Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Matchlock 12th April 2014 01:31 PM

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This is an unusually fine German - Nuremberg or Augsburg made - cranequin of ca. 1565-70, the gear case and ratched bar both profusely etched.
Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum London, M.73-1925.


Matchlock 12th April 2014 02:00 PM

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A very fine German Late Gothic crossbow, ca. 1450-70, together with an important contemporary cranequin that ranges among the finest of its kind preserved worldwide; the gear case is decorated and pierced with Gothic tracery in brass. The three other known specimen the quality of craftsmanship of of which compares to this sample are in the Churburg collection, Schluderns, South Tyrol, and the Odescalchi collection, Rome.
Also some crossbow bolts.
Cleveland Museum of Arts, Ohio.


Matchlock 12th April 2014 02:16 PM

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Here are the fine Late Gothic cranequins preserved in the collection of Churburg Castle, Schluderns, South Tyrol (top attachments), and in the collection of the Princes Odescalchi, Rome.


Micke D 13th April 2014 11:54 AM

Hi Michael, and everybody else!

At first I would like to write a few words about the cranequin in post #276.
I think this could also be a cranequin that is bit older than 1550-1560. My guess is as early as 1500-1520 maybe. This piece has a combination of an older looking tooth bar and a younger looking housing.

The hooks on the tooth bar that grips the string is of a late 15th c style, not usually seen in the late 16th c. They are most often of a more robust type and a simpler in shape. The tooth bar looks like it is a bit wider than it is high; in the 15th c they usually were more or less as wide as they were high. I can’t see if it has a lighting grove in the tooth bar, which would also be a 16th c feature.

The housing on the other hand looks like a quite simple cranequin, not something fancy for showing off at the latest hunting trips, but a good working type of cranequin. The housing looks a bit wider than the 15th c cranequins. The holder for the rope ring has a flat bottom, and not a curved one as in the 15th c; they were made flat because the 16th c crossbow tillers were built wider where the cranequin stood on the tiller. Many late 15th c crossbows have pressure marks in this area because the tiller is to thin/weak.

My own taste is for the late 15th c crossbows. I don’t like the more robust tiller that came in the 16th and later centuries as much, but with the late 15th c crossbows the makers had a crossbow where the form had won over function. There are many examples of pressure marks from the cranequin on the tiller, broken side horn plates at the nut and banana shaped tillers, where the tiller is higher at the ends than at the nut.

Micke D 13th April 2014 12:16 PM

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I forgot the pictures I was going to show.

The black and white picture shows the rounded under side of the rope holder, used in the 15th c.

The two pictures with the beige colored rope sling shows both the typical 15th c string hooks and also a rounded rope holder, but this one flat in the middle to sit better on the quite narrow late 15th c style tillers. Earlier 15th c tillers were rounder where the cranequin sat.

The last picture supplied by Michael shows a cranequin from 1504 with the 16th c style of string hooks.

Micke D 13th April 2014 04:34 PM

Hello again Michael!

I have been intrigued since I first read in Harmuths book about the crossbows in Hermannstadt, now Sibiu. 25 war crossbows that have been hanging in storage in an armoury between the late 15th/early 16th century and the 1930’s. Totally awesome! If they still are kept together and if it’s true that they have been hanging like that all this time, they are the only group of crossbows that I know of that we can for example use to check if a city/region has a specific measurement for the bolt to fit between the nut fingers. I saw that your friend didn’t think that, but I don’t think he have checked a group like these. Even if he has examined hundreds of crossbows, I guess they have moved between different collections during the years.

One thing that I find interesting with these crossbows is that most of them seem to have an iron hook behind the nut for a “riemenrollenspanner”, cord and pulley, and not the cranequin pegs as most other crossbows at the time, (even though the examined crossbow in the article seems to have both pulley hook and cranequin pegs). Many other crossbows from this part of the world seem to have pulley hook only.

Many of the crossbows seems also to be both long and quite sturdy, they also weigh a bit more because of that. It’s apparent from the article that a few of the horn bows were quite nicely decorated, even though they were weapons of war. I have seen discussions about that before, and I believe that in an age without advertising it would be smart to advertise your work as a crossbow maker like this. Many can see the fine crossbows of the city watch.

