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Old 3rd May 2020, 08:47 PM   #1
ariel
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Default Firangi

Recently there was a dearth of Indian weapons on the Forum.
To break the spell, I am showing my Firangi. It has a complete handle, even with fully preserved finial, and the leather on the grip is virtually congealed.
I think it is a REAL Firangi, because it has what I think is an old European blade.
It is very springy, 34" long and has a single wide shallow fuller.
There are markings, and you can see them easily.
Any opinions on the dating and the origin of the blade?
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Old 4th May 2020, 06:45 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I am showing my Firangi. It has a complete handle, even with fully preserved finial, and the leather on the grip is virtually congealed.
I think it is a REAL Firangi, because it has what I think is an old European blade.


Hi Ariel,

I have two questions about REAL firangi.

Is it because it has an European (foreign) blade? If yes, then half of the Indian swords are real firangi.

Or is it because the sword has his complete (typical) basket hilt and an European straight blade? If yes, then you are caught to the "name game" and "collector trap" like all of us...

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Old 4th May 2020, 09:03 AM   #3
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Thanks for showing off such a nice sword, for some reason we don't see many around.

I was at one Militaria fair and a dealer had a box full of these style hilts, I bought a number of them off him. Most of them battered and mutilated, some better than others, and I still have the best two of the bunch.

I think the "problem" with the European bladed ones is that the blades are often taken out, and then fitted up with Western hilts to sell as original 16th and 17th century rapiers and basket hilts.

The same is also done with good 1796 light cavalry blades in Tulwar hilts.......
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Old 4th May 2020, 10:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
... There are markings, and you can see them easily.
Any opinions on the dating and the origin of the blade? ...

Italian ... XVI century ? .
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Old 4th May 2020, 12:28 PM   #5
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Thanks, Fernando! Do you think the “ jaws” are Genoese?
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Old 4th May 2020, 12:39 PM   #6
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Don't take my hint as a solid one, Ariel.
OTOH, have you never heard of Portuguese navigators acquiring blades from Venetian traders and go introduce them in India ? ... thus the Firangi attribution .


See the center symbol in my ex-Firangi ... just for the fun .


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Old 4th May 2020, 12:56 PM   #7
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Yes David, it makes perfect sense: combining a 16 century European blade with an old European handle makes much better economic sense than using an Indian handle :-)

On the other hand a “ Europe/ Orient” combination may be fully legitimate. The best example is the use of trade blades; also, British sold their outdated blades to local Nizams and Rajahs in the first half of 19th century and let’s not forget about the trophies: even Tipu had one. Also, high ranking British officers used local Indian wootz blades with their regulation handles.

I am beginning to think about a new topic: legitimately old chimeric India-related swords. Might be fun:-)
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Old 4th May 2020, 01:38 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Don't take my hint as a solid one, Ariel.
OTOH, have you never heard of Portuguese navigators acquiring blades from Venetian traders and go introduce them in India ? ... thus the Firangi attribution .


See the center symbol in my ex-Firangi ... just for the fun .


.


Of course, Italian trade blades went far an wide. And the sea-faring Portuguese like Almeida and Albuquerque were the perfect vehicle for their South Indian entry.
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Old 4th May 2020, 02:29 PM   #9
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And, not forgetting that trade blades were supplied by the bundle; so one not expecting to see marked on each one of them the names of famed smiths, but symbols pertaining to market(ing) trade ideas ... to say so.
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Old 4th May 2020, 03:27 PM   #10
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I would like to moderate two statments or at least to bring my humble contribution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
have you never heard of Portuguese navigators acquiring blades from Venetian traders and go introduce them in India ? ... thus the Firangi attribution .
.


Portuguese and Venetians were competitors not business partners!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Of course, Italian trade blades went far an wide. And the sea-faring Portuguese like Almeida and Albuquerque were the perfect vehicle for their South Indian entry.


I doubt that Almeida and Albuquerque's men gave or sold their blades to Indians they had some other business to do...

Rapier's blades were sold and reused when they started to be obsolete in Europe.

In short Portuguese sold their old crap from Goa long time after Almeida and Albuquerque...
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Old 4th May 2020, 04:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
I would like to moderate two statments or at least to bring my humble contribution...

