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Old 17th September 2019, 06:59 AM   #1
BladeMan
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Default Help on mark on Italian sword ca. 1580

Hello Everyone,

can someone help me out, point me a direction (to a book or another source) or may know anything about that mark on an Italian Sword dated ca. 1580. Wheter it is a makers mark, inspection mark or whatever. It is the only mark on the blade, at the Ricasso. I have seen similiar ones from/out of Veneto but never a single one like this.

Thanks!
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Old 17th September 2019, 10:42 AM   #2
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Hello Ray ... welcome to our forum
You are right in that this is a mark showing in Italian (Veneto) blades of the XV-XVI centuries, as indeed these often appear in a multiple mode and not one alone. I would venture that this is more the type of region or quality mark and not a smith's signature.
However these are all guesses; other members will show up with more knowledgeable comments about it.
Meanwhile we expect you to show us pictures of the whole sword, to let us see what we are talking about.
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Old 17th September 2019, 02:32 PM   #3
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I found this mark in a German book: "Wendelin Boeheim, Handbuch der Waffenkunde". The translation is: Unknown, probably mark of a blade smith at Brescia 16th century.
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Old 17th September 2019, 02:40 PM   #4
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I found this mark in a German book: "Wendelin Boeheim, Handbuch der Waffenkunde". The translation is: Unknown, probably mark of a blade smith at Brescia 16th century. A scan of a page of the Catalogue of the Wallace Collection, European Arms and Armour shows under number A495 this mark on a sword from about 1490.

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Old 17th September 2019, 05:05 PM   #5
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Thank you Udo for furnishing these entries from the most referenced compendiums of these many markings found on blades. It is really helpful to have these to view for readers who may not have these resources.

As Fernando has well noted, these markings, commonly termed 'twig' marks are seemingly collectively used in Italy (typically North) by many producers and often in varied configurations. While we are uncertain of the exact meaning or purpose of these stamps, they do seem to serve perhaps as some type of guild or production mark possibly for identification or compliance reasons.

Clearly, in the blade trade business, the presence of the marks became associated with and known to represent quality in recognition, so they were often used spuriously by others.
Actually this single mark is typical in Italian context, but as far as I have known, not copied in Germany or Spain as many other marks were.
"Armi Bianchi Italiene" by Boccia & Coelho (1975) has a great appendix which includes many of these marks in configurations, which will illustrate the kinds of variation.

Actually I have seen numbers of blades with singular marks like this, but they have never been deemed aligned with a particular maker.
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Old 17th September 2019, 06:00 PM   #6
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Wink Missing shots ?

Apparently you guys skipped over a "detail" in that Ray is already aware that these (Veneto) marks exist, although in numbers of more than one; what he is asking is whether we are familiar with them only showing in one single presence; reason why i didn't post images of the 'multi' ones in the first place. Also we haven't yet had a picture of the whole sword, to then enable us to weave considerations on it.
But let me then play the accomplice and upload a couple pages of Armi Bianchi Italiane, where these "ferri di molino" (as they call them) appear. Pity this great work authors do not define the purpose of these marks.


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Old 17th September 2019, 06:32 PM   #7
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Thanks for the Boccia & Coelho pages Fernando. I agree in most cases it is beneficial to have images of the whole sword, but for me I am OK with this image for now. I guess the reason is that this singular usage may indicate a 'trade blade' character rather than a completed sword matter.

To clarify what I meant by that designation is that it seems the singular use of this stamped mark on a blade seems to indicate Italian manufacture, but obviously that cannot be stated for certain. It simply has not seemed to me that these 'twig' marks turn up on German or other blades, and particularly not in singular case.

I think that these type marks are more of a mundane administrative device than the more distinctive makers or guild marks, which were often a matter of record as they involved compliances and ordinances. For example, these may indicate batches of swords involved in a specified contract or order.

I have seen these single marks of the twig type on blades, on schiavona and another even on a kaskara (backsword blade most unusual on these). It would seem of course that the 'blade' was independent of the sword assembly in origin in these cases, obviously with the kaskara

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Old 17th September 2019, 06:49 PM   #8
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Thanks a lot guys, that was really helpful and is interesting.

Fernando is right, i was or am aware of that or similiar marks but i have seen them only in triples yet like in the pics of Fernando and corrado, not just one single mark. What i was wondering is if the single mark is the same maker/source as the triple marks or maybe something different that was copied or was similiar by accident.