The composite bows could have been made by baleen “whale bone” but I guess it’s more likely that they were made by ordinary horn, even though it could very well be Ibex, stone goat horns, that is rated better than most other horns. Fritz Rohde also mentions whale bone in his article from 1934. I don’t think anyone could say for sure at that time what they were made of.

That's all for now,

Matchlock 15th April 2014 07:56 PM

Hello Micke,

Thank you for sharing all your reflections.
In order to reply substantially, I'd like to talk to my friend, the collector of earliest crossbows and accouterments.
Of course you are absolute correct emphasizing that the great number of 25 war crossbows preserved at their original place in Sibiu since the 15th century is unique.

The fact should considered, though, that there are some other old collections in Germany and Austria that hold Gothic crossbows, cranequins, quivers and bolts that have been exactly there since they were made more than 500 years ago:

- the famous Castle of Churburg, Schluderns, South Tyrol
- Schloss Ambras, Tirol, although many of their important items have been transferred to the Hofrüstkammer Vienna and to the Bavarian National Museum Munich in the 1860's when those central museums were founded
- the former arsenal of Straubing, now officially called the Gäubodenmuseum, a small city in Lower Bavaria, just some 50 km from where I live. I will post the two very fine and early (ca. 1430-40!) Late Gothic crossbows still preserved there, and a third crossbow from the Straubing arsenal is now in the collection of the Deutsche Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich; the right front side of the tiller of all three of them is branded with the capital letter S, the 15th c. arsenal mark of Straubing

Best wishes,

Micke D 16th April 2014 06:07 AM

Aha, I have seen an extremely nice S-marked crossbow with a hook for the riemenrollenspanner at Deutsche Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich, but i didn't know that the S on it stood for Straubing.
Nice to learn more things, and I would very much like to see more photos of these crossbows!


Matchlock 16th April 2014 12:23 PM

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Well, Micke (and all!),

After an hour spent scanning my 25 year-old analog photos and photoshoping, here finally are the two Gothic war crossbows from the former arsenal of the City of Straubing, Lower Bavaria, and a third Straubing crossbow in the Deutsche Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich now.
As not a single one of all the Straubing weapons has been on display since the 1960's nobody knows them - nobody but me. I photographed them in the reserve collection.
With their long, slender and almost delicate tillers they still reflect the High Gothic stylistic taste of ca. 1400, and were pobably made in about 1430-40. Together with the fine sample from the Harold L. Peterson collection, which now is in the collection of a friend of mine, they range among the earliest surviving crossbows, not much younger than the oldest known specimen of ca. 1400, preserved in the Stadtmuseum Köln (Cologne).

The tillers of all three of the Straubing crossbows are branded at the right-hand forward section with a capital letter S, the 15th c. arsenal mark of Straubing. They are still equiped with the iron hook for engaging the cord of the pulley (Riemenrollenspanner), the predecessor of the cranequin, which - telling by the oldest known records of period artwork, especially altar paintings - seems to have entered the scene around ca. 1440.

The measurements of the two crossbows still preserved in Straubing are:

1. tiller length 89 cm, length of composite bow (stated to be of yew wood in the 1882 inventory) 76 cm, diameter of bowstring 1.25 cm, position of nut 24 cm rearward of the staghorn foresight, length of iron tiller trigger 45 cm, iron stirrup 12 x 10 x 9.5 cm, maximum thickness 2 cm. The original leather binding of both the bow and stirrup missing.

2. tiller length 85 cm, and consisting of either limewood or maple, length of composite bow 73 cm, retaining traces of red paint at both ends, position of nut 25 cm rearward of the staghorn foresight, length of tiller trigger 43 cm, iron stirrup 14 x 9.5 x 12 cm. The original leather binding of both the bow and stirrup missing.

The 1882 inventory is remarkable for listing two more crossbows of exactly this type, one of them in all probability being the specimen in the Munich museum of hunting and fishing referred to above, plus a third one of late 15th c. type, and equiped with tiller lugs for engaging the cord of a cranequin. All three of them must have been deaccessioned between the two World Wars of shortly after WW II.

