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Old 19th May 2014, 08:16 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default Ca. 1520: One of the World's Oldest and Finest Matchlock Landsknecht Arquebuses

At 61, I have dedicated almost 40 years of my life solely to the research of earliest North Euopean Zeughaus (arsenal), 'military' firearms and all sorts of accouterments - from the humble beginnings in ca. 1330 until the end of the matchlock era. The latter was extended to the almost anachronistic Late Baroque period of the 1720's.
In all those years, I have never learned of, let alone come across, another short matchlock arquebus of such an early date, and preserved in this fine original state of both quality and condition - and it was for sale.

When it emerged on the world market all of a sudden, and out of the blue, I had to resort to all my compiled knowlegde within a very short span of time, only two weeks before that piece was going to be sold. There was one single fact that was perfectly clear to me from the very first glance at the photo of this arquebus: I would have to muster all my highly specialized knowledge based upon my private library of more than 3,000 books and catalogs, as well as my photo library comprising over 280,000 pictures taken by me in international museums, and especially in their reserve collections which are accessbible to just very few persons, and I would have to resort to all my courage - and of course collate all the money that would obviously be necessary to win that singular piece.
Had I failed to achieve all that within those two weeks, I would have never been granted a second chance in my lifetime.
And, of course, there was not one single existing specimen that I would have been able to exactly compare it to, and appraise its importance.

But there was one historical source of illustration that jumped right to my mind at once, because a huge copy of it, two square meters large, was (and still is) on a wall of my library. It was a painting by Ruprecht Heller, The Battle of Pavia, dated 1529, and is preserved at the National Museum in Stockholm, inv.no. 272. Actually, that famous battle took place on 25 February 1525:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pavia

In various of my threads, I have pointed out the relevance of that painting regarding mercenary (Landsknecht) weapons and all sorts of accouterments, and have posted many close-ups.
Please use the forum search button, and enter 'Battle of Pavia 1525'.

In the foreground, a group of arquebusiers is depicted, equipped with short matchlock arquebuses, the downward curved buttstocks of very similar form as the one found on the gun in discussion.

This arquebus features a recycled, older arquebus barrel made of cast brass/'bronze', in ca. 1490-1510.
As I have stated several times, the contemporary term for the actual alloy of copper and pewter (or zinc) used to found gun barrels 500 years ago, was Messing (brass), denoting a copper-zinc alloy. Several guns in the famous 'Maximilian' arsenal books (German: Maximilianische Zeugbücher), illustrated by Jörg Kölderer between ca. 1495 and 1515 - with the most ample work accomplished in ca. 1502-1507 - , are labeled to be mounted with brass barrels.
A few samples of Kölderer's illustrations which are termed 'Messing hanndtbuchsen' (arquebuses with brass barrels) in Medieval German, are attached below, e.g. fol. 114, and also 'Messing hagkennpuchsen' (wall guns with brass barrels) respectively, e.g. fol. 131 and 132, both incod.icon. 222.

I realize that nowadays, the term 'bronze' for those Late Medieval barrels is often favored, for various reasons, basically because it evokes a more precious signification.

Please refer to my posts, e.g. in
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=14932,
esp. posts #2 and #5.


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 20th May 2014 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 19th May 2014, 09:46 PM   #2
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Attached please find more close-ups of that group of arquebusiers depicted in the foreground, and equipped with short matchlock arquebuses, the downward curved buttstocks of exactly the same shape as the stock of my gun in discussion.

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Last edited by Matchlock : 20th May 2014 at 05:13 PM.
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Old 19th May 2014, 09:54 PM   #3
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Finally, here is the real arquebus that may well have seen service in the Batlle of Pavia in 1525.

The first attachments depict the piece, in the atmosphere of my private museum, among other 700 to 500 year-old specimens from former German armories; plus a few close-ups.

Enjoy.
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 19th May 2014 at 10:11 PM.
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Old 19th May 2014, 10:06 PM   #4
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As mentioned before, the cast brass/bronze barrel was re-used from an even earlier arquebus of 'Maximilian' type, ca. 1490-1510.
The dating criteria are based on its styistic elements: the barrel is divided into three stages, reflecting the Maximilian sense of style at the turn of the 15th to the 16th century, with the Renaissance replacing the Late Gothic stylistic characteristics.
The first, rear stage (German: Hinterstück) is dodecahedral, with the slotted rear sight cast integrally on the rear end (German: Bodenstück), and a maker's mark struck over the breech.

The original pan was cast integrally, on the right-hand side of the barrel - please cf. my threads

- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18483
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...=wheellock+1560
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...arquebus+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...arquebus+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...s+bronze+barrel
- http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...arquebus+barrel


Both that first pan and cover were removed when the barrel got its present cherry wood full stock in about 1520, retaining most of its original varnish after almost 500 years.

The second, round stage (German: Mittelstück) is separated from the first by a delicately filed, raised brim, forming the longest barrel section. It terminates in another delicate and raised brim, before merging into the third stage, the short and noticeably reinforced, round muzzle section (German: Mündungskopf), being characteristic of barrels from ca. 1490-1510; it bears a long and low, integral blade foresight over its entire length - another indication of early 16th century barrels.
An important reference for the specific shape of the muzzle - short, reinforced and round - is another relevant guiding principle for assigning a date to a firearm, backing up the limited span of time when the barrel of my gun must have been made. These are the dating criteria set up by the autor, and confirmed by all contemporary sources of illustration, and period artwork in general, as well as by existing objects; cf. the illuminated Maximilian armory inventories, e.g. the guns shown in post #1.

