Even in similar manner the blade of the court sword followed a line of special or decadent changes. Since it was seldom used, it became little less than a symbol of potency, shrinking in length and breadth, attaining in the end a delicate lance-like form whose use suggested rather the fingers of a surgeon than the wrist of a fencer. In similar manner may be traced in the present objects a gradation in the ornaments of the hilt which were dictated by time and country and which in the end provide data for the specialist who would classify court swords as he would stuffs, coins, or porcelains. (page 5) Thus, among numerous varieties, he may pick out at a glance the blued and ajouré steel hilts of the Restoration; the knuckle guards of the time of William and Mary; the "Tonkin" swords (made, as Mr. Reubell notes, in Peking) in the fashion of eighteenth- century chinoiserie, French, Dutch, and English; the porcelain hilts of Saxony; bronze-gilt bulbous grips common in German courts of 1750-1780; the graceful rococo hilts of the epoch of Louis XV, which became standardized to such a degree that even (page 6) a great expert is today hardly able to distinguish the French from the Italian, from the Spanish, even from the Northern fashions; the delicate cut steel and beaded hilts of the English, some studded with enamel or Wedgwood; the delicate hilts of Spain of 1820, minuscule, the grip delicately plated with nacre, ajouré in patterns like the filmy blade of a fan-and hardly more serviceable, for one imagines how they would have crumbled to pieces in the strong hand of a seventeenth-century duelist!
The relations of early 'court swords, one to the other, may best be explained by means of a diagram (fig. 2) which includes the modifications of forms from the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth, as shown in the hilt. In similar manner the sequence in blades might be worked out, although this is the more difficult problem; for one reason, the blades of court swords in their many varieties have frequently been transposed, even during the eighteenth century, and we have yet to study the dates of certain types.
Concerning the history of hunting swords a brief reference is given on p. 65.
In the present descriptions of court swords attention is called to the variations from the usual hilt, shown for example in Plate XI. In such a hilt(1) the pommel, an ovoid or spherical element, has a vase-like base and a button-shaped terminal as a support for the swaged-out tip of the blade's tang. The guard is bilobate with slightly raised rim. The ricasso is rounded, rectangular in section, joining the guard with a rectangular molding. The pas d'âne is functional, the loops joining the guard either at or slightly within its border. A single quillon is present with flattened rounded enlarged end which droops towards the blade and turns slightly towards the right. The knuckle guard, which extends to the pommel, is round in section at its extremities, but in its middle region flattened and enlarged. The grip contains a wooden core, is elliptical in section, tapering with approximate symmetry from middle to ends: it is enclosed in a wire binding held in place at the ends by braided wire ferrules, like turbans, and known as "Turks' heads." These consist of braided grommets of wire, formed each of three flat bands of several individual strands of single or, more often, of braided or twisted wire.
(1)In earlier swords, even when complicated guards are present, the hilt is made up of but three separate elements—grip, pommel, and guard, the last including knuckle guard, quillons, and guard. The ricasso as a separate element does not exist save, in cases, as a short leather binding.