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Old 6th April 2007, 07:04 AM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 490

Thanks, Fernando, for both the images and the link to a possible source for this book.

The "crab" style sword hilts (I prefer the Portuguese "colhoes" or testicles name as far more descriptive of these overseas imitations) are indeed typical of the Iberian peninsula during the period encompassing the beginning of the "Age of Discoveries". I haven't been able to verify if the style originated in Portugal or Spain; the most often published examples are those associated with Spanish notables, notably King Fernando I and "El Gran Capitan" Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, both of whom flourished at the turn of the 16th cent. See Ada Brun Hoffmeyer's article "From Medieval Sword to Renaissance Rapier" in ART, ARMS, AND ARMOUR (ed. Robert Held, Chiasso [Switz.]: Acquafresca Editrice, 1979) for photos of hilts of both weapons. Fernando's sword has rounded terminals to the principal quillons that are related to the testicles, whereas Gonzalo's hilt has flattened ends. It's interesting to note that the colonial imitations have much smaller pommels than their European predecessors, and I'm wondering if the blades on them might be thinner so that less counterbalance in the hilt is necessary.

You are right, there is so little info at present that will allow us to definitively identify Portuguese swords as separate in design from their Spanish or Italian equivalents.

In the case of firearms, it is rather easier to distinguish some distinctly Portuguese types because of mechanical and aesthetic differences that were prominent during the 16th and 17th centuries. However, as the 18th cent. progressed on into the 19th, Lusitanian gun makers began making more pieces in the prevailing Spanish and French styles and without signatures, it can be hard to tell some of the products apart. Daenhardt is a good source of info in this field.
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