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Old 1st January 2018, 01:32 AM   #1
Cathey
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Default Spanish Bilbo Circa 1700

Hi Guys

When we began collecting one gentleman had an enormous influence on us, the late Irishman Eric Magill of Adelaide. This sword was probably the first quality sword we ever purchased and came from Eric’s collection. Recently as we are required to display swords each month at two local collecting clubs, I have had to revisit the swords in our collection prior to their display which is proving to be a useful exercise. When you are obliged to really look at a sword that you have had for many years it’s surprising what you find out.

The Sword is known by English Collectors as the Bilbo.
Date: Circa 1700 (18h Century), blade may be older
Nationality: Spanish
Overall Length: 41 ¼” 104.7 cm
Blade length: 34 ¼” 87 cm
Blade widest point: 1 3/8” 3.5 cm
Hilt widest point: 8 ½” 21.6 cm
Inside grip length: 3 1/8” 8 cm
Marks, etc: Appears to have been re-marked with Charles the 4th of Spain. There is also a large flat H on ricasso

Description
BILBO Spanish backsword of the late seventeenth century, of the type known as a Bilbo. 18th century sword with flat broad backsword blade engraved on one side with P CS IV and on the other the remnants of A DE rest long since removed. The ricasso struck on one side with a broad versions of the Letter H. Steel hilt with asymmetrical upturned shell guards, screwed to the guard, which is integral with the large pas d’ane; including a pair of straight quillons with turned finials; knuckle bow stopping short of the bun-shaped pommel; the wooden grip bound with twisted copper wire. Single edged blade probably pre-dates hilt, and may have been re-marked with Charles the 4th of Spain. Sword came to Eric Magill out of a Scottish museum via an English dealer in the 1980’s.

General Remarks
The Mark may be that of Maria Hortuna 17th Century Esoana (Toledo) Ref LENKIEWICZ-Zygmunt 1000 Marks of European Blade MakersPp29

The Bilbo term, was an old name for a cup-hilt rapier sword, in use around in the 16th -18th century. The name comes from the Basque city of Bilbao, where a significant number of them were exported to the New World. These swords were also sold to arms merchants of the most European country, including England. The Bilbo Sword was a favourite weapon of Spanish soldiers and sailors in the New World and the pirates of Caribbean during the 18th century and also wildly used by the American cavalry during the revolutionary wars.

References:
BRINCKERHOFF, Sidney B. and CHAMBERLAIN, Pierce A. Spanish Military Weapons in Colonial America 1700-1821 pp 79-82, 97 plate 186
DUFTY, A. European Swords & Daggers in the Tower of London. pp 23, plate 42 a.
MOMPARLER Vincente Toledo ESPADAS ESPAÑOLAS MILITARES Y CIVILES desde el siglo XVI al XX by Vicente Toledo Momparle. Pages: 98-103.
NEUMANN George C by Battle Weapons of the American Revolution.. Page. 348. No.135. SS.
NEUMANN George C by Swords and Blades of the American Revolution. Page 160. No.296.S
OAKESHOTT, E. European Weapons and Armour. pp168-167.
SOUTHWICK, L The Price Guide to Antique Edged Weapons pp 58. plates 126.

If anyone has more information on the various blade markings and early Bilbo’s that would be most appreciated.


Cheers Cathey and Rex
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Old 1st January 2018, 11:27 AM   #2
fernando
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Red face Correct me if and where i am wrong ...

Hi Cathey,
If i dare point out a couple discrepancies on your notes.

The sword model...
As you kow, the term Bilbo (Basque/Euskera for Bilbao) is somehow a catch-all word, created by english speakers to refer to swords imported from that capital city of the Biscay Gulf province, region of the famous Mondragon steel. In strict terms, to call a sword style a Bilbo falls into some contingency. In the case of your example, if i well discern, it would be a mounting sword (Espada de montar), for which the Spaniards had a name that resembled is assymmetrical guard shells, called Boca de Caballo (horse mouth). Once it has the Carlos IV (which i don't view as being a remark), this both means it is a military issue made to Royal property (the civilian version also existed) and, Carlos IV having reigned between 1788-1808, your sword would be the "new model", as the first one was issued durig the previous Carlos III realm.

