Sword types in prize playing

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Jaron Bernstein
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Sword types in prize playing

Postby Jaron Bernstein » Sun Jul 01, 2007 1:10 am

Hi folks,

I just finished reading the Noble Science, transcribed by Herbert Berry of the Sloane manuscript 2530. It is a partial trancription of Masters Of Defense of London up to the 1590's and describes, among other things, prize playings. A few quotes raise some questions I hope can be answered here:

"William Hunt played his Maisters prize at Leden Hall with three Maisters, that is to say, Nicholas Delahaye, Robert Cook, and Peter Beste at three kinde of weapons videlicit The Longe Sworde, the Bastarde Sworde and the Dagger." (page 43).

1. Were prize playings done with the dagger alone?
2. What is the difference between the long sword and bastard sword referenced here?

It also talks about for a Provost prize that, "And he to playe at the two hand sword, the backe sword and the staffe..." (pg. 77)

For a Masters prize it says that, "at theis weapons followinge Vedelicit the two hand sword, the Baserd sword, the pike, the backe sword, and the rapier & Dagger...." (pg. 81).

This seems to suggest that the two hand sword is somehow different than the bastard sword. What sword types are they talking about?
:?:

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David Kite
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Re: Sword types in prize playing

Postby David Kite » Sun Jul 01, 2007 9:54 am

Jaron Bernstein wrote:Hi folks,

I just finished reading the Noble Science, transcribed by Herbert Berry of the Sloane manuscript 2530. It is a partial trancription of Masters Of Defense of London up to the 1590's and describes, among other things, prize playings. A few quotes raise some questions I hope can be answered here:

"William Hunt played his Maisters prize at Leden Hall with three Maisters, that is to say, Nicholas Delahaye, Robert Cook, and Peter Beste at three kinde of weapons videlicit The Longe Sworde, the Bastarde Sworde and the Dagger." (page 43).

1. Were prize playings done with the dagger alone?
2. What is the difference between the long sword and bastard sword referenced here?

It also talks about for a Provost prize that, "And he to playe at the two hand sword, the backe sword and the staffe..." (pg. 77)

For a Masters prize it says that, "at theis weapons followinge Vedelicit the two hand sword, the Baserd sword, the pike, the backe sword, and the rapier & Dagger...." (pg. 81).

This seems to suggest that the two hand sword is somehow different than the bastard sword. What sword types are they talking about?
:?:


Here's what I understand so far:

1.) Yes, the dagger seems often to have been used alone in prizes. Swetnam even suggests that two daggers were used as paired weapons against each other (p. 187, in the 2nd chapter 12 [should be 13, but evidently this was a printer's error])

2.a.) What exactly a "long sword" was to the English, I really don't know. However, it was not necessarily the same as the German Langes Schwert. Swetnam often writes of swords and short swords, so from that I infer that "sword" here is synonymous with "long sword", ie. a singe-handed weapon. Further, in chapter XI of Swetnam's book, Swetnam writes, "The first and two principall weapons are the rapier and dagger, and the staffe, the other fowre are the back sword, the single Rapier, the long sword and dagger, and the short sword and dagger. . ." So here we have "long sword" in definite contrast to "short sword", as well as having the long sword used in conjunction with a dagger, which to me certainly implies a single-handed weapon (a combination which I realize is not impossible with the German .Langes Schwert)

2.b.) What is a bastard sword here? Again referring to Swetnam's 2nd chapter 12 (13), he writes, "The Bastard Sword, the which Sword is something shorter then a long Sword, and yet longer then a Short-sword." Very ambiguous and inconclusive, I realize, but that's as far as I can explain that one.

2.c.) Now, something which I cannot answer is what is the fundamental difference in usage between a (possibly) single-handed long sword, a bastard sword, and a short sword. Apart from cut-oriented versus thrust-oriented, I have no idea, and even that would be entirely dependent on the specific specimen you had in your hand at any given time. The difference seems to be entirely one of length.

3.) The two-hand sword and bastard sword. If, given the above, a bastard sword here is intended as a single-handed weapon, then that would answer this question. But to explain a little further anyway; It is possible that a "two-hand sword" is what we would term a great sword or perhaps even the big six foot two-handers like the Swiss used. But not necessarily in this case. Silver writes, "The perfect length of your two hand sword is, the blade to be the length of the blade of your single hand sword" (Paradoxes, p 29, or page 223 of Wagner's book). So here we have a two handed sword and a single handed sword having the same blade length (which in this case negates what I just wrote above), with the only difference being the length of the grip.



What I would like to know is the difference between a sword and a back sword, other than perhaps number of edges. If that is the only difference, I don't really understand the need to teach them as two different weapons as Swetnam is careful to do.

Unfortunately, it appears that much of this vocabulary was interchangeable, and consequently very imprecise. It may not have even made too much of a difference to them what name you gave to a given weapon.