And here is a pic of the sword in total.
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Old 17th September 2019, 09:02 PM   #9
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Old 18th September 2019, 10:22 AM   #10
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Splendid !
Sorry my ignorance; isn't this a Storta ?
I am not qualified to judge on this sword's properties but, i would dare to sustain that, its 'lonely' ferro di molino mark looks very real. But what do i know ? . Only that i could swear that a mark/s with the same shape, depth and all, resides somewhere in our forum.
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Old 18th September 2019, 10:44 AM   #11
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Thanks fernando!

And yes, that is a (two handed) Storta.
Length is 92 cm with a 70 cm blade, PoB is 13 cm and the weight is 1011 grams.
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Old 18th September 2019, 03:12 PM   #12
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By the way Ray, does this beautiful sword belong in your personal collection ?
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Old 18th September 2019, 04:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Splendid !
Sorry my ignorance; isn't this a Storta ?
I am not qualified to judge on this sword's properties but, i would dare to sustain that, its 'lonely' ferro di molino mark looks very real. .


Nando, it fits the characteristics of size and configuration that would identify it as a storta -- a short, cutlass-type hilt weapon with a single edged blade, popular in northern Italy. This example has a blade with a deeper curve and is somewhat narrower than the majority. (Many tend to widen somewhat at the tip and have a clipped point as in the medieval falchion, as well) But anomalies are to be expected in a type that was widely used over an extended period of time.

I also agree on the mark. It's on several Italian blades in my collection, and appears singly as well as in groups.
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Old 18th September 2019, 04:29 PM   #14
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Thank you Ray for sharing this amazing storta (well called Fernando!).
The interesting raised rib in the grip reminds me of zweihander swords of the period, and it is tempting to wonder if this may have been en suite.
We know that rapiers often came in sets in this manner with alternate hand daggers (typically termed left hand daggers ).

As far as the singular use of the well known form seen here, as Fernando has noted, surely we have seen this instance before, in fact many times, but finding it will take some of the sleuths here. I know it is possible as I am always amazed at how some of the guys here find stuff posted some time before, Rick and Fernando himself are the two that come to mind in pulling up these exemplars.

Ray, actually that is a well placed observation, that perhaps the mark (though with some commonality it seems in the makers community) might have the same origin as some of the multiple groupings. Again, as we know these marks were not to a specific maker, possibly their use in number or varied configurations might have been peculiar to a certain one.
With many commonly known devices found on blades, we know that certain ones were favored by certain makers.

In the case for example of Wundes, the use of a kings head was known to be a mark used by him and his family. There are varied examples of blades where the same kings head is punched in repeated number in groupings, sometimes as many as five or more.

This seems a prime indicator that number of marks, of the same kind, and in varied configuration, could have some esoteric significance known in the time, but unrecorded and now lost. It is yet another of the conundrums that bring sleepless nights to obsessive researchers such as yours truly
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Old 18th September 2019, 04:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Nando, it fits the characteristics of size and configuration that would identify it as a storta -- a short, cutlass-type hilt weapon with a single edged blade, popular in northern Italy. This example has a blade with a deeper curve and is somewhat narrower than the majority. (Many tend to widen somewhat at the tip and have a clipped point as in the medieval falchion, as well) But anomalies are to be expected in a type that was widely used over an extended period of time.

I also agree on the mark. It's on several Italian blades in my collection, and appears singly as well as in groups.


Philip we crossed posts! As always, perfect description and insight on these stortas, and well noted on the case for anomalies in them which better describes the reasons for the many variations typically seen.
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Old 18th September 2019, 05:38 PM   #16
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@fernando, Yes it is in my collection.

The blade actually widens up towards the tip just a little at the last quarter, right where the blade becomes double edged.
But yes, it's overall narrower and deeper curved then the majority.
Frankly, those "anomalies" is what makes the most attraction for me.
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Old 19th September 2019, 03:43 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Philip we crossed posts! As always, perfect description and insight on these stortas, and well noted on the case for anomalies in them which better describes the reasons for the many variations typically seen.


Thanks, Jim. The more of these things I see, the more variety in blade shapes there seem to be. It's easy to assume that there's a "classic form" of blade on these things that forms a defining benchmark, when you look at the gorgeous "droolers" with Brescian chiseled blades in Boccia / Coelho, Armi Bianche Italiane. The typical contour is indeed the type with the pronounced "Bowie-knife style" clipped point.

Some perspective is gained from a selection of somewhat more plebian examples in Roberto Gotti's book Caino, which delves into the sword-blade-making industry in this small Brescian town, one of Italy's several counterparts to Passau and Solingen. Here can be seen blade types of slight curvature, and edges that are radiused to a gently upturned point -- imagine a short version of a shashka or liuyedao blade. And recently in an online auction catalog I saw one with a prominent raised yelman, making it resemble a snubnosed kilij.

