I offer for sale a very good example of an 1728 pattern hilted 'Bilbo' Spanish sword having a much earlier blade, signed by Royal Spanish Court swordsmith - Heinrich Col of Solingen, Germany, who is thought to have produced sword blades in Toledo from circa 1620 onwards.
Col signed his blades in either Latin or Spanish script and this blade bears the following Spanish inscription (clearly visible): "E.N.R.I.Q.V.E. (Enrique Spanish for Heinrich) C.O.E.E.L. (Col)" on one side of the blade and on the other side, "E.N. A.L.A.M.A.N.I.A." (of Germany).
At the ricasso is seen very faintly what I believe are the capital letters "H P" for Hapsburg(?) and there is an Anchor and an Eyelash stamp in the blade for Solingen(?)
The term "Bilbo" is an English speaking catch-all phrase for all Spanish swords imported from the Biscay Gulf province of Northern Spain (the region of the famous Mondragon Steel), and is a take on the Basque city of Bilbao. The two asymmetrical shell guards of the hilt make it in essence a cavalry sword (Espada de montar) for which the Spanish had a name for this type of sword "Boca de Caballo" or "horse's mouth".
This style of Spanish sword was in production and use from the late 1500's up to the late 1700's. A significant number of Bilbo swords were exported across the Atlantic to the New World and were also sold to arms merchants of most European countries, including England. The Bilbo sword was a much favoured weapon of Spanish soldiers and sailors in the New World (often used at sea instead of the Cutlass) and used by pirates of the Caribbean during the 18th century. It is said even used by American cavalry units during the Revolutionary Wars of Independence.
The steel hilt of this sword consists of two asymmetrical, plain (expect for a rebated edge), dish guards which are screwed to the inner guard of the hilt. The enclosed ricasso (bears the stamp "H P"?) is partially covered either side by two escutcheon shaped langets attaching to the Quillon Block, out of which two large rounded guard 'arms' emerge, descending and looping inside the cup-hilt.
A set of rounded, original, 'S' shaped recurved quillons sit immediately above the guard arms, these having turned and flattened finials, typical of the 1728 pattern hilt. There has been no previous attempt to straighten these quillons to give the hilt an earlier appearance as you find from time to time on other antique Bilbo sword hilts. A knuckle-guard emerges out half way along the down-turned quillon bar, the center of which is interrupted by a small ball decoration and turning lines. The knuckle-guard stops short of touching the flattened spherical pommel and bends inwards slightly. The grip is made of an unidentified yellowish wood and is in good condition, but the original leather grip cover and wire has long since gone.
The hilt is a nice tight fit with the blade, no movement.
The blade is hexagonal in cross-section and double edged measuring 1.5 inches across the blade at the ricasso. It tapers gradually along it's 36.25 inches length down to an acute thrusting point, making the sword suitable for both cutting and thrusting. The blade is in very good condition overall having a nice patina and just some pitting and areas of old stabilized corrosion along the final third of the blade. The blade still has remarkable flexibility for a blade which could be approaching 400 years old and retains a vicious cutting edge both sides. It is a quality manufactured blade.
Altogether, a very fine Spanish Bilbo or Boca de Caballo cup-hilted rapier sword, having a 1728 pattern steel hilt and an early 1600's signed Solingen or Toledo blade by Royal Cutler - Heinrich Col.
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