Kubur, your contribution might have been humble ... but humble is not the way you express your views, if i may .
I am sure Ariel mentions Almeida and Albuquerque as a symbolic reference to Portuguese travelers; as i wonder how you have inferred such anecdotal situation in that their men would have given or sold their own blades to the locals.
I would not worry to point out the difference between Portuguese and Venetians being partners or competitors; the sense of business transcends any such condition. In any case, Portuguese were not massive blade smiths; they had to buy them somewhere to take them to India for business; Germany and Spain were also usual sources for blades import.
One point worthy of credit is that, when large (off mark) blades became obsolete in Europe, they became a good asset for Indian trade.
I am sure that you are well documented over the precise statement that Portuguese sold their 'old crap blades' from the Goan artillery foundries and shipyards, an angle of history i hadn't yet been familiar with.


.

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Old 4th May 2020, 05:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David R
Thanks for showing off such a nice sword, for some reason we don't see many around.

I was at one Militaria fair and a dealer had a box full of these style hilts, I bought a number of them off him. Most of them battered and mutilated, some better than others, and I still have the best two of the bunch.

I think the "problem" with the European bladed ones is that the blades are often taken out, and then fitted up with Western hilts to sell as original 16th and 17th century rapiers and basket hilts.

The same is also done with good 1796 light cavalry blades in Tulwar hilts.......


These are excellent observations in my opinion, and the constant refurbishing and re-assembly of hilts, whether contemporary in working life of the weapons, or more modern production of industrious sellers is hard to say.

We know that the movement of blades in trade networks has been a most standard commodity, and so much so that viable identification of a weapon is complicated and typically relies mostly on hilt style.

The note on removal of European blades from ethnographic weapons is well placed, and Oakeshott commented on how many 'kaskara' from Sudan in early 20th c. were dismantled to have such blades remounted in European medieval style hilts for obvious reasons.

I have seen many Indian tulwars sporting British blades, and authentically as it was noted by Nolan (famed for his part in Light Brigade charge) that the British were intrigued by the effectively deadly use of sabers by Indian warriors in Sikh wars. They were horrified when they discovered that the blades were actually from earlier British M1796 sabers, but honed to razor sharpness and held in wood scabbards.

Thus the penchant for European and often British blades ( despite some derisive regard for British ones) was well established in India, with German blades most preferred. Much of the attraction seems to have been status oriented, particularly obvious with rapier blades, which of course were designed for sword play not characteristic of Indian versions (the thrust was not much favored in India).

The trade and use of blades, regardless of original source, was vaguely defined at best, and alliances, agreements (?) and exchange could not be accurately observed. Commodities, including blades, often exchanged through various entrepots and intermediaries making distinct attribution difficult if not nearly impossible.

I would say the markings on the Indian 'firangi' in the OP, which is what I would consider a handsome example, resemble many of the combinations used on North Italian blades, and these were produced for schiavona and other swords typically like this in early 17th c. +
The application of the 'star' by Indian artisans would typically not be added to the familiar 'eyelash'/'sickle mark, but was well known on true Italian blades (see Boccia & Coelho, "Armi Bianchi Italiene").

The term 'firangi' , as well 'beaten to death' by collectors, is simply the term used to describe a European(or foreign) blade in an Indian hilt form.
This style sword shown in OP was the 'Hindu basket hilt' which derived from the old Indian sword known dialectically as 'khanda'.

Technically even tulwars with European or British blades might be considered 'firangi'. However, even the term tulwar is a broad term used not only to describe the familiar Indo-Persian hilt version, but 'shamshir' hilted versions or even actual shamshirs in Indian context. In the British Raj, regulation British sabers for native regiments were called tulwars!
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Old 4th May 2020, 06:32 PM   #13
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Default Competitors ... ma non troppo

Just trying to defend my Dame .
For those not within the picture, saltpeter is a nuclear component of gunpowder ...


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Old 4th May 2020, 06:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Just trying to defend my Dame .
For those not within the picture, saltpeter is a nuclear component of gunpowder ...


.