Re: terminology -- These weapons were actually known by several names, the most frequent in the literature being storta ( plural: storte ). This may be a derived from a vernacular term used in the region of Veneto, where these large knives were especially popular.

An alternative term is coltella, plural coltelle , related to the standard Italian word for knife, coltello (being a Texas guy you're no doubt familiar with the Spanish cuchillo. ) Lionello Boccia also includes the term coltellaccio in the book referenced previously.

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Old 19th September 2019, 02:00 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
... Re: terminology -- These weapons were actually known by several names, the most frequent in the literature being storta ( plural: storte ).This may be a derived from a vernacular term used in the region of Veneto, where these large knives were especially popular...

So interesting; to the point in that, the term storta (twisted, unstraight) possibly an allusion to this sword guard, made a career in dictionaries, as nowadays attributed to a scimitar or a cutlass.
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Old 19th September 2019, 02:28 PM   #19
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Very nice sword! Please post more of your collection if you don't mind. Would love to see other unique pieces.
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Old 19th September 2019, 03:55 PM   #20
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Philip, thank you for the great further insights into these fascinating short sabres of North Italy. As you point out, the terminology does present challenges for collectors outside the Italian language sphere, as the singular and plural versions of 'storta' seem the same but for the a or e at the end.

Also the many variations on the blades are understandable, as these regions of Veneto in Italy were really in such proximity with the cities whose names are well known in the annals of famed blade production. The makers in these cities, whose names are in many cases legendary, clearly were among the most innovative in their field, and there appears to have been profound competition in developing ever more effective blade forms.

In these areas and with this brisk competition and developmental innovation among blade producers, it seems inevitable that descriptive terms, derived from various vernacular terms, would become applied collectively in many cases outside the original specific.

Here in Texas (as you noted) there is of course a pretty good spectrum of typically large bladed knives, but regardless of intricacies in character of features, the broad term 'Bowie' reigns in the vernacular.
The Spanish cognate 'cuchillo' to the Italian 'coltello', is probably more confined to the Mexican vernacular, but even there other slang terms often apply.

Thank you so much also for always bring up such great book titles and references! I absolutely must get the book 'Caino' as you have noted.
Here again, the use of a place name has been interpreted often as a makers name, and entwined in the 'lore' of writers who have woven it into the fiber of ever repeated 'references' in published material.

Getting back to the case at hand from the OP, looking at maps of the region of Veneto (where Venice is capital) the other locations in this region and contiguous proximity include Belluno ( in north with Ferrara to the south) of course aligned with the mysterious Andrea Ferara; Milan to the west; and naturally Brescia as you have well noted. ……...the potential for cross use of the stamped marks we are discussing is not only likely, but probable.

While the makers names associated with these locations are of course well known in some cases, but the numbers of workers and shops not well known must have been notable.
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Old 19th September 2019, 08:13 PM   #21
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Beautiful sword! Curious that it has a relatively short blade, but a two-handed hilt. Although many Lange Messers had a long hilt, which is utilized in fighting with that particular weapon. Perhaps there is an overlapping of traditions between Germanic lands and northern Italy.
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Old 19th September 2019, 08:55 PM   #22
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Yes interesting with two-handed hilt. May we have measurements, please?
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Old 19th September 2019, 09:06 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
So interesting; to the point in that, the term storta (twisted, unstraight) possibly an allusion to this sword guard, made a career in dictionaries, as nowadays attributed to a scimitar or a cutlass.


Nando, that is an interesting explanation and yes, many of the examples you see in person and in publications have a characteristic S shape to the quillons. But Gotti's book which I referred to previously, contains several examples of storte which have D shaped knucklebows with crab claws below; one even incorporates a shell guard for good measure.

If one translation of storta is "unstraight", or perhaps bent, could that refer to the distinct curvature of the single-edged blades, or at least the increasing arc of the edge as it goes into the "bowie-knife-type" tip? Consider that these weapons first appeared in a culture which throughout the Middle Ages and at the dawn of the Renaissance was pretty much wedded to the notion of a straight blade -- even the single edged backsword shape (mezza spada) had a point that was more or less in-line to the central axis of the blade itself.
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Old 19th September 2019, 09:37 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
.


In these areas and with this brisk competition and developmental innovation among blade producers, it seems inevitable that descriptive terms, derived from various vernacular terms, would become applied collectively in many cases outside the original specific.

