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Old 4th May 2014, 03:54 PM   #1
Matchlock's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default The ONLY KNOWN ORIGINAL INCENDIARY GUN ARROW, 14th-15th century!!!

This small, SENSATIONAL PIECE OF EARLIEST FIREARMS ACCOUTERMENT, completely unknown to historic weaponry so far, has been in my collection since the 1990's, when I bought it from someone in South Tyrol who had discovered it when restoring a house the walls and roof of which dated back into the 13th century! The arrow was found, together with some crossbow bolts (quarrels) retaining their original hafts, a lot of torn garments and other extremely early objects that had obviously been stuffed in the false ceiling (German: Fehlboden) of a 16th century beamed ceiling (Balkendecke)!!!

The arrow almost exactly corresponds to the only known early 14th century source of ilustration, an illuminated manuscript by Walter de Milemete.

Here is the Wikipedia information:
Walter de Milemete was an English scholar[1] who wrote a treatise on Kingship for the young prince Edward, later king Edward III of England called De nobilitatibus, sapientiis, et prudentiis regum in 1326.[2] The Treatise includes images of siege weapons and what is probably the first[3] illustration of a firearm: a pot-de-fer.[4] One of the marginal border illustrations in the Milemete Treatise shows a soldier firing a large vase-shaped cannon, the arrow-shaped projectile is seen projecting from the cannon which is pointed at a fortification.[5] In the 1331 siege of Cividale, German knights used guns which were probably very similar to Milemete weapons.

Generally, this manuscript is dated 1326-7.

See top attachments!

The arrow comprises a detachable pointed wrought iron head with four clasps; these clasps encircle a blackish and extremely fragile (!) incendiary mass, retaining pieces of burlap sacking and what seems to be the remainder of a piece of slow mass made of hemp.
The heads of most Gothic crossbow bolts are easily detachable as well.
The round haft is of oak, and nailed to its rear section are two fletchings made of thin and fragile hammered iron (now damaged and incomplete).
They are made and fixed to the haft in almost the same manner as on the very few original gun arrows known to have survived, and preserved in the collections of Burg Eltz and the Imperial Castle (Kaiserburg) Nürnberg. Sadly, the latter is misidentified as an arrow for a wall crossbow, together with which it is on display.
Please note that all these known gun arrows feature the 'usual' plain and pointed iron heads shaped exactly like those on Gothic and early Renaissance crossbow bolts/quarrels.
Not one single incendiary gun arrow, except for this piece in my collection.
The rear end of the haft retains a remainder of a hemp binding, obviously made to enable a tight fit in the barrel over this relatively short length and seal the exploding gas as hermetically as possible. On the blunt end, a thin iron plate is nailed to prevent the woode from being damaged when the gun went offf and the powder exploded as quickly expanding gas.
The other, plain gun arrows also are fiited with such an iron plate.

I will add the measurements as soon as I feel courageous enough to handle that extremely fragile little sensation, and will then also give its weight. I guess the overall length is about 60 cm.

Please also confer my threads:
Go to page 7, post 187ff!


Attachments, from top:

- the 'de Milemete ms': De nobilitatibus, sapientiis, et prudentiis regum, 1326-7, Christ Church Oxford (3 att.), [B]depicting an incendiary gun arrow with the glowing incendiary mass at its head clearly visible![/B]

- the latest known depiction of an incendiary gun arrow: a Spanish musketeer, ca. 1570

- 'usual' gun arrows, from Taccola, De ingeneis, ca. 1440; Codex latinus monacensis (clm) 197

- from the Streydpuech (How to Wage War), ca. 1410-30; Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, P 5135, fol. 9v

- another 'usual' gun arrow, from
Mariano Taccola, De ingeneis, ca. 1440; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Clm 197, fol. 50r

- a huge, moveable siege machine shaped as a dragon breathing fire - launching an incendiary arrow with clasped head, the glowing incendiary mass again clearly visible! From:
Roberto Valturio, De re militari, 1466, fol. 79v, re-issued many times after

- a gun arrow salvaged from the wreck of the Mary Rose; the ship sank in 1545. The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Actually I sent Alex Hildred, Curator of Ordnance at The Mary Rose, an email about two years ago, informing her on my incendiary gun arrow, and of course I sent photos.
Guess what happened: she/they never replied! No reaction at all. They just don't care. Museums - grrr! -

- the famous Loshult gun;
a cast-bronze vase-shaped gun barrel very close to those pictured by de Milemete has become famous as the world's oldest known gun, the so-called Loshult gun, and is now preserved in the Statens Historiska Museet Stockholm, inv.-no. 2891.
It is generally dated ca. 1330-50 and measures 31 cm overall, at a weight of 9.050 kilograms; the bore at the muzzle is 36 mm narrowing down to 31 mm on its way to the rear, which seems ideal for firing arrows featuring a cord binding for a tight fit in the muzzle, to minimize gas loss (2)

- my highly important incendiary gun arrow
Attached Images

Last edited by Matchlock : 4th May 2014 at 08:09 PM.
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