Unusual British Mameluke

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Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:05 am

G'day Guys,

This took my fancy recently. It caught my eye for a number of reasons. First it is simply beautiful and second it bears a close resemblance to Frederick Ponsonby's unusual sword. The sword has a recurved pipe-back blade which is 80cm long, 36mm wide with a 20cm false edge. It weighs around 900 grams. The blade has been completely covered with false Damascus etching with additional panels containing mystical symbols and curling plant shoot/comet designs. The grips are ivory and it has a large and chunky guard with attached chain. The hilt is similar to some Dutch mameluke swords. The scabbard is plain and has a 17cm opening along the back to allow the recurved sword to be drawn, similar to what you find on some Persian shamshir scabbards. Another interesting thing is that the blade has been sharpened, so it wasn't just for show. I wonder if its designer was influenced by Indian sosun pattah swords? A beautiful wootz example donated to the V & A Museum by Lord Kitchener is shown below. As is often the case there is no maker mark. The seller thought it was French, but I am convinced it is British.

The idea behind the blade design is similar to the quill-point. You get a curved cutting sword, with the point in line with the hilt for better thrusting.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Sosun Pattah V&A.jpg
Sosun Pattah V&A Museum
D480-2_002[1].jpg
Ponsonby's Sword
s-l1600[22].jpg
s-l1600[11].jpg
s-l1600[2].jpg
s-l1600[17].jpg
Last edited by Bryce on Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Matt Easton » Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:27 pm

Wow! That's a very special sword.
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Richard » Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:28 pm

Bryce
Really fantastic sword in every respect and one I’d be proud to have in my own collection. What date do you put on it?
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:43 pm

Thanks Guys,

I think it would have been made around 1820. The scabbard and blade decoration tend to suggest a pre 1821 date. There are a lot of similar pipe-back examples with the later style 1796 extended pommel hilt. Does any one have any thoughts on where this style of twirling plant shoot/comet blade design comes from? Many examples of these pipe-back blades with 1796 style hilts circa 1815-20 have this decoration, but it seems to disappear by 1821. I know Cathey and Rex posted a sword with the same style of blade etching as mine a few years ago, but their sword had a transitional 1821 style hilt (pictured below).

Cathey and Rex what conclusions did you come to on the date of your sword?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Foliage.jpg
Foliage Design
Comet.jpg
Comet Design
01-Pattern-British-Cavalry 1821-Officer's 3 bar hilt pipe back Etched with Sanskrit[1].jpg
Cathey and Rex's Sword
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Will Mathieson » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:52 am

Bryce that's an amazing sword. The comet reminds me of a cannon ball in flight.
I see the blade it etched to the point. A comet seems out of place with the floral designs but having sword in hand probably makes more sense when looking at it.
I love the blade type, yet to acquire one.
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Richard » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:35 am

Hi Bryce

I agree with your dating. As you rightly say, there are a number of swords around with this type of blade decoration including that given by the POW to Major Wright of the 10th Hussars in 1808 (see below)

As it happens, I have also just acquired the sword of Major James Bridger, 12th Light Dragoons, which he carried at Waterloo. This has very similar decoration but both sword and decoration are so well worn that its difficult to see in the photo below (fortunately the panel with his name is clear - well, just about!). This sword dates from either early 1813 or more likely 1814.

Richard
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281-1s.jpg
281-3s.jpg
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:22 pm

Very nice sword Richard,
It looks like a Prosser, is it maker marked?
On what basis do you date it as early as 1813/14? Is it because Bridger is a Major and not a Lt Colonel?
I would love to see some photos showing the rest of the blade decoration. Below is a photo of the same style of decoration on the quill-point which I think belonged to an officer of the 12thLD.

My sword came from France. The seller told me he bought it off an old man in France who wasn't a collector. The old man inherited the sword from his father, that was all he knew about it. Given that it has been sharpened, I suppose it is possible that it was captured in Battle. Mere speculation I know.

Up until now, I haven't been convinced that very many of these pipe-backs were made pre 1816.

Cheers,
Bryce
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P16707[1].jpg
Quill-point
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:08 am

G'day Will,

I don't know if it is meant to be a comet or not. I suppose it could be a canon ball.

In 1811/12 there was a particularly bright and conspicuous comet that could be easily seen with the naked eye for most of the year. It could be why all of a sudden we start seeing these "comet like" decorations showing up on sword blades. Apparently the wine vintages from that year were particularly good. It was thought that this was because of the influence of the comet on the growth of the grapes. Wines produced during this year were called comet wines and these vintages were very sought after. Maybe this also explains the curling foliage decorations as well?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Richard » Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:10 pm

Hi Bryce

I have always thought that many of these pipe-back/quill-point swords were bought by officers returning from the Peninsula in 1814. It would seem logical that they would replace uniforms and equipment after a period of warfare abroad and no doubt, being battle-hardened, they would want the latest state-of-the-art fighting blade.

I have a couple that fall into this category, Bridger's sword is one. He was commissioned Major in December 1813 (edit - 1812 !) and went out to the Peninsula a couple of months later so it is possible that he bought that sword before he went. More likely though was that he bought in 1814 after he came home and before he was commissioned Lt. Col. after Waterloo. Incidentally it does look like a Prosser but there is no name on the blade. I'll try to post better photos of the blade when I get home (I'm in Dar Es Salaam at the moment).

The second sword I am thinking dates from 1814 is the one below - this is a Prosser and marked XVI QLD. The 16th were converted to Lancers almost immediately after Waterloo so I am sure it pre-dates 1815.

Richard
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:18 am

G'day Richard,

Bridger's sword appears to be pretty convincing evidence. I found some other photos online and it looks to have exactly the same etching as my sword. Does it also have the "comet" on one side and the foliage on the other?

Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby sword335 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:20 pm

Great sword Bryce.
I have this 1796 variant which came from the Hanover Sale and which is attributed to the Duke of Cambridge. He was serving in Hanover and was appointed Viceroy in 1816. In July of that year he attended the marriage of his sister to the Duke of Gloucestershire in London and I would think that that is when he would have got the sword.
The blade etching is the same on each side with the panel of cabalistic symbols and the "comet". It is by Reddell and I've seen several similar swords by the same maker over the years.

Chris
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:40 pm

G'day Chris,
Is there any chance you can post a shot of the Signature panel on the blade spine?
Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:23 am

G'day Guys,

Turns out this blade decoration must be as common as anything. Just saw a 1796 hilted example with exactly the same etching as mine (although very worn) for sale on ebay!

Cheers,
Bryce
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s-l1600[12].jpg
s-l1600[2].jpg
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby sword335 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:49 am

Here we are, Bryce.

Chris.
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Tue Jan 30, 2018 3:16 am

Thanks Chris,

On the topic of dating these "comet" decorated pipe-backs, I am now completely convinced they were being made prior to 1815. Apart from Richard's examples, there are several examples on the net which are marked "G S Reddell 47 Piccadilly,
Sword Cutler to the Prince Regent....". This must be the period 1811-1813 as he was definitely at 236 Piccadilly by 1814 and a fellow called William King was at 47 Piccadilly in 1810.

If this decoration is related to the Great Comet of 1811, this is exactly the period when you would expect it to become popular.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Re: Unusual British Mameluke

Postby Bryce » Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:19 am

G'day Guys,

Thought I would post a pic of the mameluke beside my 1796 quill point to give you a better idea of its dimensions and construction.

Cheers,
Bryce
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Yataghan Quillpoint small.jpg
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