Here in Texas (as you noted) there is of course a pretty good spectrum of typically large bladed knives, but regardless of intricacies in character of features, the broad term 'Bowie' reigns in the vernacular.
The Spanish cognate 'cuchillo' to the Italian 'coltello', is probably more confined to the Mexican vernacular, but even there other slang terms often apply.

Getting back to the case at hand from the OP, looking at maps of the region of Veneto (where Venice is capital) the other locations in this region and contiguous proximity include Belluno ( in north with Ferrara to the south) of course aligned with the mysterious Andrea Ferara; Milan to the west; and naturally Brescia as you have well noted. ……...the potential for cross use of the stamped marks we are discussing is not only likely, but probable.

While the makers names associated with these locations are of course well known in some cases, but the numbers of workers and shops not well known must have been notable.


Jim, here are some tidbits to address the points raised in your post.

1. Terminology and linguistics can get understandably complex in Italy, which was essentially a conglomeration of states and subcultures during the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 1870 reunification. For that time, different regions were fought over and ruled by all sorts of foreign powers, from the Moors to the French, the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, and Spain - so you have the added dimension of alien ruling classes on top of the local yokels who were there for donkey years before. Not to mention Genoese and Venetian merchants and mercenaries returning home and bringing foreign habits with them. The vernacular literature took many generations to move away from classical and vulgar Latin to what we would recognize as Italian today.

2. Because of a well developed guild system (especially in the north), a good number of Italian armorers working over the past 5-odd centuries has been documented. Some early makers of plate armor are known only by their initials, but their distinguishing marks have been recorded and we can date their products stylistically. Modern authors have done a lot to make this info available to us. For a general intro, Enzio Malatesta's Armi ed Armaioli d'Italia (Rome, 1946) is comprehensive and is occasionally available at auction. Carlo deVita's Armaioli Romani (Rome, 1970) covers just the region of Latium. For firearms, there is a wealth of info in Der Neue Stöckel and in Nolfo di Carpegna's Brescian Firearms (hooray, at last a book in English! , Rome, 1997)

3. There was a lot of specialization in the pre-industrial Italian arms manufacturing trade, fine arms were often designed and put together by gunsmiths and cutlers using components sourced from special artisans known to them and their customers. Certain towns with their guilds sometimes specialized in the extreme: Caino, Bergamo, and Belluno were famed for their blade workshops, their products sent to Milan, Venice, and all over to be hilted. Celalba, in the Papal States, was known for flintlocks of a specific design. Pistoia (from which the word pistol is supposedly derived) mostly made gun barrels, and lots of them.

4. Andrea Ferrara .. legendary, almost iconic especially in the universe of Scottish broadswords! Yet as enigmatic in his own way, as the Passau wolf. Worthy of a separate forum thread. How 'bout it , Jim?
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Old 20th September 2019, 02:01 AM   #25
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Thank you again Philip! as always fantastic detail and insight into the true character and circumstances of these sword producing regions, their marks and guilds etc.
Great note on the enigmatic Andrea Ferara, whose mystery remains a matter of debate and contention as much as ever. Indeed I would think a thread on that topic would be worthy of entry as you suggest, but some more research and consideration seems prudent before such an attempt is made.
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Old 21st September 2019, 03:36 AM   #26
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Actually in seeking more on Andrea Ferara for the discussion Philip has suggested, and searching through notes, passim, I found some interesting reference to the Italian mark of the OP here.
It is apparently termed MARCA A MOSCA and colloquially 'the twig'.
According to a discussion post from 2010 (Javier Ramos, SFI, 5/24/10) this markings was apparently an arsenal mark from Venice.
It occurs on many sword forms from zweihanders to falchions and of course storta.

He offers two references as support (and plz forgive my attempt at rewriting these Italian titles):
1. "Musei e Gallerie di Milano. Museo Poldi Pezzoli Armi Europee del Medeiro al'eta Moserna II Armi del Vicino Oriente".
by Paolo Slavich , Milano, 1986
2. "Musei e Gallerie di Milano Museo d' Arti Applicate"
by Piersergio Allevi, Milano, 1988

These references seemed remarkably intricate and suggest research well founded, but I have not corroborated further. Still the idea of the notable occurrence of this mark in singular on various blades and typically blade center in upper third of blade does seem plausibly something used in such 'arsenal' manner.
Its inclusion in the varied groupings associated with either makers, shops or locations as seen in "Armi Bianchi Italiene" cannot be readily explained but the presumed arsenal use seems to have been mid to late 16th c.

