajas for? Could these be used for fighting?

Best wishes
Frank

Chris Evans 5th April 2005 11:01 AM

Hi Frank

The Spanish cutlery industry was on its back foot by 1850 due to the harassment by the authorities and its overpriced and poorly made navajas. As I already said in an earlier post, the largely French
imports nearly eliminated the local product - We know this from importation figures.

After the civil war of 1868 and due to the threat of anarchy that followed, an extreme form of political conservatism set in and there was a clamp down on law and order issues; Gradually the use of the navaja, as a weapon, was removed from Spanish life by 1900 and nothing has changed since then. At that stage a few cutlers remained who made a utilitarian type `navaja' but the demand was small.

According to Spanish cutlery industry sources, in the principal manufacturing centre of Albacete, between 1955 and 1959, only three workshops employed more than ten workers and only one had more than fifteen. Most of the navajas that this cottage industry made were mostly low grade utility and souvenir `navajas'. To a significant degree, this was attributable to adverse legislation regarding knives under the right wing dictator Franco, who ruled Spain from the end of the civil war in 1939 to 1975 with an iron fist and which resulted, amongst other things, in the shunning of Spain by other nations.

After Franco's demise, Spain resumed normal relations with the rest of the world and their cutlery industry made a very strong comeback, but this wasn't achieved with navajas. They became export oriented modern manufacturers with the latest technology producing domestic and industrial cutlery.

The traditionally hand-made utilitarian navaja by this time was a complete anachronism and too expensive to make; Other and better pocket folder designs made their appearance in the interim, designs that could be mass produced more cheaply and to a higher quality.

All the same, the industry, for promotional reasons, chose to identify itself with the old navajas and for this reason alone they continue manufacturing a small number, albeit in the form of an updated design that eliminated much of the labour - The economic contribution by these navajas in negligible. Its is all about image and nothing else.

These modern `navajas' are aimed at the souvenir market as nobody in Spain buys them for actual use, given that there are much better alternatives available. A few of these are exported and these are what you probably saw on the internet.

As well as the cheaper navajas, there is a small but thriving custom knife industry specializing in making high class replicas or modern interpretations of the theme; These cutlers cater for collectionists and traditionalists. Prices start around $US500 and the sky's the limit. A good replica of a 19th century navaja will cost around $US2000.

In answer to your question whether these new type navajas could be used for fighting, the answer is yes, just like one can choose to fight with an antique flintlock pistol. But why bother? They are very slow to open, do not carry well, and excepting the custom jobs their quality leaves a lot to be desired. A modern folder like your Voyager, or similar, is infinitely better suited for the task. In any event, discounting the odd criminal altercation, nobody fights in Spain with knives (least of all with obsolete navajas), at least no more than in any other developed nation. As I already said, that sort of thing came to an end by the beginning of the 20th century.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 5th April 2005 11:52 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi,

On the top we have a real Catalan navaja from the 1870s. Underneath is a contemporary custom thematic re-interinterpretation. The overall shape and proportions are accurate but the locking spring is post 1900. The workmanship is far better than on the riginals, the blade is made from 440C stainless steel and the handle from buffalo horn.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 5th April 2005 12:09 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi,

Here we have several neo-classical navajas made in the 1900-1960 period. The top giant is a display knife, the second down is a working utilitarian navaja. Both of these were made around 1920. The shape and construction of these differed significantly from the Santolios of the previous century. Blades were broader and less pointed and as well the locking mechanism changed to an external spring with a convenient lever release.

The bottom three are souvenir navajas made in the 1950s or even the 60s.

The workmanship and overall quality of these is poor to mediocre.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 5th April 2005 12:27 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi,

Here we have three contemporary navajas.

The top one is a display knife that is built around a modern chrome plated cast brass frame and has synthetic resinated plywood handle scales. It weighs 2.25Lbs and its overall shape and proportions are fanciful rather than functional. It does not resemble anything made in the old days. The blade is some kind of stainless steel, probably 420. Although robust, it is too heavy and clumsy for any practical use.

The navaja in the centre is a very good quality current day interpretation of a traditional post 1900 (neo-classical)utilitarian folder. It has a 440C stainless steel blade, genuine horn handle and German silver bolsters. It made by the firm of Exposito and is the last over-the-counter traditionally made Albacetean folder that I am aware of.

The one at the bottom is a souvenir navaja with an etch engraved blade. Like the one at the top, it is also built around a modern cast frame and uses some kind of stainless steel for the blade and spring, probably 420. It is quite solid and could be put to use but it was not intended as a working knife. Its overall shape is also rather fanciful with only a slight resemblance to the navajas of olden times.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 8th April 2005 02:26 AM

Hi Chris

Great photos. They cleared up a lot of things. Now I understand navajas much better.

Something I still can't understand is that you said that navajas made not very good weapons. After handling that French navaja I mentioned I agree.

So why did the Spaniards use them at all and why not fixed blade knives or swords. After all thier swords were suposed to be very good.

I sent you a private message.

Keeo up the good stuff

Frank

Chris Evans 8th April 2005 05:04 AM

Hi Frank,

From 1723 onwards the Spanish rulers introduced extremely restrictive weapon bans and this is the reason that the navaja was invented. There were no navaja (as we know them) before that date. Up to that date Spaniards had far better weapons at their disposal!

After the bans, all effective weapons were restricted to the upper nobility. The lower nobility were allowed swords, but not firearms and the plebes nothing! In time the authorities accepted folding knives, but only if the blade could not be locked into position.

These bans were backed with an extremely harsh penal code. Anyone caught with a prohibited weapon got the works! (see pic of executed man for possessing a navaja). However, we do know that the degree of enforcement varied with the times and across jurisdictions, Southern Spain being more tolerant. Nevertheless, the laws were enforced sufficiently to just about kill off their own cutlery industry and ensuring that the majority of navajas in use by 1860 did not have full mechanical locks.

