Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Matchlock 2nd November 2008 12:51 AM

Halberds ca. 1500-1580
8 Attachment(s)
I posted these as a follower to Ed's beautiful halberds in my thread "Landsknechts fleeing Death" today.

I hope that more members will appreciate to see them presented in a thread of their own.

As you are familiar with some of my pieces from earlier postings I wish to provide you with a part view of my private humble 'museum', with the halberds in discussion on top and to the right of the wall.

The arrangement is based on the 'Maximilian' armories.


Congratulations, Ed,

You sure own very beautiful and early halberds!

According to the illustrations in the 500-year-old Maximilianische Zeugbücher, you gave the exactly correct date for the second one from right: ca. 1500.
The staff may have originally been equipped with an iron pointed shoe - is it present? According to Maximilian's inventories, not all 500-year-old halberds seem to have had it, though.

Though not being able to cope with your jewels by far I enclose some pics of my four halberds and a so called frog's mouth spear.

The images of three show, from top:

- a rare 'frog's mouth' spear, Styrian, ca. 1550, from the Landeszeughaus Graz, retaining its rare original octagonal ash wood staff (all of the remaining frog's mouth spears in Graz have later round staffs!). The staff bears the crisp inventory stamp of the Metropolitan Museum New York, where it must have been about some 100 years ago before finally getting deaccessioned of

- a rare "Maximilian type" halberd retaining its now bent original oak wood staff with iron pointed shoe, the staff drilled thru in places to fit in an earlier presentation. For comparison, cf. the attached illustration taken from one of the Maximilianische Zeugbücher, Innsbruck/The Tyrol, ca. 1505-07

- a fine Austrian halberd retaining its original oak wood staff and raw silk finery, ca. 1580; the staff incised with various magical signs, apparently added by different users

In the first of two 500-year-old 'Maximilian' watercolors note the Landsknecht (mercenary) gone crazy, evidently just having literally cut up a fellow!!! - now how cute is that?!

The image of two shows:

- a Bavarian early Renaisssance halberd retaining its original staff, ca. 1530

- a fine Bavarian Halberd, on its original oak wood staff, ca. 1540-50

The dating criteria are, among others, especially based upon
- the shape of the axe blade and fluke,
- the length of the pike (the shorter and stouter the earlier!)
- the angle of the reinforced central prolongation of the base pointing towards the tip of the spike: the more out of the straight line this prologation is - usually bent to the left - the earlier is the halberd!

E.g. there are halberds with blades and flukes shaped like ca. 1500 but when the spike is longer and the reinforced central part at the base is in line with the fluke they can be dated to the 1540's to 1550's. Cf. my halberd at the bottom that I attributed to these decades: it looks 'Gothic' at first sight but if you take a closer look at the prolongated spike and the reinforced base that is in line with the fluke you will have the corrrect date of manufacture.


Originally Posted by Ed
These are a few halbards of the period from my collection.

Generally the hafts on these things are replaced or, at the very least, cut down.

As far as dating goes, on observation, it appears to me that a pretty rough and ready guide consists of taking the ratio of blade length to the narrowest point of the neck behind it. The more degenerate that these things become, the greater the number (more narrow neck).

The oldest example here might be a bit before 1500, say 1490.

Also, it appears that as halberds become more decorative rather than functional, the blade becomes more parallel to the haft. If you think about it that is really a suboptimal angle if you are trying to brain one of those pesky Swiss.

Matchlock 12th November 2008 03:00 PM

More historic illustrations
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The detail of a Flemish roundel dagger, ca. 1515, from Peter Finer's site - see my thread on late Gothic daggers posted today.


M ELEY 4th January 2009 02:02 AM

Michael, in the picture of the room full of amazing pieces, is that a pike I see in the one pic close to the ceiling with a diamond-shaped point? It is the one above the two wall-mounted halberds. I have a shorter one with similar tip, wormy ash haft cut in the same pattern as yours with the tip bearing primitive X designs. I suspect that mine is a Spanish colonial boarding pike and just wanted to confirm yours as a pike (I'm trying to rule out Spanish lance, spear, javelin, etc). Thanks,

M ELEY 5th January 2009 02:03 AM

Opps...disregard. I see from the discussion that it is a spear. Still trying to pin mine down to an exact catagory. :(

Matchlock 5th January 2009 09:10 PM

Hi Marc,

Please forgive my not answering back any earlier.

It is a Styrian spear from the Graz armory, made in the 1570's. It is the only one known to retain its original octagonal haft which is branded with the inventory stamp of the Metropolitan Museum New York in around 1900 and must have been deaccessioned of later.

Interesting enough, there are still hundreds of these spears (Froschmaulspiesse) preserved at Graz but all their round hafts are replacements.


M ELEY 5th January 2009 11:45 PM

Thanks, Michael. I hadn't heard of this type of spear before and mistook it for a pike. Very nice piece! You do have your own museum there and very impressive. Thanks for taking the time to post all of your pics. I'm following the one I asked you about closely (the chain-shot from your collection and that of the museum's). I don't suppose you know anyone that has a like item for sale anywhere? :) :) This stuff is hard to find.

Matchlock 6th January 2009 07:41 PM

Styrian Spears at the Graz Armory
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Enjoy, Mark and the others!


Matchlock 7th January 2009 04:32 PM


I sent you a private message.


Matchlock 27th March 2009 04:35 PM

Early 16th Century Halberds ...
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... on a painting of the Resurrection by Simon Franck, ca. 1525, in the basilica of Aschaffenburg/Northern Bavaria.


Matchlock 25th July 2009 07:18 PM

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Late 15th century halberds on the wooden case for a pair of gold scales, dated 1497, Germanic National Museum Nuremberg.


fernando 25th July 2009 11:36 PM

The scale is no more, though?; what a pity :shrug: .

