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Old 9th June 2005, 04:46 PM   #1
Rick
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Question Nimcha Questions

I've always wanted to add one to my collection ; and now I have .
This one has been around the block but seems pretty darn old .

I've got a couple of questions about it that maybe the membership can answer for me .

The sword is 40 1/4" oa.
The blade is 33 1/2"
False edge is 9 1/2"
Width of blade 1 5/8"
Thickness at spine 3/16"
There is a wide shallow fuller the entire length and the narrow fuller that is obvious in the pics .
This is a big , heavy sword , the hilt is Rhino .
An obvious repair is present .
I have read that these swords were trade blades from Europe .

Now for the questions :
What style and era is this type of blade ?
Can anyone identify the maker's mark ?
I have a suspicion that the blade may be 18thc. or earlier .
Can anyone confirm or deny this ?

Have at it !
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Old 9th June 2005, 10:00 PM   #2
Jens Nordlunde
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Hi Rick,

Congratulation with your new sword. Unfortunately I am not the best one to ask for comments - but Jim, or others should be able to help you.

Jens
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Old 9th June 2005, 10:16 PM   #3
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I posted a link at MyArmory and Sean Flynt , kind gentleman that he is , offered the opinion that the blade is an English or European Backsword blade from the 18th or possibly 17th century .
My thanks to the gang over there , and thank you Sean .

This sword is huge by my standards .
The hilt was made for quite a large hand .
One would need a very strong arm to wield it with any success .
Another observartion I have is that the Rhino horn is quite splintery when cut along the grain .
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Old 10th June 2005, 12:48 AM   #4
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Nice. Moorocan type. Second time I've seen one of these nailed down band repairs on the pommel. The angle of the knucklebow seems unusually tight and unusual in having that little projection; I seem to be able to see a line? A joint? In the closeup of the lagnet, is that by any chance a flat round "slug"/shim of brass or other relatively soft metal inserted between the metal of guard and blade?
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Old 10th June 2005, 01:25 AM   #5
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Yes Tom, it is a joint , and yes , there is some kind of shim in the area between the langet and blade .
What I find most exciting about this sword is that the blade could well date back to Cromwell's time and the English civil war .
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Old 10th June 2005, 02:59 AM   #6
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Hi Rick,
I very much agree that this is probably an English backsword blade that may date back to late 17th century. The patination and deteriorated stamp in the blade seem to correspond to blades of that period I have seen. Actually I have seen a very similar stamp in about the same condition on a Cromwellian period blade.It is not at all unusual that these swords often carried straight European blades, especially English. Anthony North in his "Islamic Arms" (Victoria& Albert, 1985, p.28) notes in caption of illustration of portrait of an English officer c.1617 , "...the captain of a Trained Band is shown wearing a typical Moroccan sword and holding a staff of office. These swords with thier distinctive hilts seem to have been fashionable in the 17th century in England, as they are shown in portraits of the period".

It would seem that while these swords had a degree of popularity in England in those times, at the same time the English blades had similar popularity with the Moroccans in thier sa'ifs (nimchas). I have found English backsword blades of even latter 18th century mounted in Moroccan swords with variant shellguard hilts, so this seems a long standing practice. With the position of the stamp on your blade and the distinct back fuller I would suspect this blade is probably end of 17th to early 18th century by its appearance.
While the blade seems quite old as noted, the mounts seem of course much more recent, which is not at all unusual as it is well established that most swords of these forms were often refurbished over many working lives.

Nice example with a outstanding blade!!

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th June 2005, 11:42 AM   #7
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Nice Nimcha Rick!

I don't know how your French is but there is a very good reference site at
http://blade.japet.com/N-introd.htm

What puzzles me is that in Tirri it is described as a "short sword"???
I don't understand this description considering the size of yours and the one I found 5 years ago in Marrakesh, which is also quite long, 42" with a 36" blade.
The Morrocan one in Stone has a blade of 32".

Anybody who can explain Tirri's statement or is it just a mistake that passed the proof reading unnoticed?

Michael

Last edited by VVV : 10th June 2005 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 10th June 2005, 02:18 PM   #8
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Thank you all !
Jim thank you for your invaluable and seemingly endless store of knowledge on almost any type of edged weapon .
These swords were actually popular in England ?!

Michael , as to the difference in lengths of various types of Nimchas I would guess that they came in two flavors . Landlubber and Pirate ; there would seem to be no way that one could succesfully wield one of these long straight swords with success on the crowded deck of a full rigged sailing ship .