Hi Fernando,

This is very interesting.
I wonder if they changed the term of their agreement after 1498...

then a bit later

In 1504, the Venetians, who shared common interests with the Mamluks in the spice trade and desired to eliminate the Portuguese challenge if possible, sent envoy Francesco Teldi to Cairo.[4] Teldi tried to find a level of cooperation between the two realms, encouraging the Mamluks to block Portuguese navigations.[4] The Venetians claimed they could not intervene directly, and encouraged the Mamluk Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri to take action by getting into contact with Indian princes at Cochin and Cananor to entice them not to trade with the Portuguese, and the Sultans of Calicut and Cambay to fight against them.[4] Some sort of alliance was thus concluded between the Venetians and the Mamluks against the Portuguese.[5] There were claims, voiced during the War of the League of Cambrai, that the Venetians had supplied the Mamluks with weapons and skilled shipwrights.[1]

The Mamluks however had little inclination for naval operations: "The war against the Portuguese, being mainly a naval war, was entirely alien to the Mamluk and little to his taste. The navy and everything connected with it was despised by the land-minded Mamluk horsemen".[6]

The Mamluks again attempted to secure the help of the Venetians against the Portuguese, and they did intervene by pleading their case with the Pope.[9]

The Venetians, who had been at peace with the Ottomans since the signature of the 1503 Peace Treaty by Andrea Gritti after the Ottoman–Venetian War, continued to secure peace with the Ottomans, and renewed their peace treaty in 1511, leading them to encourage the Ottomans to participate on the Mamluk side in the conflict against the Portuguese.[13]
Venetian embassy to the Mamluk Governor in Damascus in 1511, workshop of Giovanni Bellini.

The rapprochement was such that Venice authorized Ottoman provisioning in its Mediterranean ports such as Cyprus.[13] Venice also requested Ottoman support in the War of the League of Cambrai, but in vain.[13]

A Mamluk-Venetian commercial treaty was signed by the ambassador to Cairo Domenico Trevisan in 1513.[13] After that point however, and the reverses of the Mamluks and the Persians against the Ottomans, Venice increasingly favoured a rapprochement with the Ottoman Empire.[13]
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Old 4th May 2020, 09:01 PM   #15
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Aside from the detail on Venetian/Portuguese trade, and the dreaded saltpetre which is of course pretty fascinating, I wanted to add a note on the 'sickle marks;.
Just to add to the conundrums here on terms, blade origins etc....I would point out that these paired and typically dentated arcs with triple dots at each end....were not necessarily Genoese.....
They became associated with Genoa as it was a major trade/export center where blades were exported, though many of these blades came from other North Italian centers as well.

These appeared in variation and in multiples as well.

What is interesting here with the detail on the trade issues is to see just how extraordinarily important the historical context is with the study of these arms.
It is great to see the deeper and overall view of what was going on in these regions in these times.
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Old 5th May 2020, 12:57 AM   #16
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Kubur,
One must always remember that strategical political alliances usually take second seats to commercial machinations. Even in your example, the reason why Venice sought military help from Mamluks was ... spice trade. I do not think we know for sure whether the blade of my Firangi was made in Venice, Genoa , Ferrara or some other Italian sword- making place. Popular markings were forged all over. But even if the Doges banned selling of swords to the Portuguese, any Venetian or some other master was free to sell them to the Genoese, and what happened to them from that moment on was nobody’s business.

Even now, industries world- wide deliver forbidden goodies to countries under strict embargoes. All they need to do it is to sell them to some intermediary for an artificially inflated price and who will then recoup the “loss” by charging the final buyer extra. That’s all.

Money talks, bulls..t walks.

On top of that, see Elgood’s chapter in the “Sultans of the South” in which he cites Tome Pires who in 1514, just 4 years after Portuguese capture of Goa, reported importation of Venetian goods there, including swords. This is as direct evidence as one can find.

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Old 5th May 2020, 06:51 AM   #17
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Ariel,
I agree with all the points that you developed above.
My points were:
Portuguese and Venetians were not friends and not business partners.
The 16th c. trade is much more complicated than the 19th c. colonial trade.
It was not White Europeans and the others.
BTW you have a very nice Indian sword!
As it was said by Jim these marks are not necessarily Italians.
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Old 5th May 2020, 10:31 AM   #18
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Default Technical confirmation of suspicions

I have shown this firangi in previous threads, noting that I believed the blade to be of European origin on the basis of its flexibility, presence of 'blisters' (forging flaws) and marks in the fuller (unfortunately rubbed beyond being deciphered).

