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Old 9th June 2012, 09:13 PM   #153
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 129

Originally Posted by Swordfish
A gothic crossbow with horn bow dating c. 1430-1460.
This crossbow failed to sell at an auction some years ago, because it was wrongly described as Scandinavian dating c. 1500.
A few years later I saw it in a private collection, where I took the photo.
In this collection was also another crossbow of typical central European shape with a tiller made of fruit-wood and a spanning-hook at the upper side.
Both crossbows had identical (really identical, not only similar) elements:
The strongly reflex horn-bow, the stirrup, the cord binding and the trigger lever. Therefore both crossbows must have been made by the same maker or in the same wokshop. This workshop was in South-Tyrol. This is proofed by an exhibition label on the bow inscibed by hand with No. XII and with a latin text stating that this cossbow was was once in the collection of Castle Rodeneck (South-Tyrol),and dated 11.April 1891.
The crossbow on the photo is a somewhat simlpler version than the usually known ones. The tiller is made of more durable oak, the side plates are iron sheets instead of less durable horn plates. The only decoration are the horn plates on the upper side. The spanning- hook is on the bottom side, probably for a cord-puller, as can be seen on Italian paintings of the period.
While the horn inlaid crossbows with fruit-wood tillers can be described as all purpose crossbows suitable for sporting, hunting and war, the crossbow on the photo is surely only for one purpose. It is a war-crossbow.

Looking through this old post, it was was criticized by two experts. This I can't let stand without contradiction. But before I'm going to disprove all arguments, the reader must have the opportunity to judge the weight of the opinions of these experts. Are these real experts, or self appointed so called 'experts' for early crossbows? Should I hereby tread on some ones toes, I apologize preventive for it, but there's no real discussion without any opposite opinion!

Quote Micke D:

"I have seen this one before, and must say that I was a bit sceptic about it. But now when I see that it is a Wallarmbrust I'm okay with it."

The crossbow he was 'skeptic' about was a medieval wall crossbow sold at Galerie Fischer in 2010. This crossbow is surely the most rare and important Gothic crossbow that was for sale during the last 20-30 years. It was preserved in untouched condition, the composite bow painted with original Gothic foliage. What does he believed what it is, before Matchlock told him that it is a wall-crossbow? A fake? A big toy? Thus much to this expert.

To Matchlock:

He is surely an expert for early firearms, based on a huge collection of such items. But is he therefore necessarily also an expert for early halberds , daggers, swords, crossbows, armour? As far as I know, he has not a single such item (in not excavated condition) in his collection. A huge collection of pictures, downloaded from the web, is not enough to be an expert for these arms.

But now to their 'arguments'

Quote Matchlock:

"I have known this crossbow since it first appeared on the market and I too know who it is with. There are some doubts about it, but anyway the iron side plates are of a surface that keeps me from thinking it might be all original. After all, a label from 1891, the heyday of the Victorian period (German Historismus) when many of these arms were widely reproduced, is certainly no proof of Gothic authenticity, at best of Neo-Gothic made ..."

and later:
Originally Posted by Swordfish
The iron side plates are nearly identical to the side
plates on the Wall-crossbow you posted in thread #40.

"But their surface does not commensurate with the alleged period of the other components!"


That the surface of the side plates of the wall-crossbow and the crossbow in question differ from each other is obvious. And why? The side plates of the wall-crossbow retained their original rust patina surface, the rust of the side plates of the crossbow in question was cleaned off, therefore they must lock different(see pictures). Also the surface on the side plates, made of thin sheet metal, looks different as the surface on the solid trigger-lever on both crossbows.

And further Matchlock:

"And the collector has been in close contact with a number of German and Austrian forgers over the decades, they have been interchanging various arms for display in their repective collections. I noticed the same crossbow in another far-off collection about one year after it was for sale with HH."


What should this crossbow be now? A crossbow of the 19th century Historismus period or a 20th or 21th century fake? Or a genuine Russian crossbow, as you believed before? There have been many Historismus crossbows on the market in the last 10-15 years. They are all similar to early crossbows, but can be easily identified at first sight as of the Historismus period. None of these, I repeat: None of these ever had an elaborate composite bow. If anyone knows one, please post a picture!

And why had none a composite bow? The answer is given by both experts:

Quote Micke D:

" I tried to convince Richter that the Scandinavian Saami crossbows had tillers somewhat similar to this but not until the 18th c, and there was certainly no people that could make horn bows left at that time, but he still thought that it was a Scandinavian crossbow."

And Matchlock:

"Hi David,
Welcome here!
As to rebuilding a composite hornbow crossbow and a matching cranequin, believe me: it is virtually impossible!.......
......I have heard of several people who, like you, tried to copy such an item and all failed in the end.
That's exactly why there is not one single replica of such a hornbow on the market!"


