Join Date: Jan 2011
Hello David and other interested!
These two crossbows in Nürnberg have inventory number W755 and W1762.
My guess is that W755, Armbrust 1, was made in the later part of the 15th century, probably around 1470-1480. It is a crossbow that was owned historically by the Count family Feldkirch-Montfort from Vorarlberg in Austria. I’m happy to say that there are quite a few crossbows preserved from this family, Inv.-nr. K.Z. 207 in Schweizerischen Landesmuseum in Zürich, Inv.-nr. 1777 in Historischen Museum in Bern, posted by Matchlock in post #54, Inv.-nr. 11464 in Legermuseum in Delft, posted by Matchlock in post #32, and my favorite one from Peter Finer Antiques that Matchlock posted in post #55. That post also shows the pattern of the printed birch bark cover on the bow with what looks like parts of the zodiac, but also other things like a squirrel and the Austrian flag.
W755 is of what I call the “second tiller type” from the 15th century, W1762 is from the “first tiller type”, and the “third tiller type” is the earliest examples of the more robust type of central European crossbows from the 16th to 18th century.
The “second tiller type” has a flat lower part on the underside next to the bow; we can see this in David’s photo “Armbrust 1 GNM_2”. The flat underside, with an inlayed dark piece of horn, changes into a round form in front of the lock. This type of crossbow is shorter and of a more robust type than the “first tiller type”. Inv.-nr. XI.434 in Leeds is a very similar crossbow in shape, style and dimensions, and it also has the skinny trigger that looks like it could come from the same smith.
W1762 is of the “first tiller type”, and is probably from the early half of the 15th century; my personal guess is that it may be from 1430-1440. I don’t have any dimensions for this crossbow, but it looks like it is longer than W755, and it should be that to. The tillers length was reduced during the 15th century from circa 90 cm’s to around 70 cm’s, and sometimes even shorter. It also has an earlier type of decorations on the tiller, and it’s inlayed almost from one end to the other.
The “first tiller type” has a more round bottomed lower part on the underside next to the bow; we can see this, but sadly not too well, in David’s photo “Armbrust 2 GNM 5”. In this photo we also see the white horn/bone inlay piece that ends, as almost always with this type, with an arrow shape.
I’m certain that he trigger is a later replacement; it hasn’t the right shape for a central European crossbow at all. After I have looked at it some more I also think that the tiller and bow probably didn’t belong to each other. If we look at David’s photo “Armbrust 2 GNM 10”, we will see that both the arrow rest and the underside has been restored, but the bow still looks a bit too wide for the tiller. It was originally made or converted later to use a cranequin, as we can see by the lugs in the tiller and not the English windlass it is photographed with now. I don’t know why the museum insist of having it attached to this crossbow as it doesn't fit the tiller.