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Old 25th July 2010, 08:10 PM   #1
Fernando K
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Default The match lock of Leonardo da Vinci

This is my first post in this forum. I have not access to bibliography, but I have be found that at Madrid Codex, folio 18 v - discovered in 1967 - is a "automatic" match lock design.

Only in the book of Harold Peterson y Robert Helman "The Great Guns" I found a reference to this subject, without any image, and confused with the flintlock: ".......sketch for a prototype of the flint-striking lock". Similarly, in the journal "Ciencia e Investigación" March 1998, spanish version of the magazine "Scientific American" there is an article de Vernard Foley "Leonardo da Vinci and the invention of the wheel - lock" without mention of this issue.

The short space does not allow me to dwell too much but I note that Leonardo invented or designed a tumbler moved by a spring and held by a sear of vertical motion, and moved the serpentine as occurred in the subsequent locks of snaphaunce, flint and percussion. In turn, the fall of the serpentine moved automatically the cover-pan, discovering the priming powder by means of a lever, as wold happen later in the snaphaunce locks of different sources (Netherlands, Arabic, Germanic and Italic or "a la florentina"). When mounting the serpentine, conversely, closing the pan.

Leonardo's drawings are sufficiently clear and explicit. I´m not aware of any such study in related publications about this matter.

Affectionately from Argentina,

Fernando Keilty
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Old 26th July 2010, 03:19 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Hi Fernando, and welcome to our forum! What a fascinating topic to enter with, nicely done. As you know we are interested in the history of all kinds of weapons here, and what more intriguing subject than the amazing Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). I feel certain that if we look far enough into his drawings or if more are found, we will find he may have invented the computer, or at least the concept.

I must confess I know extremely little on firearms, but am always willing to look into things with some research, and enjoy learning more. I will share what little I have discovered while we wait for our firearms sages to return from thier vacations

If I understand correctly, this codex (Madrid Codex 18v) holds a design for an 'automatic matchlock'. I am assuming, since I am unclear on the correct terminology, that this is perceived to be a 'wheellock', which uses a piece of material (typically iron pyrite) to ignite the powder and a rotating to wheel to strike it.
Since a match was of course a live burning cord in the matchlock (where are ya Michael!!!? this 'automatic' term must be toward the action of ignition, in this case automatically by striking a component rather than burning cord.

References I have found on the history of the 'wheellock' note that this action is believed to have been invented by a German mechanic, with a drawing from Germany dated 1505, with a subsequent Austrian purchase of one of these mechanisms in 1507. It is also noted that there are a number of scholars suggesting the DaVinci device as the true origin of the wheellock, presumably from these drawings.

For those just entering the realm of firearms, the terminology used in these early weapons is formidable, as there seems to be considerable dispute on correct application and usage. The term 'matchlock' seems pretty straight forward, as does wheellock, but others such as snaphaunce, doglock, and others seem confusing......with the venerable flintlock finally largely superceding all.

From what else I could discover, the wheellock was tremendously expensive for the times, and was never really widely used in the military, with the larger use of the matchlock in place until later in the 17th century with the advent of the flintlock firmly in place.

I really do look forward to hearing more views on this seemingly rather obscure DavInci development, and if it perceived by the early firearms community as a viable claim to the beginnings of the wheellock. Also, does anyone out there have information on the German drawings or origins?

Attached self portrait of Leonardo, and two illustrations of a later 16th century wheellock mechanism.

Again Fernando, welcome!!! and thank you for the great post!!!

All best regards,
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Old 26th July 2010, 09:26 PM   #3
Fernando K
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Google translation:
Hi, Jim

First, declare that English is not my language, but this does not preclude that we do not understand.

I use the term "automatic" to express that the system has been referred to the fall of the coil and opening of the bowl, just press the shutter.

The ignition is reserved to a lit fuse.

In the drawing of Leonardo lack the bowl. This was forged in one piece with the barrel.

You will notice that in addition to the drawings, there is text and letters that identify the parts. But I do not know, and I hope further research in order to know.


Fernando Keilty

Original Spanish:
Hi, Jim

Ante todo, declaro que el ingles no es mi idioma, pero ello no será obice para que no nos entendamos.

He usado el término "automático" para expresar que el automatismo está referido a la caída del serpentin y a la apertura de la cazoleta, con solo apretar el disparador.

La ignición queda reservada a la mecha encendida.

En el dibujo de Leonardo falta la cazoleta. Esta estaba forjada en una sola pieza, con el cañón.

Notarán que además de los dibujos, hay texto y letras que identifican a las piezas. Pero no lo conozco, y espero una investigación mas profunda para conocerlo.


Fernando Keilty
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Old 27th July 2010, 07:25 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Fernando K
Google translation:

The ignition is reserved to a lit fuse.

In the drawing of Leonardo lack the bowl. This was forged in one piece with the barrel.

Fernando Keilty

Hi Fernando K,

Thank you for your highly interesting post although Leonardo's drawings are well known basics in weaponry.

May I point out that an ignition pan (that's obviously what you mean by cazoleta) was never forged integrally with an iron barrel; as I pointed out in a former thread, they were always dovetailed and still today are easy to take off.
The attachments show the dovetailed pan of a mid 17th century German (Zella near Suhl) matchlock musket (author's collection).

The only exception was bronze (copper alloy) barrels where of course the pan was cast integrally.

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Old 27th July 2010, 09:54 PM   #5
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Old 28th July 2010, 11:01 AM   #6
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