How's that? Confused? :wink:

David Kite
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Jon Pellett
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Postby Jon Pellett » Sun Jul 01, 2007 2:14 pm

Re: backsword, I've gotten the impression from my reading that backsword and two-edged sword aren't used any differently, but backsword is often used to mean single sword specifically. As in Swetnam's list of weapons used by the Masters of Defence, which includes backsword, sword and dagger, etc, but not just short sword, or backsword and dagger. Kind of like how Talhoffer will talk about messer but show a one-handed sword in the plate.

Long sword is a really tricky one. It can mean two-handed sword in English, but it also seems to refer to a long-bladed one-handed sword. It is possible that long sword can refer to more than one kind of weapon.

Cheers

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Will Adamson
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Postby Will Adamson » Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:53 pm

This is sounding like the whole Coke, pop, soda, or cola arguement. There had to be at least real regional differences in terminologies as they relate to sword typology even if we're talking about the same weapon based on the Oakeshot typology.
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Jaron Bernstein
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Re: Sword types in prize playing

Postby Jaron Bernstein » Mon Jul 02, 2007 10:39 am

2.a.) What exactly a "long sword" was to the English, I really don't know. However, it was not necessarily the same as the German Langes Schwert. Swetnam often writes of swords and short swords, so from that I infer that "sword" here is synonymous with "long sword", ie. a singe-handed weapon. Further, in chapter XI of Swetnam's book, Swetnam writes, "The first and two principall weapons are the rapier and dagger, and the staffe, the other fowre are the back sword, the single Rapier, the long sword and dagger, and the short sword and dagger. . ." So here we have "long sword" in definite contrast to "short sword", as well as having the long sword used in conjunction with a dagger, which to me certainly implies a single-handed weapon (a combination which I realize is not impossible with the German .Langes Schwert)

Maybe long sword refers to what we would now call a C&T or arming sword?

2.b.) What is a bastard sword here? Again referring to Swetnam's 2nd chapter 12 (13), he writes, "The Bastard Sword, the which Sword is something shorter then a long Sword, and yet longer then a Short-sword." Very ambiguous and inconclusive, I realize, but that's as far as I can explain that one.

I just keep getting mental images of an Albion Talhoffer or Sempach when I hear the terms....Maybe it is more the blade design (triangular) than the blade length?

2.c.) Now, something which I cannot answer is what is the fundamental difference in usage between a (possibly) single-handed long sword, a bastard sword, and a short sword. Apart from cut-oriented versus thrust-oriented, I have no idea, and even that would be entirely dependent on the specific specimen you had in your hand at any given time. The difference seems to be entirely one of length.

So why would the prize playing records be so specific about the sword types then?

3.) The two-hand sword and bastard sword. If, given the above, a bastard sword here is intended as a single-handed weapon, then that would answer this question. But to explain a little further anyway; It is possible that a "two-hand sword" is what we would term a great sword or perhaps even the big six foot two-handers like the Swiss used. But not necessarily in this case. Silver writes, "The perfect length of your two hand sword is, the blade to be the length of the blade of your single hand sword" (Paradoxes, p 29, or page 223 of Wagner's book). So here we have a two handed sword and a single handed sword having the same blade length (which in this case negates what I just wrote above), with the only difference being the length of the grip.

What I would like to know is the difference between a sword and a back sword, other than perhaps number of edges. If that is the only difference, I don't really understand the need to teach them as two different weapons as Swetnam is careful to do.

Unfortunately, it appears that much of this vocabulary was interchangeable, and consequently very imprecise. It may not have even made too much of a difference to them what name you gave to a given weapon.

How's that? Confused? :wink:

Very befuddled at the moment. Does anyone out there who has gone the Royal Armories and looked at their collections have any thoughts?

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David Kite
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Postby David Kite » Tue Jul 03, 2007 6:43 am

Jon Pellett wrote:Re: backsword, I've gotten the impression from my reading that backsword and two-edged sword aren't used any differently, but backsword is often used to mean single sword specifically. As in Swetnam's list of weapons used by the Masters of Defence, which includes backsword, sword and dagger, etc, but not just short sword, or backsword and dagger. Kind of like how Talhoffer will talk about messer but show a one-handed sword in the plate.


Hm, now that's interesting. I'd never noticed the relationship between single and paired weapons like that. Cool.

Very befuddled at the moment


Yeah, sorry about that, Jaron. It's not terribly clear to me, either. I keep my eyes open to any new information, but otherwise I've stopped worrying about the specifics of each weapon. It's about the only way I can keep my sanity. :wink:

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John_Clements
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Postby John_Clements » Wed Jul 04, 2007 11:13 am

Great questions, Jaron. The Prizings are a subject I closely explore. I am unconvinced that the dagger was a weapon used on its own in the testings. I believe it was only used there as a companion with swords (as Silver and Swetnam and others included it). The bastard sword at this time I am convinced referred to a tapering blade with a hand-and-a-half-grip, with a medium length blade. The longsword at this time I believe was what would earlier be called a great-sword (but not the true two-hander of the period). The backsword, obviously single-edged, shorter and single-handed, was likely also one with a compound or closed hilt. Interestingly, rapier is of course also mentioned as a prize weapon early as 1567.

JC
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