(page 3) It is fair to say that court swords, which came into vogue during the second half of the seventeenth century, were of extraordinary merit as objects of art. They were beautiful in lines, rich and varied in ornament, designed by distinguished painters, engravers, and medallists; they furnished even a brilliant point of interest in the court circle of baroque times—giving the final touch to the personal equipment of the courtiers of the Louis in France, of the pretentious nobles who thronged Italian palaces, of the ceremonious magnates of Germany and Poland, or of the wealthy lords and commoners of England. In fact, there can be no question that as an object of personal adornment a sword of the richest type occupied a high place in the minds of many personages of those days; we have only to examine their state portraits to be convinced that this "side-arm was receiving great attention as an object of beauty. We may even infer that many a seigneur who sat for his portrait was as keenly interested recording for posterity the details of his sword hilt as the features of his face.
On the other hand, as an arm(1) the court sword had no longer the functional importance of the rapier or back-sword of the first half of the seventeenth century; it had entered a period of decadence and was becoming less a weapon than an adornment of caste (just as a scepter became the ornamental and symbolic survivor of the early military mace). From 1650 onward, as a "dress" sword, it underwent a series of changes in every direction and in every part. (page 4) For one thing, it was subject to enrichment to such a degree that its maker, the fourbisseur, could with profit not only give his own effort to produce specimens of great beauty, but pay adequate sums for the help of artists in kindred lines - designers, sculptors, goldsmiths, seal cutters, especially medallists (cf. the trade-card of about 1770 shown in fig. 1). In tracing the development of the court sword from the severely tested sword of the earlier centuries, our series is of especial value. The student will even discover that many of the present swords, beautiful as they are, have greater interest as special stages in a gamut of changes which decade by decade was dictated by fashion, manuals of fence, codes, or local taste.