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Old 28th June 2021, 04:12 PM   #1
cel7
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Default Small handgonne

Hi,

Not sure if this is ethnographic but I had to make a choice. Bought it at an auction last week.
It is a very small handgonne or hand cannon. Total length is 103cm, barrel length 21cm. The caliber I think is max. 1,5cm but is difficult to measure because the barrel on the inside is quite rusty.

It has some decoration on it that made me decide to post it in the ethnographic category. I could be wrong!

There is also, what I think is, a human-like figure on it.

Anyone have any idea where and when this was made?

Of course I did some research on the internet and have read the thread on handgonne's on this forum. They do not match this thing. I did found a drawing that looks a bit like it.

Thanks in advance for your response!
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Old 28th June 2021, 06:29 PM   #2
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Looks like an extraordinary piece .
Let us move it to the European forum, where there is a wider audience for these things.
You can also try and find material in this area if you search on threads from (deceased) member "Matchlock".
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Old 28th June 2021, 07:57 PM   #3
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Looks like an extraordinary piece .
Let us move it to the European forum, where there is a wider audience for these things.
You can also try and find material in this area if you search on threads from (deceased) member "Matchlock".
Thanks Fernando!
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Old 29th June 2021, 01:57 AM   #4
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Thanks for posting a very interesting acquisition.

This could possibly be a late handgonne, perhaps first half 15th cent. by virtue of its side-mounted integral priming pan and corresponding touchhole. Being derived from artillery pieces, the early ones tended to have touchholes at the 12-o'clock position. The hole and pan on the right side of the barrel would of course be the next step along in the evolution towards the matchlock barrel.

The décor on your piece reminds me of a folksy version of Baltic / Scandian area knotwork so prominent in medieval north European decorative art.

I am looking through Howard L Blackmore's Guns and Rifles of the World (1965) and note an all-iron Hakenbüchse with a similarly long straight tiller, and a barrel length and caliber not too far off from the numbers cited for your example (barrel 8.34 in., bore diameter 0.60 in. cited in the photo caption) The piece is in the Tojhusmuseet, Copenhagen ( inv. no B.1); if any readers have the book an image is on p 99, fig. 42. Am in a bit of a rush with impending errands at moment, will try to scan or photo the page later.
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Old 29th June 2021, 06:32 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Philip View Post
Thanks for posting a very interesting acquisition.

This could possibly be a late handgonne, perhaps first half 15th cent. by virtue of its side-mounted integral priming pan and corresponding touchhole. Being derived from artillery pieces, the early ones tended to have touchholes at the 12-o'clock position. The hole and pan on the right side of the barrel would of course be the next step along in the evolution towards the matchlock barrel.

The décor on your piece reminds me of a folksy version of Baltic / Scandian area knotwork so prominent in medieval north European decorative art.

I am looking through Howard L Blackmore's Guns and Rifles of the World (1965) and note an all-iron Hakenbüchse with a similarly long straight tiller, and a barrel length and caliber not too far off from the numbers cited for your example (barrel 8.34 in., bore diameter 0.60 in. cited in the photo caption) The piece is in the Tojhusmuseet, Copenhagen ( inv. no B.1); if any readers have the book an image is on p 99, fig. 42. Am in a bit of a rush with impending errands at moment, will try to scan or photo the page later.
Thank you Philip, very helpful! I went to the website of the museum and found this one. Not sure if this is the one the book is refers to.
I also copied the text.

Made in Denmark around the year 1400. This is a so-called Lodbøsse, the oldest firearm known in Denmark and the oldest firearm in the museum's collection. The shotgun is one of the first kind of firearms. It gained its entrance into Europe in the late Middle Ages. In many ways, it's a kind of handheld cannon. It was found in 1859 at the rampart Vedelspang at the eastern end of Langsø in South Schleswig. A castle was built here in 1416 by the Danish king Erik of Pomerania, which was destroyed in 1426 when it was taken over by Count Henrik of Holstein. It is believed to have been in use for several years before due to signs of use, so you date it to approx. 1400. The gun is destroyed once destroyed by blasting. It was accidentally found by the 2nd Infantry Battalion from the Danish army in 1859, which had camped in the area. They met a worker who had dug it up, who would throw it out when he thought it was "a piece of worthless old iron". Reproductions were later made and fired with a contemporary powder charge. It has shown that it was not very powerful, but the powerful sound, fire and smoke, has been a good psychological scare against any enemies.
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Old 30th June 2021, 03:40 AM   #6
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Yes! The same gun I was talking about. Good that you found a much better image than the one in Blackmore's book.

