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Extract from Records of the Medieval Sword by Ewart Oakeshott
This type is the very quintessence of the true, age-old cut and thrust fighting sword; its form nd function goes back to the Middle Bronze ge of c.1000 B.C. Relatively light (its average weight, for is short-hilted version of Type XVIII, is about 2lbs) with enough breadth at the point of percussion (or as someone in Denmark once put it, the Optimal Striking Point) to deliver a totally effective cut, yet below this the blade tapers sharply to a very acute point, perfectly capable of a very lethal thrust. In nearly every case, too, the section is of flattened diamond form with a sharp longitudinal mid-rib, making the blade nice and stiff.
This type of blade, in steel not necessarily bronze, goes back into pre-history or very nearly. Manyo f the fine steel blade os the La Tene culture are of the form, generally about 28″ to 30″ long and about 2″ wide at the hilt (71 cmns [sic] to 76 cms, and 5.7cms. Lying on my table as aI write this is a typical Type XVIII blade from a a Spanish grave which dates from c.200-150B.C. – a typical weapon of Hannibal’s Spanish cavalry units. In the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen a Roman cavalry spatha, perhaps a century later, which is also so much a typical XVIII that it might well be taken to date c.1450 A.D. It probably would be, if came up for sale in one of the great sale-rooms without a reliable provenance attached to it.
It is perhaps curious that the form, obviously so popular in the Celtic and Roman Iron Age, went out of use in favour of the broad, flat slashing blades of Type X to XIV, form c.50 B.C. – A.D. 50 until the late 14th century of our era. I firmly believe that i was the forms and developments of defensive armour during those fourten centuries which determined the form of the sword’ blade. Once complete and effective plate armour came into general use, something difference was essential, hence Type XV, XVI, XVII and XVIII. Even so, there is a great deal of sound literary evidence in the chronicle, poem and prose history – or what , in the case of the incomparable Froissart, was historical novelism – that swords were virtually useless against a fully armoured man-at-arms. The axe, mace, hammer, pick and poll-axe became the favoured knightly weapon. Even so, the sword remained an essential, primary weapon of honour and prestige, and from the late 14th century until the mid-19th, blades of the his XVIII and XVIIIa form were the most commonly used. The type lasted perhaps longest in the broadswords of the Scottish HIghlanders, the basker-hilted so-called ‘Claymore’ of the 18th century.
There are 3 sub-types for XVIII (see diagram) because this was so useful and popular a form of sword. XVIIIa denatoes a larger XVIII with alonger blade, oftern with a 1/3 length fuller, and a long grip, while XVIIIb is a very long-ripped Bastard sword, while XVIIIc is a shorter gripped one.
THe word ‘Bastard’ sword (generally referred to in English contexts as
hand-and-half sword’ was applied in the 15th/16th centuries to these long-gripped weapons. This usage is well attested by a remark in a treatise o the 17th century by one Marc de Vulson in his Vray Theatre d’Honneur. Describing a duel fought in 1549 before Henry II of France he says of the weapons used ‘Deux epees batardes, pouvant servir a une main ou a deux (‘two bastard swords able to serve with one hand or with two.’)
Find-place: Near Nancy in France
Blade-length: 29′ (73.7 cms)
Condition: Excellent. Obviously preserved indoors, and cared for. The blade is of an unusual section, a very wide flat hexagon, for this type. INsilhouette, very like the Henry V sword.
Collection: The late Mr E. A. Christensen. Formerly Spitzer. Now Nationalmuseet, Copenhage.
Blade-length: 35 3/8′ (90cms)
Condition: Good. Not excavated. A church perhaps? The blade shows a close overall patina of largish pits, but the hilt of gilded bronze is an [sic] condition, including the shaped grip of wood bound with fine cord and covered with leather. There is a sword in the Swiss National Museum at Zurich (Inv. No. 6894) which would seem to be from the same workshop, and another similar one in Rome in the Odescalchi Collection (5.35, 196)
Publication: Hoffmeyer, Christensen and HOffmeye; Oakeshott, SAC.
Collection: Formerly in the Wilczec Collection: now ?
Blade-length: About 35″ (88.8cms)
Date: C. 1400-40
Condition: Perfect. Obviously preserved in a house or armoury. The original grip of wood, bound with fine cord and covered with leather, survives intact. There is shield of arms in the pommel, engraved – a lion rampant. ON the blade there are two Passau ‘Running Wolf’ marks, and close up under the cross, a firmly impressed stamp of a daisy or marigold-like mark.
Note; This photograph was taken over half a century ago – more like a century – when it was still in Count Wilczec’s collection. It doesn’t seem to have been seen, or noted anywhere in publication since then. But is is an absolutely perfect example of the sub-type, and a very beautiful sword into the bargain. It has been suggested that it had belonged to the empereor Albrecht II in 1438/9.
Publication: Wilczec, Count, Die Erinnerungen eines Waffen-ammlers, 1903.
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