Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Extremely Rare 14th to 18th Century Igniting Irons and a 16th Century Linstock
This is another topic on a kind of important early gun accouterments almost never discussed.
Igniting irons were used to manually ignite all sorts of pieces of artillery, from the biggest cannon to haquebuts and even small handguns, even well after igniting mechanisms had come into general use. With all those little noise makers (Böller) employed in alpine regions they never actually seem to have vanished before ca. WW II.
We know from original sources of information that, when needed, their heads were kept red hot in a bowl filled with live coal and finally put down the touchhole.
It is true that the earliest igniting device documented together with the earliest known illustration of a gun in the famous de Milemete ms. at Christ Church, Oxford, dated 1326, is clearly a short stick with a split upper portion and a glowing piece of tinder jammed between the jaws which could be termed a sort of linstock (first attachments). However, we have no further records of linstocks for almost 200 years after.
The next two contemporary sources of illustration attached are from Konrad Kyeser's Bellifortis of 1405, both depicting a rectangular thin archetype of iron mounted on a short wooden haft. We may therefore assume that that was the usual type of 14th to early15th century igniting devices. The oldest known actual singular piece of identical type, although in excavated condition retaining a portion of its original haft, is in my collection (see attachments).
Hence forward, 15th century practical experience seems to have developped a reinforced pear like shape of the igniting head with a thin prick to it to reach down the touchhole; the larger mass of the iron was of course apt to keep the heat for longer. Due to the nature of their use - kept red hot for hours and hence calcined, then, after left rusting away for months, bearing the same procedure all over again and again - the actual touch prick of those igniting irons has in most cases gone of surviving examples.
Again, relying on illustrative sources, linstocks with jammed in glowing tinder or smoldering slow match do not seem to have seen wider use before ca. 1500 when they were depicted in the Maximilian arsenal books (Maximilianische Zeugbücher), ca. 1502-1507. Allthough match linstocks seem to have taken over for at least half a thousand centuries from now, we still know of some large samples of early 18th century heavy artillery accouterments retaining their original igniting irons mounted on long hafts and forming part of the equipment of their original carriages.
The singular short linstock, early to mid 16th c., with the two piece zoomorphic head retaining its original blackened haft together with its original tarred cord binding on the rearward grip plus a pointed iron shoe finial for ramming the piece into the ground on intermitted action, is also in my collection while most images of other igniting irons were gathered together from various sources.