That illustration was the first thought that came into my mind when I spied that tiny mechanism at an auction about ten years ago. Somebody had used it to build a short 'matchlock gun' around it. Well, I bought the piece and threw the ridiculous barrel and stock in the trash can.
I doubt though that the Bavarian gun master Martin Merz, who lived and died in Amberg, made this drawing as early as 1475. That of course was the time when he started out with his draught book but he died only in 1501. I believe that he added this illustration to his notes at about the end of the 15th c.
Attached find images of his epitaph on the outer wall of the Amberg city parish church; please note his feet rested on a cannon barrel and the eye patch indicating that he lost his right eye in duty. Also note the early cannon and carriage in the armorial shield on the right below symbolizing his profession.
Btw, very similar lock plates nailed
to haquebuts are depicted from the Weimar Ingenieurbuch, ca. 1500 - see following attachments. The exception, of course, is that these seem to be more advanced as the long lever triggers are already mounted inside. Either they were screwed into the sear or the drawing is inaccurate because there is no recess for the trigger cut in the stock.
On the other hand, the pans on these guns are not yet fitted with covers!
It's a really tricky and painful, let alone painstaking, topic dating these pieces ... grrrr
The reasons for my assumption are:
- there is no known record of a fully developed lock plate combining the complete mechanism parts before ca. 1500. The earliest document of such is Burgkmair's illustration of the triumphal march of the Emperor Maximilian I of ca. 1516. And - they still are nailed to the stocks of the arquebuses.
Even from as late as the 1520's there are hundreds of surviving Nuremberg made snap matchlock arquebuses preserved in the Pilsen Armory, Czechia, which are only equipped with a small bras plate bearing the serpentine whilst the rest of the mechanism is still nailed to the stock.
- the use of that 'modern' type of screws to fix the lock is not documented before the 1520's, at least to my knowledge; even then most locks were simply nailed to the stock.
- the earliest screw heads from about 1500 had no slits but formed a small ring (eye) to handle them or put some simple tool like a nail through the eye for fixing.
This earliest known form of lock retaining srcews is retained on a stocked haquebut in the famos Vienna Hapsburg Armory (one only, the other screw being a modern replacement) and the other two are in my collection. I posted them in an earlier thread and re-attach them.
The next step in lock retaining screws seems to have been an angled upper part of the screw to retain the mechanism, and next that angled part became a slit for a screwdriver.
The earliest known 'modern' screw heads can be found to retain the wheel-lock of the higly decorated combined crossbow gun, datable closely to ca. 1520 based on the inscription it bears, which is preserved in the Bavarian National Museum Munich - please cf. to my earlier thread.
- moreover, the pivot of the serpentine is not simply riveted as in my sample but is fixed to a pinion square by means of a pin, which doubtlessly is a quite advanced method that was still in use with matchlocks of ca. 1600!
- side-mounted pans already featuring a pivoted swiveling cover (!) like the one on Merz's drawing are not known before the end of the 15th c.
- the sliding clamp of the serpentine to fix the piece of tinder is pictured here for the first time ever and is found on surviving guns as late as the 1550's (!) in the Graz Armory. During the whole span of time between ca. 1500 and 1550, there is no proof of the simple means of clamp, which of course was the predecessor of the later wingnut (known in Italy as early as the 1520's) on matchlock serpentines.
Please note the broach or vent prick (Ršumnadel
) surspended on a delicate chain in front of the lock. Interesting enough, this useful piece of accouterment is not known to have survived on any actually existing Central or North European gun, but is retained on many of the better quality Oriental (esp. Indian and Turkish) 17th-19th c. matchlock guns.