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Old 26th April 2009, 08:14 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default 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.

Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 27th April 2009 at 04:00 PM.
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Old 26th April 2009, 08:22 PM   #2
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More igniting irons of uncertain dates, probably 15th to 18th centuries, some of them retaining their igniting pricks.
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Old 26th April 2009, 08:25 PM   #3
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Some more.
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Old 4th May 2009, 05:43 PM   #4
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Michael, this is yet another amazing example of the minutiae of medieval artillery and firearms that has seemed to entirely escape the notice of scholarly study. Although I admit to knowing extremely little on such topics, it is amazing that there is so much complacency toward such important detail, and thank goodness there are scholars with your tenacity at preserving such detail, which would otherwise be lost.

I would imagine that these items would be incredibly rare, as such everyday practical implements are rarely considered worthwhile components of the naturally more visible weapon itself. A cannon is hardly a disposable item, but the thing to light it with is as noted, seldom ever mentioned.

It seems interesting that in those times, the importance of igniting the powder in these arms was of course crucial, and while apparantly given considerable attention, in modern times only the effects and outcome of the action and events are of interest to most historians.

You have shown us in many cases of the accoutrements and accessories used in these times that often these implements, as well as the elements of the weapons, were given detailed designs and zoomorphic shapes, showing amazing attention to even the most mundane of devices.

This has provided a dimension to the study of antique weaponry seldom recognized in the standard literature, and to me adds an almost surreal perspective that makes it seem almost if I am actually standing there in period and viewing these weapons.

As always, a simple thank you seems insufficent! and I am always very grateful for your wonderful and personally guided tours into history.

You're the best !

Jim

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Old 4th May 2009, 08:16 PM   #5
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Actually, Jim, those plain iron igniting devices are not as rare in our alpine regions as one might think; they, just like the mostly short barrels to light with, seem to have seldom been disposed of. In Austria and Switzerland, many of those noisemakers are found to be employed as door stoppers in traditional rural houses even in the 21st century. As you noted, they, and even less their igniting sticks, are rarely ever paid notice to or mentioned, though - mostly for lack of knowledge, I am afraid.

Otherwise, as often before, your kind words scholarly spoken ex cathedra made me blush; thank you so much but I think that all of us owe you so much - and most of all our forum thankfully guided competently, eloquently and patiently by its creator.

With all my very best wishes,
Michael
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Old 7th May 2009, 02:22 PM   #6
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Another one retaining its igniting prick.

Michael
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Old 14th May 2009, 04:22 PM   #7
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From:

Flavius Vegetius Renatus: Vier Bücher der Rytterschafft (Four Books of Knighthood), Erfurt, Germany, 1511.

Note the V shaped cannon barrels!

Michael
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Old 14th May 2009, 05:03 PM   #8
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From the same book as before, 1511.

Michael
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Old 3rd September 2014, 06:42 PM   #9
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Here is a igniting iron on display at Reichsstadtmuseum Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany. It is shown in connection with a miniature cannon ca, 31 mm, barrel lenght 525 mm of 1676. Due to the more than rustical handle of a deers antler I would date the igniting iron some times younger.
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Old 12th September 2014, 05:46 PM   #10
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Hi Andi,


Thanks for adding that really precious item!

Assigning a date closer than, give or take, some 200 years, to objects of everyday use, and as simple as this - because perfectly shaped, unsurpassable, and therefore traditionally made the same, from at least the early 15th through the early 19th centuries! - , is impossible.
Maybe we will live to see science develop working! methods for dating wrought iron - no way so far.

Dobutlessly, though extremely rare to detect today (at least as to the author's experience), are igniting irons retaining their original priming prick (German: Zündstachel) - the author invented that term, taking the photos attached at the museum of Mariazell-Gusswerk, Styria, Austria, some 30 years ago.

It was in that very moment that the following thesis jumped to the author's mind:
All these igniting irons must, of, course, have been made with a delicate prick, both originally, and right from the very beginning - which was obviously the late 1200's, ca. 1280, - at least ! ...


As I have tried to demonstrate, the earliest datable actual igniting iron, and recorded to have survived, is preserved in
The Michael Trömner Collection.
Please see posts #1, and 12, in this thread, and re-attached below.

(Andi, I'm sure both you and Chris remember viewing, and enjoying, among all the rest, that particular item when you were down here in Abensberg, Lower Bavaria
with me just a few months ago!(well, actually Bavaria can't get any lower thanhere, where I grew up ... :rolleyes)
Please give my greetings to Chris,
and do see come back and me as often as you can, the two of you!

The author puts forward as a thesis that, by circa 1400, igniting irons got wrought reinforced, elongated, and oval pear-shaped - for the simple reason that the former too thin and delicate, pricked ending proved not to be able to withstand, let alone hold, the read heat (circa 1,000-1,200° Celsius) long enough to really work out in war, and actually ignite several barrels, as rapidly as possible, when it all came down - to fragments of seconds.

As shown before, the touch holes of the earliest barrels were quite small, so they perfectly fitted the ends of the firing tools to enter:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...arliest+barrels
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=handgonne
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=handgonne
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...light=handgonne



Those delicate wormlike endings got heated and, re-heated, over and over again; of course, they were left to rust in between - and probably came off quite soon.

So all that we can see non the surviving samples is the pear-shaped section, able to withstand both the heat and the rust; the original forward prick is gone long since.


Best,
Michael Trömner
Rebenstr. 9
93326 Abensberg
Lower Bavaria, Germany



Attachments, appearing in order:

- Konrad Kyeser, Eichstätt, Bavaria, dated 1405
- (Detail)


-
Manuscript Besançon BM MS.1360, 1401-1450, fol. 121r; holding institution: Bibliothèque municipale de Besançon

- The earliest known surviving igniting iron, 14th c., preserved in

The Michael Trömner Collection

Abensberg, Bavaria, Germany





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Last edited by Matchlock : 12th September 2014 at 11:44 PM.
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Old 15th September 2014, 08:11 PM   #11
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Just started reading this thread (again) and remembered this one. It was for sale at thomas del mar but was later withdrawn for unknown reasons (at least unknown to me).
Luckily i learned (somewhere ) to save items of interest, which was not a bad thing seeing as all the information was gone just a few days after the catalogue was put online.

It is missing the original haft but seems in otherwise good condition apart from it beeing a bit shiny for a "17th century" item as stated by the auctioneer.


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