Possibly the long examples are from the non piratical inland dwellers ; the length would be quite appropriate for a mounted warrior..
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Old 10th June 2005, 02:28 PM   #9
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AFAIK it is a misunderstanding of some kind; someone may explain in detail. AFAIK nimcha translates short sword or small sword, and is not traditional to refer to these swords, which are called sayfs (sa'if, sa'yf, etc.). Due to some misunderstanding of old translation or something they have become known as nimchas in N America; a term that more likely actually refered to flyssas or large jambiyas? I think to some sort of sword deliberately small for use on ships?
Jim, great info; in a wild dream is it even possible then that the hilt and blade are contemporary to each other? Is the evolution of these hilts over time well known? I bet it is somewhere in Africa or Arabia, but is it known to any of us? (pictures? ) What's up with England and Mooroco? Maybe neither one liked or trusted Spain, eh? Was there a big alliance/trade relationship?
In any event, I'd be excited, too, Rick; every time I get my hands on a c17 blade I feel a special thrill, I'd say; it's about as old a steel blade as we get to handle, for me, anyway.....I've got one that's much smaller and in rough shape that I'm just soooo happy about......congratulations of jealousy and such...........What thoughts on the back-ward lean of the blade that makes it more sabre like in gestalt?
An European blade of this time will be folded steel.
The joint visible in the guard may be a repair (it is unusual; usually the bar of iron is just bent there; on the other hand, and worth mentioning, is that I've seen a joint somewhat like this on brass French hilts, and France and Mooroco are not real far apart; watch me ramble in panentheses ); it's possible the knuckle bow got more or less knocked off this piece at some point?
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Old 10th June 2005, 03:08 PM   #10
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I was wondering about a repair at the corner of the knucklebow myself .

As for the term 'Sayf' , yes it definitely falls under that category but it is a broad one encompassing many sword types .

Re the knucklebow :
When I look at the examples in Tirri I see that they for the most part are at a 90 degree angle . This example of mine is a peened joint at the right angle .
The horizontal part (quillon) has been fashioned at its end into a round 'peg' (for want of a better word) . The bottom of the vertical piece has been drilled to accept the round end .

Now for the guesswork ; I think the peg was peened to swell it in the joint and then filed smooth . If it was a repair one would expect the quillon to be shortened ; rather it is the other way round and the knuckle bar leans into the pommell slightly . Possibly it started out life as a curved knucklebow .

Yes, this is one of the oldest blades I have and one of my ancestors quite possibly wielded such a blade (not hilt) during the French and Indian Wars .

There are some smallish patches of old bubbly , crusty rust on one side of the blade but I am of a mind to leave them alone for the sake of the overall patina .
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Old 10th June 2005, 04:41 PM   #11
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As far as my knowladge of arabic goes, "saif" is an exact synonim of "sword", therefore refers to any sword.
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Old 10th June 2005, 05:46 PM   #12
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As an Arabic speaker, I can confirm that, 'saif' (pronounced Seyf) simply means 'sword'. It is possibly derived from the Greek Xyphos. Very nice nimcha BTW.
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Old 11th June 2005, 01:00 AM   #13
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Yes, but I don't think that's in-depth enough for clarity, because the word "sword" does not just mean any sword; it (sword, svert, and even espada, though I don't know how things come down on that being the same word), like saif is in actual usage often only used to refer to longswords. This practice still holds in N America (another American comment "Those aren't REAL swords...."). A "Viking" would not refer to his long sax as a svert. Likewise, AFAIK an Arab would not refer to, oh say, one of those xtra big sword-sized jambiyas as a sayf (?) Swords that are AFAIK known to their native users as saifs; Arabian saif per se; "nimcha"; the guardless Berber sabres; kaskara. Other shorter swords from the same regions and tribes are, AFAIK (?) not called sayf. I'm all in favor of a breadth for the word sword comparable to how it is used in translating from Japanese to English, but it did originally refer to a longsword.
Rick, the joint you describe is exactly the joint I saw on a French guard I owned, except it was in brass, and with two round tenons. It was also soldered, but had broken wide open when it came to me....the lone round tenon if not soldered too, seems particularly liable to become loose and swingy? Is the joint "keyed" or "locked" in any other way (ie by the in-side of the knucklebow being hollowed, and the end of the quillon curved or peaked to match? Just a random thought, that.
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Old 11th June 2005, 12:15 PM   #14
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I'm afraid that sayf is not an indepth word, it's just a generic name for swords.

It could refer to any kind of sword be it a Kilij, shamshir, rapier or broadsword. I'm sure two hundred odd years ago, they would have had different names for individual types, but they are still all swords, or sayfs.

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Old 11th June 2005, 12:46 PM   #15
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Yet all those examples you have just given are longswords. I ask again; would the term saif be applied by an Arab to a shorter Arab type, such as the giant jambiyas, or would a Berber so refer to flyssas?
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Old 11th June 2005, 02:35 PM   #16
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No badgering the witness .

Not an arabic speaker but sometimes a large kanjar is just a large kanjar .

I would guess saif is a term used like the word automobile , a general term for personal transportation that burns gas has a body and four wheels be it a mini cooper or a deville .
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Old 11th June 2005, 03:44 PM   #17
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Question Question For Jim

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Rick,
I very much agree that this is probably an English backsword blade that may date back to late 17th century. The patination and deteriorated stamp in the blade seem to correspond to blades of that period I have seen. Actually I have seen a very similar stamp in about the same condition on a Cromwellian period blade.It is not at all unusual that these swords often carried straight European blades, especially English. Anthony North in his "Islamic Arms" (Victoria& Albert, 1985, p.28) notes in caption of illustration of portrait of an English officer c.1617 , "...the captain of a Trained Band is shown wearing a typical Moroccan sword and holding a staff of office. These swords with thier distinctive hilts seem to have been fashionable in the 17th century in England, as they are shown in portraits of the period".