Author's photographs.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 12:30 PM

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The remaining photos of the second Straubing crossbow, plus some of the former Straubing crossbow that is in the Deutsche Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich now, the tiller also branded with a capital letter S, the 15th c. arsenal mark of Straubing.

Author's photographs.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 05:10 PM

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Another Late Gothic war crossbow, 2nd half 15th century, in the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich, and a contemporary quiver, the wooden core covered with boar skin (heavily rubbed), the hinged leather lid missing from the top.

Author's photographs.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 05:17 PM

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Not quite within the timeframe of this thread but also on display in the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich are these cossbow bolts for target practice; contrary to the finely made Krönlein-Bolzen (crown's head bolts) of ca. 1520-40, these are of 17th/18th c. date and show significantly less swamping and craftsmanship of their heads.

They sometimes turn up at an auction and usually are dated '15th/16th c.' which is way too early.
For comparison, I attached photos from such bolts in international auctions; only one single war bolt in the second lot is of 15th/16th c. date. The crown heads of crossbow bolts for target practice that actually were made in the 1st half of the 16th c. were much more elaborate. Once seen contrasted side by side, the difference is striking.

Autor's photographs.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 05:35 PM

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Three more photos belonging to the previous post.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 05:53 PM

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For comparison, some finely wrought crown's head crossbow bolts (Krönlein-Bolzen) of ca. 1520-40 (the three in the center), the others 17th/18th c.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 06:00 PM

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Two Late Gothic cranequins in the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich.
The first Nuremberg, ca. 1480-90, the crank making a bad fit and most probably not belonging. The maker's mark inlaid in brass, two crossed arrows, is a well known Nuremberg workshop mark that obviously was struck over more than 50 years and, of course, from various stamps. It is found on cranequins ranging from the late 15th (this cranequin in discussion) to the mid-16th century (a cranequin dated 1540 in the collection of a friend is the latest dated sample I know of), many of which are dated. It is also known in some variations from a heavy wrought-iron haquebut barrel of ca. 1460/70 and from finely wrought Nuremberg arquebus barrels dated 1537 and 1539 respectively. Thus it must have belonged to a prolific Nuremberg ironworks workshop.

Please see

The second ca. 1500, combining old stylistic elements like the claws and the brass inlaid lid of the gear case pierced with Gothic tracery, with new features characteristic of the Early Renaissance period, like the relatively broad and short rack.
The date assigned by the museum, 'ca. 1560', falls far short of reality.
The maker's mark, a serpent inlaid in brass, is known from other contemporary cranequins. The side of the gear case is pierced twice with the Gothic ornament of a quatrefoil.
There is a recess on both sides right before the claws, possibly a former dovetail for two small brass plates that would have perfectly matched the brass covered gear case. The combination of wrought iron and brass is characteristic of ironworks of the transitional Late Gothic/Early Renaissance style at the turn of the 15th to the 16th century.


Matchlock 16th April 2014 06:31 PM

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The damaged wooden crank handle of the cranequin discussed in the previous post.

Matchlock 16th April 2014 06:51 PM

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A fine, early 16th c. crossbow in the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum Munich, the slender tiller completely veneered with plaques of white staghorn and decorated with incised parallel lines.
This object marks the first stage of the utilization of wrought iron bows instead of using bows composite of laminated and glued horn and wood. In many instances - and obviously in the case of this piece in discussion! - , the composite bow was replaced by an iron one, which is visible because of the wider recess at the front of the tiller required by the composite bow that had to be filled with wood; thus, the tiller was recycled and modernized.
This bow retains its original coating of parchment or paper dyed in the basic Late Gothic colors red, green and white.

Attached below is a photo of an interesting object: a cranequin etched, signed and dated HZ 1630. As the overall appearance suggests a date of 'ca. mid 16th century' I am prone to believe that the etched decoration may have been added in 1630. Any opinions on this thesis?


Micke D 17th April 2014 06:46 AM

Lovely Michael!

I would say that your Straubing #2 is the oldest and most interesting of the three, (made in like 1410-1420?), and a bit of a missing link between the older type like W1109 in Köln made maybe around 1400 and the other two Straubing crossbows made as you say about 1430-1440.