The thing I would question as far as the 'arsenal' use, is that a number of these singular use 'twig' marks occur on rapier blades, c. 1580s, and these are typically regarded in this period as very non military weapons.

I hope this might help in further research Ray.
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Old 21st September 2019, 08:59 AM   #27
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I noticed this storta some time on a German website , I believe it was offered by Historica Arma and/or Fricker, did you acguire it recently ?

best,
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Old 21st September 2019, 02:12 PM   #28
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Red face Novice notes ...

It looks like a LOT OF INK has been spent in the discussion of this mark, both in origin as in purpose ... as well as in terminology.
Origin is consensually accepted as that from the Veneto area, while its purpose is 'arguably' to identify an arsenal. While in one hand Javier Ramos (for the case) textually says "I would have to check if my memory fails again but I remember vaguely that the "marca a mosca" (fly mark) is not an armourer mark but an arsenal mark (Venice)", On the other hand, the fact that the mark appears either single or in trios, does denote that, for an (one) arsenal mark, is somehow inconsistent. Also interesting that there seems to be an intention to place the central of these (triple) marks in a different position. As for the mark naming, beyond the english connotation "twigs", i wonder why some Italian sources call it MOSCA (fly), and Boccia & Coelho, who are not ignaros in these things, prefer to call it FERRI DI MULINO.


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Old 21st September 2019, 09:29 PM   #29
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The ink spot has proven invaluable in networking to other discussions and threads concerning these Italian marks, which as shown may be referred to as 'twigs' or 'marca a mosca'.
My reason for bringing up the suggestion of the single mark being a possible arsenal mark for Venice is that it was an interesting possibility which seemed worthy of mention in a discussion with notable scope in examining these.

As I noted in my previous post, the aspects of this suggestion in which I might dispute the 'arsenal' possibility would be that these turn up on rapier blades, distinctly a civilian weapon of these times.
Also, I would wonder, which arsenal, that of the Doge of Venice? or perhaps the Papal arsenal ? or were there more?

I also realize that I have suggested that these 'twig' (for the sake of discussion) marks were exclusively Italian, which is incorrect, as in my thread of June 2010 I noted the fly marks (aka twigs) were indeed duplicated in Germany. Clearly the German makers applied the known Italian marks spuriously in the same fashion as those of Spain.

Clearly there will be multiple colloquial terms used for these and similar marks in various regions and transliterations. It is of course one of the frustrating perils of the study of arms over many centuries and in many cultures with many languages. I think Philip well described this situation with regard to Italian circumstances as case in point.

There is also the circumstance of assigning certain marks to certain areas in addition to attempting to align them to a particular maker, which has its own futility. In Italy, the Veneto regions encompassed not only Venice, the capital and port, but Caino, Brescia, Belluno, Ferrara and others even Milan.

In the regions of Genoa, which included Lucca and others, it seems the so called sickle marks became the known device inexorably linked to Genoa, yet some authorities believe its use began in Lucca. In those western regions of North Italy the 'sickle' device also became used in multiple and oddly configured arrangements on blades. It has often been suggested that the Genoan association was due to that being the departure port for the blades of these regions.

With these instances, it would seem that these distinctive central devices may have become collectively associated with regions as described. It is notable that in many instances of works on weapons, a mark of these types is often associated with the region to which the sword it occurs upon is attributed. Thus a sword mounted in Brescia, but with a blade from other locations in Veneto, becomes Brescian.

As an interesting anomaly, having distinguished the marca a mosca (twig) to Veneto regions, and the 'Genoan' sickle marks to the centers there, a blade curiously found on a straight blade tulwar has the sickle marks with the twig in the center. Now theres a conundrum!!
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Old 21st September 2019, 10:24 PM   #30
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Great thread! As far as I’m aware the Venice arsenal marks would be either a C.X. for Consiglio dei Dieci or the Lion of St. Mark. So it seems to me that the twig mark must be an identifier of origin for the purchaser and seller alike. It might also have been something of a quality standard mark that it had passed tests by a guild. Marca a Mosca is probably a descriptive term (like “twig” mark). I think Fernando is onto something when pointing to Boccia & Coelho mentioning the mark as ferri di mulino (iron mill) marks. On German swords carrying the twig marks you might consider the possibility that these were North Italian blades with fake Solingen marks, rather than the other way around.

I wish I could find more to read on this in the English language (like Gotti’s Caino book!). You may find this of interest: https://www.hema-minsk2019.org/base...hibition-part-3. It mentions a Beluni knot.
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