One of the many things that makes Arms and Armor special is our access to historic original swords through our partnership with The Oakeshott Institute. Collected by Ewart Oakeshott in the second half of the twentieth century, this sword is in an excellent state of preservation. It apparently came out of the armory at Erbach Palace, probably sold into the private market sometime between the mid-19th century and the interwar period. This is a rather typical of swords held by feudal estates that were feeling the pinch of modernity and opted to liquidate some of their collections to pay for upkeep, think of the popular program Downton Abbey and the shifts that were putting pressure on the landed aristocracy in that period. Indeed, Erbach Palace is a perfect illustration of this. The castle, located in Odenwald, Germany is mostly a museum today, though it is still owned by the Count of Erbach, who resides in his nearby hunting lodge.
Patrimony aside, the Schloss Erbach sword is a type XVIII German longsword from the late 15th century. The sword has writhen style quillions and pommel, and a highly waisted grip of wood covered in leather. Oakeshott described the sword as "unusually broad for a type XVIIIa", which is "the very quintessence of the true, age-old cut and thrust fighting sword" (Records of the Medieval Sword, pg. 171). Weighing slightly under three pounds, with an overall length of 45" and a blade length of 36", this was a formidable weapon of war.
Though this sword has been copied by other makers, ours benefits from having direct physical access to the original. We have been able to make direct copies of the cross and pommel, which we cast with a lost-wax method for our replica. This enables us to capture the period asymmetries that are at the very heart of a sword the looks and feels just like the original. Below you can see some detailed photographs of the sword provided by the Oakeshott Institute.
In spring of 2019 Dr. Nathan Clough, Vice President of Arms and Armor and member of the board of the Oakeshott Institute was able to bring several swords, including the Schloss Erbach to the Longpoint Historical European Martial Arts tournament in Maryland, where he gave a lecture on the swords. One of the attendees actually happened to have a copy of the sword made by another maker, which allowed the original, the Arms and Armor replica, and a third party copy of our sword to be examined by the audience side by side. All agreed that the style, feel, fit and finish, and overall accuracy of our sword was far superior to the copy, and it is no wonder. This other maker only based theirs on photographs and descriptions, while ours has the benefit of constant, hands-on comparison to the actual original artifact. You can see the picture of all three below with the original in the foreground, the Arms and Armor replica in the middle, and the other copy at the far end. Note that all three are the same length, the foreshortening of the photograph is just an artifact.
If you would like to explore the original sword in even more detail please take a look at the 3D model constructed by The Oakeshott Institute research fellow Dale Utt III. Mr. Utt has developed a proprietary method of modeling swords, armor, and other shiny and difficult to photograph objects, which are available here:
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.