Since then I have had the opportunity to make a few elemental evaluations by XRF and found that the blade proper shows measurable traces of manganese and sulfur, while the stiffener (presumably of 'local' Indian origin) does not show detectable traces of these two elements. Lesser distinctions were seen for some other elements.
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Old 5th May 2020, 11:48 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
... My points were:
Portuguese and Venetians were not friends and not business partners.
The 16th c. trade is much more complicated than the 19th c. colonial trade.
It was not White Europeans and the others...

You are right in that the competition was dealt in a different mode; but not necessarily tougher or trickier than in the XIX century. Money rules remain in privilege... and merchants have a blind sight for politics. You will read that many a time both adversaries fought (and fight) with weapons of same provenance.
Still your source is not far from the truth in that:

" Initially, after the arrival of Vasco da Gama in Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese only intended to establish their economic dominance, having created several factories in Cochin, Cananor, Coulăo, Cranganor, Tanor and Calecute. However, feeling the hostility on the part of several Indian kingdoms and other potentates (the Grand Sultan of Cairo, the Republic of Venice, the Sultan of Cambaia and the Samorin of Calicut), who allied themselves to expel them from India, ended up for making Portuguese rule official, strengthening the factories and creating a sovereign state (Goa, 1512)".

And we can add that the dance of power was in favor of Genoese long before that:

" In 1317 D. Dinis made an agreement with the navigator and Genoese merchant Manuel Pessanha (Emanuele Pessagno), appointing him the first admiral of the royal fleet with commercial privileges with his country, in exchange for twenty ships and their crews, in order to defend the country's coasts against (Muslim) piracy attacks, laying the foundations of the Portuguese Navy and for the establishment of a Genoese merchant community in Portugal. Forced to reduce their activities in the Black Sea, merchants in the Republic of Genoa had turned to the North African trade for wheat, oil (also a source of energy) and gold - sailing to the ports of Bruges (Flanders) and England. The Genoese and Florentines then settled in Portugal, which profited from the initiative and financial experience of these rivals of the Republic of Venice."
In 1453, with the taking of Constantinople by the Ottomans, trade in the Mediterranean between Venice and Genoa was very low. The benefit of an alternative commercial route proved to be rewarding. Portugal would directly link the spice-producing regions to its markets in Europe. When the project for the discovery of the sea route to India was signed, Portuguese expansion without forgetting the religious aspect is also dominated by commercial interest ...
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Old 5th May 2020, 12:24 PM   #20
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Jim, indeed the sickle/eyelash symbol is not necessarliy Genoese. In fact, and observing (as quoted) Boccia & Coelho's work, we notice that the largest number of those pictured are Venetian (or Veneto); only one from Beluno and another from Genova. But far from such little 'inconsistence', how would we compare rustic marks made in massive trade blades with those perfectly engraved in fine weapons signed by master smiths; unless we judge them as counterfeits ... and hardly rely on them as being their true geographic origin.


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Old 6th May 2020, 06:26 PM   #21
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As mentioned in the original post, and with the nice example of Indian basket hilt sword, there has been a notable absence of Indian swords of late. With that it seems terminology and classification debates always ensue, with the term FIRANGI being one of the key topics.

In this case, we have focused on the blade markings, which resemble the well known 'sickle' (eyelash, hogs back etc.) type which occur often on blades from numerous sources. As I previously mentioned, early writers typically regarded these as having originated in Genoa, while they actually occurred on blades from other North Italian centers as well, and collectively used variations. There were examples which had the name GENOA actually bracketed by the sickle marks, further fueling the classification as Genoan.

In "Armi Bianch Italiene" (Boccia & Coelho), this most important reference is basically a catalogue which presents many weapon examples from various sources and holdings. As noted, many of the examples' markings are variations of the 'sickle' type, and indeed from Venice...without consulting my copy, I believe there were other locations shown with such marks as well.

Mostly, the 'Genoan' attribution I would consider a generally held notion derived from the case of these Genoan ports and stations being the source of many trade blades, which often bore these type markings.

