Early Form Basilard / Baselard Dagger Oct 24, 2013 13:55:45 GMT
Post by Jack Loomes on Oct 24, 2013 13:55:45 GMT
Object ID DA 02.1
Object Name Basilard Dagger
L-14.625 W-4.0 inches
Early Date 1325
Late Date 1425
The Basilard Dagger first appears at the end of the 13th C and is a very distinctive and very early form of dagger. It appears that it was initially developed in the Swiss area and early works attribute the name of Basilard as indicating it's origin in Basel, Switzerland. The Basilard is one of the earliest and principal orders of European daggers. In its initial and earliest form it is rarely found in other than excavated examples. However it is frequently seen in early paintings and tomb effigies and was a weapon of favored usage throughout Europe by knights and persons of noble rank. A very simple and basic form, it is ideally suited for fighting purposes and would have been a relatively easy form for early smiths to fabricate. Although normally of large fighting dagger size, some examples are known which were of short sword length. Bashford Dean in his monumental work "European Daggers" a study of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, felt that the basilard was the predecessor of the swiss dagger style. However later scholarly study of swiss daggers by Hugo Schneider of Zurich would indicate that the earliest swiss dagger forms actually began in 1250 and preceded the basilard. Hence we may conclude that the basilard is a separate and distinct style with its origin in the area of Basel.
The Basilard Dagger is distinguished by a hilt with a wide straight and horizontal pommel with a cross ensuite with the pommel resembling a horizontally elongated H in form. The pommel, grip, cross and blade of the dagger are made in one piece. The pommel top, grip, and cross then have plates of bone, wood or other material attached by rivets to fill them out with a rounded form. In its earliest form the added plates are almost always missing but their form can be seen in ancient manuscripts and on tomb effigies.
As the Basilard evolved the form of the grip itself changed from a uniform width to one that starts to flare as it meets the bottom of the pommel top and again at the top of the cross. In the earliest form the pommel bar is as wide or even wider than the cross bar.
This example of a Basilard Dagger is a fine robust example of the earliest and purest form of Basilard. Forged entirely of one piece it is 14 9/16" long. The hilt is of the early horizontally elongated H form. The top pommel bar is 4 1/16" wide, 3/8" high and about 1/8" thick. The flat grip is about 4" long, 11/16" wide, and about 1/8" thick. The grip area has two thin flat plates of lighter silvery color (probably tin) still attached and which were the liner or base plate for the grip plate material. It appears that this was a normal manufacture method as the same liner material is found on a 14th C example in the Metropolitan Museum. See the reference material below. The hilt cross is 3 5/8" wide, about 3/8" high and 1/8" thick. The top pommel bar has holes at each end and at the center to attach the grip plate material which most frequently was bone or wood. Three more holes are spaced along the grip to attach the grip plates and 3 again on the bottom cross bar for the same purpose. The center attachment pin to attach the cross bar plate material to the lower cross bar is still on the dagger. It appears to be of iron, and the length would indicate an original grip thickness with attached scales of about 5/8".
The blade is of fine flattened diamond shape. It is 9 3/4" long, 2 7/16" wide at the hilt and tapering evenly to about 1 16" wide 5" below the hilt and then with an slightly increasing taper to the point.
Although appearing clearly to be an excavated piece all portions of the dagger are intact, the blade edge is sharp and intact and the surface is only moderately pitted.
An almost identical example is pictured and described in " A Record of European Armour and Arms" by Sir Guy Francis Laking, in volume III at page 10, plate 748. This dagger which was in the collection of Sir Guy Francis Laking at the time, is described as having been found in Germany near Frankfort-on-Main and is dated by Laking as early 15th C but manuscript, painting and effigy records would more probably indicate a 14th C date for this early form of Basilard Dagger. See volume II, page 60 where in a section on helmets, an illuminated manuscript in the British Museum, Royal MSS, E ix, fol. 21, shows a clear representation of this Basilard dagger hilt form in an address from the town of Prato in Tuscany to Robert of Anjou, dated about 1335-40.
Another very similar example, of almost identical size and one of the few with the horn hilt plates still attached is pictured and described in Bashford Dean's "Catalogue of European Daggers" of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The dagger is described at page 26 as Basilard 2, and pictured on plate 1. The description describes the same type of separation plate between the grip metal and the grip material of bone and describes it as tin or possibly lead. The same liner material is on our example and from the hardness of the material it would appear that it is tin. Bashfully Dean on page 24 shows a drawing of a 14to
C. wooden statuette from St Lorenz Church in Vienna with an almost identical form of Basilard dagger hilt. He also shows 2 almost identical forms from an undated painting by Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437) at Yale University. Other examples with somewhat more flaring grips are shown on page 24 from paintings and brasses with contemporary dates of 1360 to 1391.
See also "Waffen im Schweizerischen Landmuseum, Griffwaffen I" by Hugo Schneider. The only true basilards shown are two damaged excavated examples as page 206 as # 377 and 378 with similar cross bars but not as wide and which are dated early 14th C. In particular note that #378 again clearly shows that it had the same tin lining plate along the tang area found in our example. This same volume shows a number of illustrations of early swiss dagger styles which precede the basilard in time of development and which seem to establish that the basilard is a separate and distinct style and not the predecessor of the swiss dagger.