These early guns were not very powerful for a number of reasons. Primarily, during that period, gunpowder had the consistency of flour, it wasn't "corned" or milled in grains. Thus, its burning rate was slower so the explosion was weaker. Also, if tamped too tightly, it created variable pressures in the barrel which led to inconsistent velocity. During transport, or handling in the depot, this early "meal" powder also tended to separate into its constituent ingredients, further limiting its efficiency.

But you are correct, the noise, sulphur smell, and all the smoke and flame created a powerful impression in the minds of people at that time, who had seen nothing like it before and lived in a superstitious age in which the imagery of hell was strong thanks to sermons delivered in church.

It also didn't take much training to teach a soldier to handle these weapons, not nearly so much skill and strength as being an archer. So if you had enough men firing these in a volley as the foe got very close, enough of the enemy could be hit, or else frightened enough to disorient and confuse them (not to mention horses getting panicked and further spoiling the fun). So they weren't entirely useless.
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Old 30th June 2021, 03:43 PM   #7
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Sorry to burst the bubble but its an Indian tillered hand cannon. I owned this very piece just a few years ago when i sold it to a Dutch Gentlement.
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Old 30th June 2021, 03:49 PM   #8
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Sorry to burst the bubble but its an Indian tillered hand cannon. I owned this very piece just a few years ago when i sold it to a Dutch Gentlement.
Thank you Marcus! So not European after all. What period do you think it's from?
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Old 30th June 2021, 07:34 PM   #9
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Thanks, Marcus. Even if it is Indian and not European, it could still be significant. A chronological benchmark would be useful. Surviving examples of handgonnes from the Subcontinent are quite an unusual thing, far fewer of them seem to be extant than thei counterparts in the West. And the literature on Indian arms is largely silent on these. So it may represent a step forward in our understanding of the development of firearms in India. Lots of questions to sift through, given the fact that so few Indian guns predating the 18th-19th cent. are in collections.
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Old 1st July 2021, 07:27 PM   #10
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Looks like it started life as an Indian combined matchlock and axe. The Royal armouries example dates it vaguely 1700 to 1800. Worth looking to see if their is any sign the remains of a rivit to the tiller that could have supported the serpentine.
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Old 1st July 2021, 11:55 PM   #11
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Thank you for your comment Raf. There is now sign of a rivet to the tiller. The tiller doesn't look strong enough to support an ax either.
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Old 2nd July 2021, 10:18 AM   #12
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Thank you for your comment Raf. There is now sign of a rivet to the tiller. The tiller doesn't look strong enough to support an ax either.
I agree. Maybe you could post a picture of the end of the tiller.
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Old 2nd July 2021, 10:01 PM   #13
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Attached from my archive
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Old 3rd July 2021, 02:05 PM   #14
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Thanks Marcus. Certainly looks like a tiller to me. One option might be it was designed to be fired from a rowlock fixed to the bow of a camel saddle in which case the tiller makes sense. There is a discussion of camel mounted guns in a thread started by Ibrahim Al Balooshi June 10 2016.
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Old 3rd July 2021, 08:49 PM   #15
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One option might be it was designed to be fired from a rowlock fixed to the bow of a camel saddle in which case the tiller makes sense.
Interesting suggestion. But from a purely functional standpoint, would such a fixture be necessary for a weapon of relatively small caliber such as this? Oarlock swivels were commonly employed for bigger weapons such as lantakas (and their European counterparts such as berços), amusettes, and the like where bulk and recoil were factors to contend with.
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