In time artificers in other locations began spuriously copying these marks, most often the dentated arcs typically seen with three dots at each end of the arcs. In East Europe, these often bracketed the FRINGIA term; and these often are seen in variation on Styrian swords, with Solingen also using them to bracket terms such as ANDREA FERARA.

Having noted all of this, and returning to the topic of the classification 'firangi' and assessment of examples in order to warrant such classification, here we are viewing the markings on this blade as one means of doing this.

It is difficult at best to assess a sword blade to determine whether it is European or a native made example by photos, but the excellent entry by Lee using the metallurgic approach is one viable means.

As suggested, with the preponderance of markings on blades, especially trade blades, there is a degree of fallibility in using these as a determining factor for the geographic origin of blade manufacture. However, making observations on the character of a marking offers some insights based on the method of application and execution, content and positioning of such marks.

In many cases of spurious markings, they are often detected as such by superfluous or incongruent other markings which accompany them. The German use of famed Spanish markings accompanied by other marks which would never have been paired, as well as misspellings etc. is one case in point.

I just wanted to add this perspective with regard to methods used in which to assess 'firangi' blade. In one closing point I must remind that the term 'firangi' is just that, a term denoting in general 'foreign' (blade) and used mostly in collectors parlance. It is not a sword 'type' but more accurately describes a swords 'condition' (that is with foreign blade). Though technically it CAN be applied to many sword types (Indian, with foreign blades), it is typically limited to the Hindu basket hilt form.
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Old 7th May 2020, 01:03 AM   #22
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Jim,
I understand your points, but having handled a lot of Indian blades I am virtually certain that the blade is European.
I do not think I have seen such wide and shallow Fuller on Indian blades and the general appearance of the steel, its sheen, are distinctly not Indian. Together with markings it supports the European origin. And, yes, we cannot pinpoint the origin of the blade other than a general feeling of North Italy.
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Old 7th May 2020, 03:50 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Jim,
I understand your points, but having handled a lot of Indian blades I am virtually certain that the blade is European.
I do not think I have seen such wide and shallow Fuller on Indian blades and the general appearance of the steel, its sheen, are distinctly not Indian. Together with markings it supports the European origin. And, yes, we cannot pinpoint the origin of the blade other than a general feeling of North Italy.


I am really glad my points are understood, from my opinion in post #12 indicating I thought the blade was European (North Italian) as well as my subsequent posts supporting that. I am unclear on where I am to have suggested the blade was Indian.
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Old 7th May 2020, 07:06 AM   #24
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Jim,
I have interpreted your saying “It is difficult at best to assess a sword blade to determine whether it is European or a native made example by photo” as such. Obviously, it was my mistake. Glad we are in agreement.
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Old 7th May 2020, 10:48 AM   #25
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... As apparently we are not betraying our first assessments. A sword with an Indian hilt and a foreign (Italian for the case) blade; a setup named by many as Firangi. This might not be the most academic definition, but sure is the most known by the common collector; maybe even by the locals.
... Authors not being an exception, like Tirri, for one .


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Old 7th May 2020, 04:16 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Jim,
I have interpreted your saying “It is difficult at best to assess a sword blade to determine whether it is European or a native made example by photo” as such. Obviously, it was my mistake. Glad we are in agreement.



Thank you Ariel, I think sometimes (often) my explanations become a bit too detailed, so often misunderstanding my wording is often quite understandable. Ironically, what I was trying to say is that your 'firangi' was VERY much so, and a most handsome and excellent example of the 'form'........a Hindu basket hilt, holding a distinctly European blade.

My comments in assessing the blades by photo meant to point out that the key elements used to ascertain European origin cannot be expected to be achieved unequivocably in these cases. This is because hands on examination can more closely determine the application and character of markings, as well as the flaws and metallurgical elements, weight, spring and demeanor of the blade. Too often being cautious in declaring an opinion as such can be misperceived accordingly.

As noted previously, the 'firangi' term is not by any means a clear definition of a sword 'type', but a qualifying description most commonly used in collectors parlance to describe a 'Hindu basket hilt' form sword carrying as European or 'foreign' blade. It has in cases been attempted to be applied to other forms with such blades, but in my view unsuccessfully.