http://www.catalogacionarmas.com/public/49-Conchas.pdf

The second blade iscription ...
Although i didn't figure out its actual meaning, it looks consistent with some letters of the initials referring the military corps it was produced for, as usually done.
The mark in the ricasso ...
This is somehow intriguing. Starting by the attribution given to Maria Hortuna (better spelt Hortuña). Maria is a woman's name and we don't know any records of a female sword smith; unless the author eventually picked the sword smith's wife at reading whatever notes.
On the other hand, all three Hortuños registered in Palomares chart (and not only) were of a Basque family (Ortuño) that worked in Toledo in dates prior to this type of sword, from grandfather 1604-1613 to grandson registered in 1637.

http://hedatuz.euskomedia.org/2217/1/04029034.pdf

Furthermore the letter H's they used as mark, together with the Toledo symbol, are not consistent with the one in your blade ... assuming yours is a H.
See Palomares nomina for the three Hortuños and their marks, positions #22, #38 and #80.
... And forgive me if my assessments would do no more than misguide you; iam not even a Spaniard.



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Last edited by fernando : 1st January 2018 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 1st January 2018, 05:29 PM   #3
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That's extremely interesting. Well, I'm not so interested in maker's marks, but discovering the Spanish tradition is something new to me. It's amazing to see typically Spanish designs surviving in renewed, late 18th century forms.
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Old 1st January 2018, 08:25 PM   #4
fernando
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Madnumforce
That's extremely interesting. Well, I'm not so interested in maker's marks, but discovering the Spanish tradition is something new to me. It's amazing to see typically Spanish designs surviving in renewed, late 18th century forms.

Personally i am a passionate of marks. It is a vast universe to dive in. Just don't push me into it ..
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Old 1st January 2018, 11:18 PM   #5
Cathey
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Default Boca de Caballo Sword

Hi Fernando

I am also passionate about marks but find them very frustrating. The only H I could find that vaguely resembled the mark on this sword was listed as Maria Hortuna 17th Century Esoana (Toledo) Ref LENKIEWICZ-Zygmunt 1000 Marks of European Blade Makers Pp29. I have attached the extract.

As for this H or whatever it is, looks like a squat H to me though, I am hoping someone out there has seen it before and can shed some light on it.

With regard to this sword, what appears to be unusual is that it is a backsword blade, not broadsword. All of these swords in my reference books are broadswords. This might be why the previous owner was of the opinion that the blade predates the hilt and that the original engraving has been removed or altered to accommodate a latter monarch.

Any other examples of these swords with backsword blades would be appreciated.

Also, this example has straight quillons, any thoughts about when these came in or where they around at the same time as the curved ones.

Cheers Cathey and Rex
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Old 2nd January 2018, 04:43 PM   #6
fernando
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Let me still take some shots before more knowledged members show up to correct me ... which is not so difficult.
Hortuño Maria instead of Maria Hortuño makes all the difference ... in gender.
Hortuño being male, is not uncommon to have (female) Maria as a second name over here. Still i gather that this smith doesn't figure within this issue, nor he figures in listings by Palomares, Leguina, Gestoso or even Lhermite, who has been in Toledo around 1600 and listed its smiths and their marks. It could well be a less published smith, working for a contract; however his ambiguous mark (a H or maybe a small animal) on a rapier doens't appear to to fit in your case.
I had a further reading on these swords, a subject as vast as a bottomless well. The Boca de Caballo (assymmetrical shells) hilt had its beginnning in the XVII century, with the so called modelo 1650. It is also registered that such model had straight quillons.
Concerning blade markings ant their meddling with, authors like Juan L. Calvó admit the possibility of blades imported from Germany (Solingen) (before the opening of the Toledo factory in 1760) having their original inscriptons changed to more fit Spanish (Castillian) legends, but also possible that smiths installed in Spain marked their blades as produced in Germany to favour their commercialization.

http://www.elgrancapitan.org/foro/viewtopic.php?t=14794

On the other hand, one may notice that the Carlos IV initials (Cs. IV) in blades are rather identical to the one you have in your example, as may be seen in swords mounted for other military branches like Infantry, and such blades having a square back along more than 1/3 and double edgded until the point.
So for the approach of the blade predating the hilt, in another angle is the hilt that predates the blade. Definitely the (doubtful) H mark in the ricasso from (misterious ) Hortuño Maria would give a great push to cracking the riddle.


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Old 2nd January 2018, 07:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cathey
Hi Fernando

With regard to this sword, what appears to be unusual is that it is a backsword blade, not broadsword. All of these swords in my reference books are broadswords.


Hello,

I can't see that in the pictures - to my eyes it looks like both edges are the same - no?
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