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Old 1st November 2008, 11:51 PM   #1
Matchlock's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default Halberds ca. 1500-1580

I posted these as a follower to Ed's beautiful halberds in my thread "Landsknechts fleeing Death" today.

I hope that more members will appreciate to see them presented in a thread of their own.

As you are familiar with some of my pieces from earlier postings I wish to provide you with a part view of my private humble 'museum', with the halberds in discussion on top and to the right of the wall.

The arrangement is based on the 'Maximilian' armories.


Congratulations, Ed,

You sure own very beautiful and early halberds!

According to the illustrations in the 500-year-old Maximilianische Zeugbücher, you gave the exactly correct date for the second one from right: ca. 1500.
The staff may have originally been equipped with an iron pointed shoe - is it present? According to Maximilian's inventories, not all 500-year-old halberds seem to have had it, though.

Though not being able to cope with your jewels by far I enclose some pics of my four halberds and a so called frog's mouth spear.

The images of three show, from top:

- a rare 'frog's mouth' spear, Styrian, ca. 1550, from the Landeszeughaus Graz, retaining its rare original octagonal ash wood staff (all of the remaining frog's mouth spears in Graz have later round staffs!). The staff bears the crisp inventory stamp of the Metropolitan Museum New York, where it must have been about some 100 years ago before finally getting deaccessioned of

- a rare "Maximilian type" halberd retaining its now bent original oak wood staff with iron pointed shoe, the staff drilled thru in places to fit in an earlier presentation. For comparison, cf. the attached illustration taken from one of the Maximilianische Zeugbücher, Innsbruck/The Tyrol, ca. 1505-07

- a fine Austrian halberd retaining its original oak wood staff and raw silk finery, ca. 1580; the staff incised with various magical signs, apparently added by different users

In the first of two 500-year-old 'Maximilian' watercolors note the Landsknecht (mercenary) gone crazy, evidently just having literally cut up a fellow!!! - now how cute is that?!

The image of two shows:

- a Bavarian early Renaisssance halberd retaining its original staff, ca. 1530

- a fine Bavarian Halberd, on its original oak wood staff, ca. 1540-50

The dating criteria are, among others, especially based upon
- the shape of the axe blade and fluke,
- the length of the pike (the shorter and stouter the earlier!)
- the angle of the reinforced central prolongation of the base pointing towards the tip of the spike: the more out of the straight line this prologation is - usually bent to the left - the earlier is the halberd!

E.g. there are halberds with blades and flukes shaped like ca. 1500 but when the spike is longer and the reinforced central part at the base is in line with the fluke they can be dated to the 1540's to 1550's. Cf. my halberd at the bottom that I attributed to these decades: it looks 'Gothic' at first sight but if you take a closer look at the prolongated spike and the reinforced base that is in line with the fluke you will have the corrrect date of manufacture.


Originally Posted by Ed
These are a few halbards of the period from my collection.

Generally the hafts on these things are replaced or, at the very least, cut down.

As far as dating goes, on observation, it appears to me that a pretty rough and ready guide consists of taking the ratio of blade length to the narrowest point of the neck behind it. The more degenerate that these things become, the greater the number (more narrow neck).

The oldest example here might be a bit before 1500, say 1490.

Also, it appears that as halberds become more decorative rather than functional, the blade becomes more parallel to the haft. If you think about it that is really a suboptimal angle if you are trying to brain one of those pesky Swiss.
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