Here I would agree that the 'firangi' term is indeed used in many references toward describing these Indian swords, as it has become such a standard in collectors parlance. The book by the late Anthony Tirri being mentioned, I would note was as well known not 'academic' by the standards of the larger scholarship of arms literature, but as I have always asserted, it was a great reference guide for the categories of arms typically encountered in the collecting community. The point is that terms need not be 'academically' correct if they are broadly and collectively known in a certain descriptive sense and commonly used as such.

While probably not a collectively used term in local vernacular, I am sure that in degree, the firangi term has found use in many of the diverse languages and regions in India. This would of course account for its place in the literature on Indian arms which led to its more stringent use by collectors as described.
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Old 7th May 2020, 06:47 PM   #27
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An inteligent explanation in context, Jim ... as usual .

As an aside ...
The power of language is like that; the repetitive calling a thing with a determined name by the common man, ends up becoming effective. When i was in school, the teacher told me that Jesus, pretending to cover the largest audience with his parables, spoke to the crowd in Aramic; which i took as the period "lingua franca".
Looks like Stone fell to the same sin .

Good "nite" ... dearest cowboy .

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Old 8th May 2020, 01:57 PM   #28
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Default For a change ...

Ariel, i wonder if you have this Elgood PDF work in your library.
Worthy of note is the different way the author uses the Firangy term; as he attributes it to the blade itself and not to the sword as a whole.
Also interesting how he establishes the origin and follow up of the sickle mark.


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Last edited by fernando : 8th May 2020 at 02:39 PM.
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Old 8th May 2020, 02:23 PM   #29
Kubur
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Yes it is litteraly what it is: firangi blade = european blade

More I look at Ariel blade more I think that the mark is engraved - and not stamped - and therefore it is more likely an Indian blade...

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Old 8th May 2020, 04:20 PM   #30
Jim McDougall
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Originally Posted by fernando
An inteligent explanation in context, Jim ... as usual .

As an aside ...
The power of language is like that; the repetitive calling a thing with a determined name by the common man, ends up becoming effective. When i was in school, the teacher told me that Jesus, pretending to cover the largest audience with his parables, spoke to the crowd in Aramic; which i took as the period "lingua franca".
Looks like Stone fell to the same sin .

Good "nite" ... dearest cowboy .

.



Aw shucks Fernando! Thank you! it weren't nuthin'!
Really, excellent analogy, and VERY well placed. It is ABOUT the lingua francia, and it is wise to use in cases where you are trying to reach the broader scope audience.
Collecting has developed its own 'lingua francia', complete with terms as well as commonly held notions since it evolved as an actual hobby.
Well put, Stone as one of the seminal authors of references specifically intended for collectors well observed this most sensible practice.

During the 'debates' over the years, it has been well proven that the term 'KATAR' was misapplied to the transverse grip dagger we all know well.
The actual term was of course 'jamadhar', but was inadvertently transposed in Egerton (1884), with subsequent writers following suit.
Even though the mistake was well revealed, as a matter of prudence the term remains in use as it has become established to collectors as referring to that specific weapon form.

Also, the Elgood example on the firangi term is quintessant, and addresses the Genoa circumstance perfectly.

Well observed Kubur, on the engraving or scribing of the mark. As previously noted, relying on photos is typically less than optimum for such determinations, and a caveat I would add is that adding such marks using these methods does not specifically denote India as a source of the blade.

The many entrepots in trade network circuits were well aware of the increased value of markings (especially those associated with quality and integrity on volumes of European blades). It was not unusual for less than skilled persons to attempt to duplicate these in those places as they offered these blades to customers.

The point I made regarding the pairing of the sickle arcs and the 'star' was that in my view, such spurious application of markings did not typically add the other markings often accompanying the key markings in European context configurations.
In native regions ethnographically it was not surprising to see well known European markings copied, such as the 'sickles', however the added marks were not usually added and not regarded as relevant.....it was the key marking which carried or imbued the 'power or magic'.

Also, we cannot discount the fact that even in European settings where unskilled workers could well have applied such marks to trade shipments destined for native markets, such amateur examples are occasionally seen.

All we can do is speculate, and try to find the best answers from collected data and comprehensive experience as a group sharing same.
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