In my very carefully considered opinion, after examining all the facts available, the navaja is a vastly over rated knife, be it as a tool or weapon; Requiring two hands and being slow to open, as well as fragile, it cannot be considered an appropriate weapon - A mere 4ft wooden stick can overcome it with ease!

The Spaniards did not choose navajas because it was a great weapon, rather they defaulted to it, because:

a) Knives were an essential tool in agricultural societies and they needed a knife that they could carry; and

b) everything else was prohibited


They knew perfectly well that the fixed blade "cuchillo" (knife) and its variants were the best cut and thrust short arms, but so did the authorities and for this very reason they were banned.

That the opposite perception prevails is due to the misconceptions of present day writers who either make up their own version of history, or in their ignorance base their opinions on the Spanish myths and folklore invented by their intellectuals; These, in their nationalistic writings and paintings, mostly in the late 19th and early 20th century, eulogized the Spanish peasant and his ways, equating him with all that was noble and heroic in the land. Actually, this was in keeping with the then global literary trends and not unique to Spain. Just look at the image and lore surrounding the US cowboys, Argentinean Gauchos and our own pioneers and bushrangers.

None of this is to say that there was no violence in Old Spain, because there was plenty. But most of the blood-letting was in likelihood not committed with navajas, "mano a mano", but rather with whatever lay at hand, from kitchen knives, to axes and sticks, as was and remains the case today all over the world. As for the Spanish criminal elements, they considered themselves outside the law and used everything from swords to firearms, as they tend to do everywhere, regardless of bans.

Cheers
Chris

Chris Evans 8th April 2005 05:28 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi,

Here is a rather somber reminder of how the weapon bans were enforced in Old Spain. This illustration is by the renowned painter Francisco Goya who was active in the Napoleonic era. Scan taken from Forton's "La Navaja Espanola Antigua"

Frank: Got your meassge and I sent you my email address.

Cheers
Chris

tom hyle 8th April 2005 01:13 PM

All very interesting. Really, basically no traditional folding knife is really intended for violence, and the idea that they are tends to arise in just the sort of sheltered/oppressed environment described in Spain, where the disarmed develop an exaggerated horror of weapons and anything weaponlike. Folding knives, like any small knife, are certainly no equal match to a club or dagger, but are often resorted to (here and now in N America, I very strongly assure you) for emergency self-defence, and it is thus helpful and not at all fantastical or unrealistic, for them to be designed and selected with features that aid in that, such as locks, points, swedged spine. Butterfly knife is one some N Americans get real excercised over now days; how silly; a very ordinary locking folder style; nothing especially violent about it. The only exception is for switchblades, which are, and frankly always have been, like unto the giant folders, largely basically a toy. No few folding knives I can swat in half with my left hand, if they're held securely enough not to drop, and none of them are the ideal weapon, but they do have their uses; you can let all the blood out of someone in a grapple pretty well with one, if it's sharp (this is the most valuable feature, followed closely by a decent sturdiness, fast easy opening, then a lock, point, concealability, legal nonweapon status, etc.)

Chris Evans 10th April 2005 04:50 AM

Hi Tom,

You make excellent and valid points.

I guess, that the object lesson, if there is one, is for future historians not to fall into the trap of assuming that just because tactical folders were popular at the start of the 21st century, they were the best weapon for SD and therefore they must chosen over and above other weapons. Rather, that's what people defaulted to, because better weapons were banned or too many obstacles were placed in the path to their ownership, as was the caase with navajas.

The situation here in Australia is very similar to what you describe - I guess, we just follow US trends. Your superbly well made tactical folders, such as by CS and Benchmade adorn the display cases of our shops and sell in substantial numbers- Why? Because we have some of the toughest anti gun, sword and knife laws . And yet we also have fatal violence in the bigger cities in alarming numbers.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 21st April 2005 03:56 AM

Hi Everybody,

I just got a couple of book recomended by Chris: "Navajas Antiguas - Las Mejores Piezas de Coleccion" . Terrific book and a real eye opener. It is in Spanish and English and easy to read. The modern navajas dont look anything like these.

Also "La Navaja Espanola Antigua". This one is in Spanish and can't understand a word but the lots of pictures tell a story and it is full of facts and figures. I know someone who is Spanish and he has been helping me a little to translate. It is all like Chris said. Thanks mate.

Best wishes
Frank

Chris Evans 23rd April 2005 07:18 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi Frank

Happy to see that you are finding those books worth your while.

The one titled "Las Mejores Piezas de Coleccion" is the standard reference book for collectors and antiquarians. It is very useful for establishing the origin and approximate date of manufacture of navajas.

I don't know if you noticed the large number of absolutely fearsome looking and large navajas without a blade lock; It tells us something about the enforcement of the anti-blade lock laws and also that most were nowhere as formidable weapons as we are told - Hey, what did all those fearless Barateros fight with?

This is especially so, if we consider that by the mid 1800s the majority of the navajas in use in Spain had French origins and for most part these did not have locks (look at the French pages and what turns up on e-Bay).

What I found even more interesting is that some time ago I came across an antique that had a ratcheting mechanical lock in the typical Spanish manner but the rear of the blade notch was filed back so that the knife would close under pressure on the blade. Presumably this modification was done so as to conform to the laws forbidding locks.

Cheers
Chris

Frank 28th April 2005 03:47 AM

Chris

In your first post you said something about `Passata Sotto'. I couldn't see it in the book. What and wher is it and why is it bad.

Best wishes
Frank

tom hyle 28th April 2005 12:06 PM

Any commentary on that cool bolster?


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