Lead Moderator European Armoury
Join Date: Dec 2004
Old 1st December 2007, 07:13 PM
EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Excellent subject Fernando, and I think its good we examine that perspective here. It does seem quite probable that the application of interpretations of known marks, numbers and inscriptions would occur in instances of put together pieces or native copies etc. Naturally we know this is often the case on blades copied in Africa, India etc. and that is much of the purpose of this thread.
As you have noted, perhaps we can attempt to read too much into some of the markings or supposed symbolism, and pieces that are obviously composite leave us wondering. Perhaps the piece was assembled in period from elements available, and often individuals became thier own blacksmiths when none were available to furbish weapons, or could not afford such work. We of course realize that in such cases, there was often not a great deal of literacy in the ranks, so supersition and imitation of fabled marks or wording may have been factors in applying such motif or decoration.
Naturally I have seen many cases where what seemed an intriguing mark and was hoped to reveal the work of a certain maker or mysterious symbol turned out to be simply a proof mark or an arsenal or inventory number. While we regard the weapons often with anxious hope for historical significance of times long ago, it must be remembered that at the time, these weapons were pretty much just business, and such markings were procedural. It is the symbolic history behind many of the markings that is fascinating, and the inscriptions applied faithfully for the clients who commissioned these weapons often reveal compelling historical possibilities.
One such case is of course the mystery of Andrea Ferara. While Victorian romanticism led to many tales of this fabled Italian swordsmith having worked in Spain and even in Scotland, there is little evidence of such. In fact there is even precious little evidence of such a prolific maker in Italy, though it is noted he worked in Belluno and had a brother working as well. Eventually some of the early arms writers considered that the 'name' was actually most likely a phrase 'Andrea' (Andrew= loosely, true) 'Ferrara' (= iron, steel) and a quality warranty. On German blades, the 'Eisenhauer' often mistaken to be a maker, simply meant in German ( Eisen= iron, hauer =cutter), i.e.strong enough to cut iron. The monumental appearance of the Ferara name/phrase over continents and centuries on countless blades precludes the work of any mere mortal.
The interesting use of numerics in the gemetria application comprised within Cabalistic esoterica leads to most intriguing interpretation. It always has amazed me how many 'responsibly documented' catalogs have declared swords 'made in 1441 or 1414'! On the rapier shown by Freebooter the 'Domini' however does correspond to Anno Domini, which typically was followed by a year. I have often wondered if application of the year was for the rather mundane purpose of inventory or production numbers I have mentioned concerning commercial matters.
Aside from this, I do believe there was considerable religious as well as superstitious consideration involved in many of the marks and inscriptions, such as the 'anchor' and of course the numbers you have noted. The Hebrew connotation in the phrase you note of course would suggest the Cabalistic potential for its origin.
Returning to the arrow used as a mark in Barcelona as shown on the Closa weapon you posted earlier, it seems that the 'broad arrow' was also used in England as a mark for 'the Kings property' and was used in all manner of application.
Please forgive my 'dissertation' but as always, I have been searching for hours on end on our subject, and cant resist collecting my thoughts here. The information you keep sharing prompts very late and obsessively fascinating searches and its great to keep finding more!
With all very best regards,