It would seem that while these swords had a degree of popularity in England in those times, at the same time the English blades had similar popularity with the Moroccans in thier sa'ifs (nimchas). I have found English backsword blades of even latter 18th century mounted in Moroccan swords with variant shellguard hilts, so this seems a long standing practice. With the position of the stamp on your blade and the distinct back fuller I would suspect this blade is probably end of 17th to early 18th century by its appearance.
While the blade seems quite old as noted, the mounts seem of course much more recent, which is not at all unusual as it is well established that most swords of these forms were often refurbished over many working lives.

Nice example with a outstanding blade!!

Best regards,
Jim


Hi Jim, I was re-reading your post and had a thought (unusual for me ).

These swords were popular in England for a period . Do you suppose they were ever manufactured there from imported horn and fittings etc . ?

Or would they have been brought entire from the Maghreb ? It would seem a kind of circularity in trading patterns if all the examples were imported from the place the blades had been traded to .

Anyway , I was just thinking about that possible scenario since the Nimcha was a sword style contemporary to the time of the blade's manufacture .
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Old 11th June 2005, 10:37 PM   #18
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Don't worry, that badger is declawed Sorry Aqtai; just curious.
Also, there are European sabres/broadswords (with shell guards?) with very nimcha-like grips (most particularly in the circular notch for the pinky that starts the pommel hook); I think we discussed one in maybe the last year of the old forum? Anyone else remember/know what I'm talking about? This whole cultural crossover thing with these swords, evident and often mentioned in the handguard, may just pull toghether a little here......?
These swords seem to be an adjunct of Coastal Arab (moreso than Berbese?) culture in Mooroco and the Swahili coast?........I don't know; I've a loose feeling there's something to do with the sea, not neccessarily in being well suited to ship-board use (they are usually refered to as cavalry swords?), but with the sea as trade and travel; the sea as internationalism........
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Old 11th June 2005, 11:04 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom hyle
Yet all those examples you have just given are longswords. I ask again; would the term saif be applied by an Arab to a shorter Arab type, such as the giant jambiyas, or would a Berber so refer to flyssas?


A modern Arab would probably refer to shorter swords (as long as it is not obviously a dagger) as sayf. I can't answer as to what they would have said 100 years+ ago. I have a feeling that a non-military person would have still called a sword of any length a sayf.
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Old 11th June 2005, 11:43 PM   #20
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Thanks.
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Old 12th June 2005, 12:37 AM   #21
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Hi Rick,
Thats a very good thought Rick!! and well placed observation.
Best regards,
Jim


The Meditteranean was always a commercial superhighway, and one of the key regions of activity , of many, was of course the Moroccan littoral. It has been noted that since early 16th century there had been extensive commercial relations between Europe and Morocco. The famed pirate location of Sallee based persistant predatory operations that not only targeted the many commercial ships, but sent forth kidnapping raids to Spanish, French and even English coasts. While these constant activities were certainly an affront to these countries, as is often the case, commercial intercourse never ceased. The Spanish had coastal trade colonies in Morocco, and French colonial interest was established. England of course was established in the key location to the Meditteranean, namely 'Gibraltar'.

I think that this commercial activity in these regions certainly provided sources for these Moroccan swords to appear in England, however I think that 'popularity' as described would have been confined to prominant individuals displaying such 'exotica' as more of a fashion statement.
It is interesting that many of these distinctive swords may have been mounted with English blades, then returned to England in this manner, but many likely had other trade blades as well. I would doubt any sort of production of these type hilts would ever have occurred in England as these were simply a novelty favored for thier very foreign and adventuresome provenance.

The subject of the evolution of the familiar 'nimcha' hilt or more correctly, Moroccan saif, has been generally presumed to have derived from North Italian or Venetian swords of latter 15th century with developing guard systems. Much of this is discussed in Anthony North's "A Late 15th Century Italian Sword" (Connoisseur, Dec. 1975, pp.238-241) where he describes a sword which had been presumed Moroccan is actually, and quite clearly Italian of late 15th c. The relationship of the Ceylonese kastane to these European swords in similar development is also noted.
This discussion leads to wondering if possibly other similarly mounted European or Italian swords owned by prominant figures appearing in portraits may have led to the presumption these were 'Moroccan' in the same manner.

The idea that these Moroccan swords were 'popular' in England in this very early period is intriguing, and I think a good topic to pursue further to verify how accurate this presumption is and whether misidentified European swords may have come into play.

In looking at the illustrations of our subject sword, it seems the age and patination of the crossguard element and the blade seem quite close, suggesting they may be homogenous. The grip, and other elements of course seem more recent, and naturally refurbished as is quite expected with swords of such venerable age.
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