Matchlock 26th July 2009 03:46 PM

Well, Fernando,

As the scales would have been hardly engraved with halberds and early swords I prefer to see the case. ;)


fernando 26th July 2009 04:02 PM

:D :eek:

Matchlock 31st July 2009 05:01 PM

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A halberdier on an early 16th engraving.


Matchlock 12th October 2009 04:09 PM

A Good German or Swiss Halberd, ca. 1530
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Retaining its original haft (shortened). Sold Hermann Historica, Munich, Oct 8, 2009, hammer price 2,100 euro plus 23 per cent auction fees.

And a rare Bavarian saber halberd, ca. 1630, in the same auction, unsold.


Dmitry 5th October 2010 05:00 AM

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Michael, what is the purpose of this bracket/ring ?
Sometimes it's present, and sometimes there isn't one. The langets are more than sufficient in stabilizing the head onto the shaft, imho.
Was the fabric or bullion fringe tasseled wrapped around these? Otherwise I don't see much use to it being there.

I just purchased an old [hopefully very old] halberd head without its shaft, and this bracket somehow survived. I will be restoring the shaft and putting the halberd together, and was wondering about this bracket. Photos are to follow.

Matchlock 5th October 2010 01:44 PM

Hi Dmitry,

Actually these brackets were meant for reinforcement of the straps and the haft; not all halberds were mounted with them, though, and usually not before ca. 1530.

The fabric usually is raw silk and/or wool. It was in use from ca. 1530-1600 and primarily an adornment. Italian halberds of the latter 16th c. often had hafts covered with velvet in the upper half.


fernando 5th October 2010 03:16 PM

The name of that device is "ZWINGE".
You may as well check if the blade is sharp(ened) and the back beak has its point reinforced; that would be a sign of age and an added value, meaning the halberd was meant for business.
Pictures will be greatly appreciated.

Matchlock 5th October 2010 04:36 PM

Thank you so much, 'Nando,

For adding the original German term Zwinge - obviously your German is better than mine, and so is your Bavarian dialect! ;) :cool: :eek:


Dmitry 5th October 2010 06:33 PM

6 Attachment(s)
Length with langets 125cm.
Length w/out langets 80 cm.
From looking at my books and auction catalogs - South German or Austrian, ca.1600.

fernando 5th October 2010 06:47 PM

No maker's mark?

Matchlock 5th October 2010 07:15 PM

Dating correct but no marks at all.

These are simple ornaments only, based on Late Gothic and Early Renaissance trefoil and quadrifoil decorative elements, and heavily stylized by 1600.

The haft should be of ash or oak.


Dmitry 5th October 2010 07:32 PM

Right, no markings.
How long of a haft would be average for these? I've seen up to 2.5 meters, perhaps more.

Matchlock 5th October 2010 08:31 PM

Relatively exactly 280-290 cm for 1600, with laterally incised lines along the four edges.


Matchlock 13th October 2010 02:18 PM

1440's German Polearms
2 Attachment(s)
From a German painting Christ's Way of the Cross, 1440-1445, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt.


Dmitry 13th October 2010 02:45 PM

Originally Posted by Matchlock
Relatively exactly 280-290 cm for 1600, with laterally incised lines along the four edges.


M., would it be troubling to ask for an up-close photo of the decorations that you wrote about?
Also, the length of 280-290 cm., would that be just the haft, before the actual head?
I'm gearing up to start making a new haft for mine, and want to be as close to the historical side of it as possible.

Matchlock 13th October 2010 04:19 PM

12 Attachment(s)
Hi Dmitry,

Oh man, you sure caused me a whole lot of trouble taking these pics ... :D

The overall length including the iron spike should be ca. 280-290 cm for a halberd of ca. 1600.

I do not own such a late sample, though.
Mine are, first wall, from top:

- a Styrian Froschmaulspieß, early 16th c., length 3.20 m, from the Landeszeughaus Graz, and retaining an inventory stamp of the Metropolitan Museum N.Y. of ca. 1900

- an extremely rare Maximilian soldier's halberd, ca. 1500, 2.50 m

a Styrian halberd of ca. 1580, retaining its rare original raw silk tassels, 2.78 m

Second wall, from left:

- a South German Landsknecht halberd, ca. 1530, length 2.30 m
- another, ca. 1540, 2.45 m

Now you can set off to work!


fernando 13th October 2010 04:52 PM

4 Attachment(s)
Hi Michl,
Do i see some resemblance between the decor of your Styrian halberd and mine?!
I understand this is the north Italian decoration fashion, although my halberd was (also) made in Styria, the smith being Pankraz Thaller, with workshop in nearby Hall.


Matchlock 13th October 2010 05:18 PM

Hi 'Nando,

Great piece, this one!

Exactly, the style of the iron parts is influenced by the Italian late Renaissance taste, as is my piece, and the velvet covered haft is decorated in the Italian fashion. Maybe Pankraz Thaller also made these for Italian dealers and arsenals. There are hundreds of halberds by Thaller in the Graz arsenal but not a single one with a velvet covering, nor is one known in any other Austrian arsenal. That's why I believe your halberd could have been hafted in Northern Italy as Thaller probably only furnished the irons.

Ca. 1580, depending on the length of the spike, and very nice!

Could we please see the whole piece? ;)


fernando 13th October 2010 05:28 PM

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A lousy image, i would say :shrug:
These lengthy things are rather hard to picture ... at least for my mediocre photographic capacities :mad: .
The total length is 2,73 mt.; already a challenge for my living room height.
The haft cross section is square in the half meter next to the head and the rest is octogonal.


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