(page 8) A variation of the typical hilt is the "pillow" sword, a small and convenient weapon. In this hilt (fig. 2) two short quillons are present, sometimes with a guard, but never with knuckle defense. The quillons often tend to droop towards the blade, their tips sometimes rotating.
The blade of a typical court sword is three-edged, with the edges arranged in the form of a T, the top of the T being the left side of the blade, the right side bearing a high supporting ridge. In cases where the blade is of colechimarde form (where the basal blade, or forte, is wide and joins the narrow apical part, or foible [feeble], with an abrupt shoulder), it is assumed that the right side (the head of the T) will be grooved as though the third edge had been embossed from the right side. In some cases, especially of early court and " pillow " swords, the blade is two-edged, usually with a median flattening, giving in cross-section a flattened hexagon. The edges are convex ground. The median flat portion is often grooved, especially in the forte, the groove sometimes being so wide as to include the entire flattened region.
In the following descriptions the terms "right" and "left" are determined as follows : hold the sword point upward - knuckle guard, therefore, in front of you; the sides of the sword become then right or left. "Anterior" indicates the direction of the knuckle guard, posterior "that of the quillon. "Proximal" is in the direction of the pommel, "distal" in the direction of the point of the blade. Thus the tang is the proximal element of the blade; the button is the proximal element of the pommel; the guard is the distal element of the hilt.
Scabbards of court swords vary considerably in material. Shagreen, of ray- or sharkskin, smoothed and dyed, is often used; also parchment, calfskin, morocco. This is usually applied over a thin wooden foundation. There are several methods of suspension. In one the sword is secured (page 9) by straps or chains, one of them attached to a ring near the mouth of the scabbard; the other, distal, at about a third of its length. In a second method of Suspension the entire scabbard is passed through a leather or cloth sling
(figs. 3-5), retaining its position by means of hook, button, or toggle at the top of the scabbard. The latter method occurs commonly in hunting swords. These two methods are hereafter designated as "double ring" and or "button" suspension respectively. A third method was by an adjustable metal hanger
(fig. 6) attached to the belt and provided with a spring catch or " snap " to fit a tube at the back of the scabbard. This device does not appear in any scabbard in the present collection. Examples of the various types of sword carriers are figured on pp. 58-62, 83-86.
In describing the scabbard use has been made of the term "front," as opposed to "back" meaning the side visible when worn, i.e., covering the right side of the sword.
In silver hilts hail marks usually appear. In the case of French court swords they are apt to occur on the left side of the anterior pas d'âne, showing:
1. Date letter. This was usually a Roman letter crowned, and was used in Paris and the provinces as the stamp of the maison commune or guild. As the letter was changed each year, following with a few exceptions an alphabetical order, this punch in connection with another indicating the series gives the date. The date letter was in use until 1783-1784.
2. Maker's mark. This mark usually consisted of the maker's initials with some device. Two dots above the initials indicate a Paris maker. The most common device found on French swords is a crowned dagger with the initials and the two dots already noted
(page 10) 3. Tax collector's stamps. Two were used, although not necessarily together.
(1) The mark of charge, showing liability to the tax. French towns were grouped under centers of jurisdiction for the tax, and thus grouped were given mint letters. The letter A was used for Paris.
(2) The mark of discharge, showing the tax had been paid. This mark varied with the successive tax collectors. Stamps of the Paris collectors most common on the present swords are those of Jean Jacques Prevost (1762-68), Julien Alaterre (1768-74), Jean-Baptiste Fouache (1774-80), and Henri Clavel (1780-89).
4. Town mark, if provincial work.
5. Recense or verification mark. After the outbreak of the Revolution fl 1789 and the abolition of all taxes, there was no government supervision of gold or silver. In 1797 new marks were devised, and different punches. Each maker's mark consisted of a lozenge containing initials and a symbol. Government standard punches were uniform throughout the republic, with a particular sign or number added for each departmental office. Old plate offered for sale, whether it bore other silver marks or not, was to have a government verification or recense mark. The eagle's head, a recense mark made in accordance with the decree of 1803, is the one most commonly found on these swords.
On German and Dutch swords are usually found the town and maker's marks.
English swords usually bear several or all of the following marks
a) Date letter.
b) Maker's mark.
c) Standard mark (quality of the metal).
d) Government assay mark.
e) Town mark.
In the present catalogue the metric system has been used for dimensions and weight. Length (L.), in centimeters, is recorded over all (from top of pommel to tip of blade), with length of blade indicated in parenthesis. Weight (Wt.) is in grammes. The numerals at the left of the page denote the inventory number.