By Joe (the) Smith
Joe (the) Smith received a letter from the Tower of London Museum, which is of interest. It confirms the approximate date we have for the basket-hilt in the article in our Manual which was based upon one of the books recommended (Wallace).
"The early development of the "Scottish" basket hilt is far from clear. I am not sure what you will already have read, but probably the 3 most important publications are:
G.E. Whitelaw (Ed. Sarah Barter), Scottish Arms Makers..., Arms and Armour Press, 1977.
John Wallace, Scottish Swords and Dirks, Arms and Armour Press, 1970.
Claude Blair, The Early Basket-hilt in Britain, in D H CaIdwelI (Ed.), Scottish Weapons and Fortifications, John Donald Ltd., 1981.
"From Blair’s work it appears that a frontally symmetrical basket-hilt, containing all the essential elements, had emerged by about 1560, and possibly as early as c. 1540. A key early example, dated by Blair to 1560-70(’?), is now in our collections and is on display in the infantry case in our Renaissance Armoury (Inc. # IX.2574). Unfortunately, the evidence is inconclusive as to whether the basket-hilt first appeared in England, or Scotland. For several of the antecedents in the typological development constructed by Blair, the evidence points to England, but we have no examples of basket-hilts in Scottish portraits before the J M Wright portrait to which you refer. In the early 17th century, if not before, the "Scottish" form of basket was regarded in England as being of Highland Scots origin. The term used for it, "Irish hilt", was almost certainly the English equivalent of the Scottish "Highland hilt", first noted in 1576. There is thus good reason for thinking that the basket guard was in use in Scotland by c. 1570 at the latest, though absolutely no certain evidence has been noted earlier than 1617.’ (Blair, p. 188.)"
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