Matchlock 17th April 2014 04:29 PM

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You are doubtlessly right, Micke,

At least as far as formal and stylistic dating criteria are concerned.

With its overall proportions, especially the long and delicate tiller, plus the straight tiller trigger (trigger bar) which is rectangular still and does not yet show the rounded knee-like forward bow, the Straubing crossbow #2 indeed seems, in terms of period, very close to the general High Gothic style of around 1400, as depicted by Konrad Kyeser in Bellifortis, Eichstätt/Bavaria, 1405 (top attachment), the Köln crossbow W 1109, with his curved bow now finally mounted the correct way - although some museum people stilll are convinced it looked 'more authentic' before (in their inexpert eyes only), on a painting of ca. 1430 depicting a mounted crossbow man, and on a Bavarian painting from an altar piece, ca. 1420-25, whereas two miniatures in the Stundenbuch (book of hours) of Katharina von Kleve, ca. 1440, seem to represent a remarkably more evolved type.

On the other hand, this could lead to the conclusion that the Köln crossbow is even older - ca. 1370-80?!

Actually the facts probably were more or less the same as in all former armories, the Landeszeughaus Graz etc.: whenever a series of no matter what kind of weapons was ordered the pieces showed minor differences depending on whether an older fellow had kept and continued his obsolete style, or maybe a few younger working next to him had adopted the more recent style.

Would you rank the Straubing crowssbow now in the Jagdmuseum between the two others, or closer in style to no. 1?

Attachments appearing in the order referred to in the text.


Matchlock 18th April 2014 05:28 PM

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Some very early sources of period illustrations depicting crossbows - and proving that shapes of the trigger bar that we would date '2nd half 15th c.' seem to have existed more than 200 years ago!

Attachments, from top:

- Maciejowski Bible, ca. 1245-50 (5)

- Liber ad honorem Augusti, Southern Italy, ca. 1194-96, Burgerbibl. Berne/Switzerland

- ca. 1225-50

- Codex Manesse, ca. 1305 (2)

- Spain or Portugal, 12th c., National Archive Lisbon (thanks, Nando! ;)

- Siege of Cologne by the Huns, early 15th c.

- crossbow stored in its leather case (!), 1st half 15th c.

- Luttrell Psalterium, ca. 1330, British Library


Matchlock 18th April 2014 07:59 PM

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Two items very rare to find in detached condition, and visible from all sides :

two stirrups and a tiller trigger/trigger bar, from crossbows of the 2nd half of the 15th c.
The first stirrup: 11.9 x 0.98 x 3.4 x 9.63 cm.


Matchlock 17th July 2014 06:03 AM

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Andi posted this historically important Ottoman incendiary arrow:

This rare item has been identified as an arrow rather than a crossbow bolt, for the fact that long bows were favorized in Muslim areas, and in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It has been preserved at
the Stadtmuseum of Klosterneuburg (museum of the City of Klosterneuburg) located at the Danube River, near Vienna, Lower Austria)ever since The Second Great Siege of Vienna by the Turks, 14 July through 12 September 1683!

For important contemporary illustrations, see Wikipedia:

Please also cf. my thread: a

Thanks, Andi,
and best,

Matchlock 5th December 2014 11:55 AM

Closest Studies of a Crossbow Nut, 15th Century!
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I retrieved these from where it sold a few days ago.
Enjoy the singular occasion.


Mac 25th February 2015 02:23 AM

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Here is another isolated stirrup. I can take some better pics if there is interest.

(I am having trouble getting the attachments from the "attach files" box to show up as images in "preview post". I hope someone can set me straight here...)


fernando 25th February 2015 07:17 PM

Originally Posted by Mac
Here is another isolated stirrup. I can take some better pics if there is interest.

(I am having trouble getting the attachments from the "attach files" box to show up as images in "preview post". I hope someone can set me straight here...)


If i get it right, you may better save the selected images to your computer and upload (attach) from from there ... or simply copy the link to the thread you wish to show the images from.
By the way, attachments do not show in the "preview post" feature.

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