If the knowledge of making elaborate composite crossbows was already lost in the 18th century, it was surely not rediscovered in the 19th century Historismus period. If it is impossible to make a composite bow today, where is than the ingenious faker who made this elaborate strongly reflex bow?

Quote Micke D:

"Is it possible that you could show us the other crossbow that you say is identical to this one?
Do you know the dimensions of this crossbow?
Is it a wall-crossbow or a big handheld crossbow?
Here I must say that I have never seen a horn bow of this size with this much reflex, of course I know of the early crossbows like W1109 in KŲln, but they are of another time and type.
Can you show me a similar reflexed bow?"


That the bows in KŲln are of an earlier date is no argument that such a reflex bow could not have been made 50 years later. I know three exactly identical bows. One is on a crossbow of exactly the same type as the one in question, it is a twin to this, only the decoration of the bone plates differ. It is in the collection of an experienced German collector of medieval arms and armour (except firearms), who is an acknowledged expert on this field, based on a huge own collection of such items, all in not excavated condition. The second is on a crossbow of typical Central European shape with a tiller of fruitwood of exactly the same length, with a spanning-hook at the upper side. The trigger-lever, the stirrup and the cord binding of the bow are exactly identical.(See the attached scans) All three crossbows must have been manufactured in the same workshop and this was not the workshop of a faker! Fakers always try to copy existing examples, they rarely invent new hitherto unknown types, which are hard to sell.

Quote Micke D:

"The yellow-greenish cord binding looks suspect to me and most probably not original. The stirrup should be lashed to the bow with leather and not the cord binding that holds the bow. The stirrup doesnít look like anything I have seen before, itís very thin and the outside ridge looks like itís pressed from the inside, it looks very suspect."


The cord binding is waxed with beeswax, old beeswax has exactly this color if it is not too dirty. You are right that the majority of surviving medieval crossbows have the stirrup fixed with leather stripes, but a minority has not, this is no proof that all stirrups must have been fixed with leather. Also many leather straps are later replacements. Attached some pictures with stirrups bound in with the same cord as the bow, all from this thread, all not genuine? The stirrup is unusual indeed, it is not forged as a solid piece, but as a profile. The trigger-lever of crossbows is usually also made of a solid piece of iron, but some examples do exist, where the trigger-lever is also forged as a profile (see attached pictures). Why? because a profile has nearly the same stability as a solid piece of iron, but is lighter.

Quote Micke D:

"This is the first old (?) crossbow that I have seen with a tiller of oak."


This is right, but this is also a type of crossbow which was hitherto unknown. I know no reason why the tiller should not be of oak, do you know one? But I know a reason why it makes sense to make it of oak: Oak has a higher strength than fruitwood, therefore a tiller made of oak can be made more slender than a tiller of fruitwood, without losing stability. And the crossbow in question has a very slender tiller. Why? This is a purely war-crossbow, which must have been carried by foot all the day, therefore it should never be too heavy. That's also the reason that the stirrup was forged as a light profile. The weight of the crossbow in question is only 2.9 kg.

Quote Micke D:

" Iím sorry but I canít see anything on this one that I would say is typical of a central European medieval crossbow. If it had had a bow shaped more like the one in thread #40, and of similar size, I would have it easier to accept it."


I have never claimed that this is a typical Central European crossbow. I have only claimed that the bow, the cord binding, the stirrup and the trigger-lever are identical to an other known typical European crossbow (see scans). The tiller is of a different shape, but the iron side-plates are very similar to the side-plates of the wall-crossbow in#40. (see pictures)

Quote Matchlock:

"Excellent notations, Mikael, and exactly on the point!
All crossbow tillers I have seen were of either fruitwood or lime wood, except this one."

And later Matchlock:
Hi Mikael,

"I cannot seem to find the photos of the crossbow with that kind of wavy grain on the tiller that made me think of maple or limewood. So just forget about my idea."

And Micke D:

" I probably know which crossbow you meant. The crossbow in the Osthofentor Museum in Soest has a tiller that has the striped look of maple, the same wood as used for violins and other instruments of that type."


I have never seen before..... Is this an argument with the academic approach you always require?

And the crossbow in Soest, made of maple?, is it therefore a fake? If you know a tiller made of lime wood, please post a picture! I know no tiller of lime wood, which is surely too soft for making durable tillers for crossbows, but I have seen a tiller made of European beech: the Baumkircher wall-crossbow in the KHM Vienna. Is this therefore a fake? But to determine the wood only on collected pictures from the web is a tricky business.

Attached more detailed pictures of the crossbow in question. Please note the close up details where the left and right hand grips the tiller. This wear and dark coloration is from hundreds of handlings of the tiller with a hard grip with a hand wet from sweat. In the cracks in the birch bark of the bow the layers of horn are visible.

Attached Images
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