The bore, of course, is smooth, and characteristic of arquebus barrels of that period, when the bores of these light infantry firerarms differ in diameter between ca. 11 and 16 mm. On the underside of the barrel, normally covered by the stock, there are the typic and crude file marks found on all early barrels, as the surfaces of cast barrels had to be finished by using the file as well as those made of wrought iron.

Here comes the lock mechanism. The first lock of this arquebus was most probably a snap matchlock mechanism, its single parts not yet united on a common lock plate, and the cocked serpentine triggered by a lateral push button.
Such mechanisms are depicted on Heller's painting of The Battle of Pavia - see attachments to previous posts - and are retained on a number of long arquebuses of about 1525, preserved in the Západočeské Muzeum Pilsen, Czechia (four attachments), as well as on a wall gun by Peter Hofkircher, ca. 1525-30, at the Graz armory in Styria, Austria (following two attachments). I did extensive research in both of these old armories, taking more than 4,300 photos.
This primary, primitive and accident-sensitive mechanism obviously was out of order soon, and the gun probably got laid away in some arsenal, as obsolete and outdated - for both its mechanism and the shape of the buttstock, the latter regarded as impractical by the mid 17th century. This was the very reason why some of those early guns actually survived up to the 21st century, and sometimes preserved in 'untouched' condition.
But the present matchlock mechanism, the wrought iron lock plate and integral pan, showing the round trough typic of pans up to ca. 1550, its swiveling cover and the fireshield, all obviously dating from about 1560, and evoking the impression of a more valuable wheellock merchanism to the inexperienced eye of a superficial contemporary.
See my thread on matchlocks pretending to be wheellocks, ca. 1560-1620:
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...hlock+wheellock

The serpentine (match holder), though, is of early 17th century Suhl type, denoting that this 'sleeper' of an obsolete arquebus saw service again: more than a century later, which was ca. the 1640's.
In that final phase of the Thirty Years War, and in extremis, literally any gun that would still fire got reactivated and crudely converted, often times by adding a topical igniting mechanism. The Old European armories, like the Landeszeughaus (armory) of Graz, Styria, still preserve numerous pieces of evidence, e.g. wrought iron Late Gothic haquebut barrels from wall guns of ca. 1490 to 1530, datable closely by both their characteristic sectioning and the shape and length of the respective muzzle section. Most of them retain their original minium (red lead) paint, and were restocked and combined with a matchlock mechanism in the 1630's], and later (attachments).

As several parts of the mechanism on this arquebus were assembled from different periods, ranging from ca. 1560-1620, there is only one conclusion: the piece had become an obsolete gun anyway, so a detached and older lock mechanism from ca. 1560, identifiable by its very long and narrow rear end of the lock plate, was 'modernized' by re-using an older serpentine from about 1600-20, its shape denoting a Suhl/Thuringia make. The unusually narrow strip of wood benath the underside of the lock plate, hardly supporting the lock action, gives proof of the fact that the present mechanism was crudely mounted, by enlarging the former lock recess, and attached by two side nails. Nobody cared, and the piece was ready to fire again.

Thus, this early Landsknecht's arquebus bears witness of having been used in different big wars for at least 130 years, with the barrel withstanding firing for an even longer period, from ca. 1500 to at least 1650.
In conclusion, it can be called an unusually early and rare, historically important and characteristic arsenal gun, its correct and exact identification constituting a demanding task for 21st century weaponry research.


The reddish cherry wood full stock, with its thick varnish of original brown lacquer, is shaped in the characteristic early 16th century manner. The forestock is faceted the usual way before the mid 16th century, and the stock is attached to the barrel by three transverse wooden pins, probably the original, making safe contact with loops on the underside of the barrel Most remarkably, it features neither a ramrod channel, nor any other provision for a ramrod - indicating that this arquebus was, in all probability, made as an auxiliary weapon for e.g. a gunner, allowing him to fire one final shot before getting run down by the enemies. Reloading an arquebus was an action practically impossible for a gunner, anyhow.

Remarkable traces of a modern museum display are retained on the underside of the stock, where two holes were drilled, still showing the threads of wood screws, securing the piece to a wooden stand.
In 1990, in the museum of the town of Gerolzhofen, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, I photographed a long wall gun, the barrel early 17th century, and struck with Suhl marks, and restocked in ca. 1670 - screwed to its simple wooden stand in the same manner. This was obviously done regardlessly of inflicting damage to the old stock ... see three attachments below.


The measurements of the arquebus are:
overall length 99.8 cm, length of barrel 62.4 cm, cal. 16 mm smoothbore, weight 4.3 kg.

All author's photos.


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 20th May 2014 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 19th May 2014, 10:24 PM   #5
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A few more views of the arquebus, and the attachments relating to the text in the previous post, and appearing in the succession mentioned in the description.

All author's photos.


Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 20th May 2014 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 20th May 2014, 02:00 AM   #6
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The remaining attachments to post #2ff .

First of all, here are more views of my arquebus.

Following are three impressions of wall guns/haquebuts in the Graz Armory, the wrought iron barrels in this photo all ca. 1490-1530, and retaining their original Late-Gothic minium (red lead) paint; restocked in the 1630's, and later.

More attachments of these wallguns to follow.


All author's photos.


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Last edited by Matchlock : 20th May 2014 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 30th May 2014, 09:16 PM   #7
Norman McCormick
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Hi Michael,
Many, many congratulations on this latest acquisition for your already outstanding and important collection, this piece could not have found a better home.
Kind Regards,
Norman
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