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Old 19th May 2014, 07:16 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default Ca. 1520: One of the World's Oldest and Finest Matchlock Landsknecht Arquebuses

At 61, I have dedicated almost 40 years of my life solely to the research of earliest North Euopean Zeughaus (arsenal), 'military' firearms and all sorts of accouterments - from the humble beginnings in ca. 1330 until the end of the matchlock era. The latter was extended to the almost anachronistic Late Baroque period of the 1720's.
In all those years, I have never learned of, let alone come across, another short matchlock arquebus of such an early date, and preserved in this fine original state of both quality and condition - and it was for sale.

When it emerged on the world market all of a sudden, and out of the blue, I had to resort to all my compiled knowlegde within a very short span of time, only two weeks before that piece was going to be sold. There was one single fact that was perfectly clear to me from the very first glance at the photo of this arquebus: I would have to muster all my highly specialized knowledge based upon my private library of more than 3,000 books and catalogs, as well as my photo library comprising over 280,000 pictures taken by me in international museums, and especially in their reserve collections which are accessbible to just very few persons, and I would have to resort to all my courage - and of course collate all the money that would obviously be necessary to win that singular piece.
Had I failed to achieve all that within those two weeks, I would have never been granted a second chance in my lifetime.
And, of course, there was not one single existing specimen that I would have been able to exactly compare it to, and appraise its importance.

But there was one historical source of illustration that jumped right to my mind at once, because a huge copy of it, two square meters large, was (and still is) on a wall of my library. It was a painting by Ruprecht Heller, The Battle of Pavia, dated 1529, and is preserved at the National Museum in Stockholm, 272. Actually, that famous battle took place on 25 February 1525:

In various of my threads, I have pointed out the relevance of that painting regarding mercenary (Landsknecht) weapons and all sorts of accouterments, and have posted many close-ups.
Please use the forum search button, and enter 'Battle of Pavia 1525'.

In the foreground, a group of arquebusiers is depicted, equipped with short matchlock arquebuses, the downward curved buttstocks of very similar form as the one found on the gun in discussion.

This arquebus features a recycled, older arquebus barrel made of cast brass/'bronze', in ca. 1490-1510.
As I have stated several times, the contemporary term for the actual alloy of copper and pewter (or zinc) used to found gun barrels 500 years ago, was Messing (brass), denoting a copper-zinc alloy. Several guns in the famous 'Maximilian' arsenal books (German: Maximilianische Zeugbücher), illustrated by Jörg Kölderer between ca. 1495 and 1515 - with the most ample work accomplished in ca. 1502-1507 - , are labeled to be mounted with brass barrels.
A few samples of Kölderer's illustrations which are termed 'Messing hanndtbuchsen' (arquebuses with brass barrels) in Medieval German, are attached below, e.g. fol. 114, and also 'Messing hagkennpuchsen' (wall guns with brass barrels) respectively, e.g. fol. 131 and 132, both incod.icon. 222.

I realize that nowadays, the term 'bronze' for those Late Medieval barrels is often favored, for various reasons, basically because it evokes a more precious signification.

Please refer to my posts, e.g. in,
esp. posts #2 and #5.

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