The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Gunner's instruments
  • Gunner's instruments
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany
  • early 17th century
  • Gold, copper alloy, steel and pink mastic, engraved
  • A1246
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Collection of gunner's instruments, consisting of eighteen pieces belonging to at least three different sets. Instruments of this kind formed part of the furniture of a master-gunner's sword and were carried in pockets in the sheath; one such is in Hessisches Museum at Darmstadt.

    A-H are the work of the Trechsler family of Dresden and bear cherubs' heads and similar engraving. I and J may belong to another set, as in each case the index is terminated by horizontal mouldings instead of a cherub's head. K-N are more finely engraved, and R bears a maker's mark of a key.

    A. Square or Quadrant. In the form of a right-angled triangle. Near the upper angle is pivoted a pointer with the index formed as a cherub's head. This works in conjunction with a scale graduated from 1 to 15, the spaces narrowing as the numbers rise. Below this scale is a shallow groove which may originally have been filled with a coloured mastic (cf. D). The whole is of gilt brass, the face being engraved with a landscape, in the foreground of which a soldier is firing a mortar, with a shell bursting over a town in the bottom angle. Below this is engraved the signature:

    1. 6 . A . T. F. D (reversed). 20

    This may be interpreted as Abraham Trechsler Fecit Dresden 1620. On the reverse side is a battle-scene with a gunner discharging a cannon in the foreground.

    Abraham Trechsler, or Drechsler, was a member of a numerous family of gunmakers working for the Elector of Saxony at Dresden in the late 16th and 17th centuries (see the work of Christoph Trechsler, or Drechsler, Nos. A1087-8, and B and D below). Other members of the family were Abraham, Anton, Balthasar and Lorenz. A wheel-lock pistol by Christoph Trechsler was sold at Christie's, 2 June, 1959, lot 189, collection of James Christie.

    B. Gunner's Rule and Level. The scale is of rectangular section and slightly tapering. It is calibrated on three sides to show the weight in pounds of iron, lead and stone shot, respectively, the fourth side being an inch rule. To the thicker end, which is shaped to sit on the breech of a cannon is attached a small index ending in a winged cherub's head; the scale is calibrated: 12, 8, 4, 0, 4, 8, 12. The whole is of gilt brass. On the front is engraved the signature:

    C . T . D . E . M .

    interpreted by Stöcklein (Thieme-Becker, Künstler-lexikon) as Christoph Trechsler (Drechsler) der Elter Macht or by others, Christoph Trechsler Dresden Electoralis Mechanicus.

    A pair of compasses dated 1617 in the Rosenheim sale (Sotheby's, 11 May, 1923, lot 347) bore the same signature. A level, signed: C.T.M., and dated 1605, was lent by Lady Margaret Watney to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 1938. A similar rule is illustrated in W. Dilich, Kreisbuch, Cassel 1607-8, pls. R - S.

    C. Gunner's Rule and Level. A smaller version of B, but lacking the quadrant, in place of which it is finished with a cherub's head. It is calibrated for lead, iron, brass and pewter shot. Scale in pounds and half ounces.

    D Dividers. Gilt brass with steel points chased and engraved in the form of a scroll surmounted by a cherub. Signed on the inner side of one arm:

    C . T . D . E . M .

    on the other the date:
    . 1617 .

    See note under B, above, but differing in decoration.

    E. Rod of round section and slightly tapering, grooved along its whole length and filled with a pink mastic. The rod finishes at the top in a handle of square section, to one side of which is applied an ornament in the form of a scroll surmounted with a cherub's head.

    F, G, H. Three Steel Rods with corkscrew ends, and handles shaped like the letter D.

    I. Level. Shaped at the base to stand on the breech of a cannon, and fitted with a vertical slide; in the lower part are pierced three fine holes arranged one above the other, while to the upper part is pivoted an index or pendulum. The slide is backed by an upright member, the right side of which is engraved with a scale graduated in main divisions 1/4 inch wide, each having four sub-divisions, the main divisions being numbered 16, 12, 8, 4. The whole is of gilt brass, the front engraved with a flowing design of foliage. F matches E. G and H form a pair. According to Joseph Furttenbach these were used to loosen powder encrusted in the touch-hole (Beschreibung einer neuer Buschenmeisterey, Ulm 1627, pl. 29B).

    Examples of gunner's levels can be seen in the British Museum, at Darmstadt, Dresden, and in the Louvre, Paris. Several, including one by Trechsler, were in the Rosenheim Collection (sold Sotheby's, 1923, lots 389-93). One by Ulrich Kleiber, dated 1575, was sold at Sotheby's, 17 November, 1938, lot 26. Cf. Sir Sibbald D. Scott, The British Army, vol. II, p. 248, Pl. 20.

    J. Quadrant or Protractor. In the form of a semi-circle, graduated in degrees. In the middle of the base is a round hole. At the top is pivoted plumb-line a pointer.

    K. Pair of Compasses. Of gilt brass finely engraved with foliage and furnished with steel points. One leg is detachable and is held by a screw. This piece bears a mark of a small Gothic letter r. Into this fit five other pieces. These are:

    L. A fine Knife; M. O. & P. three legs probably all to hold a pencil; N. Another leg for ink.

    Q. Sliding Scale forming part of an instrument which is missing. Graduated in inches up to 11. In the centre is a groove which has originally been filled with a coloured pigment.

    R. Double ended steel drawing pen.

    German, early 17th century

    L' Architecture, No. 46 (16 November, 1912), p. 399, figs. 1 and 2.

    Previously included in the Catalogue of Furniture and Objects of Art, 1920, nos. III J 513-30.

    Furttenbach, loc. cit., illustrates a comparable set of instruments clearly meant for a trouse or a sword sheath. C. Blair discusses a similar series at Waddesdon Manor (1974, nos. 221-2). A somewhat similar set signed by Christoff Treschler the Elder, is in the sheath of the so-called 'Admiral's sword' at Rosenborg, Copenhagen (Hoff, Schepelern & Boesen, 1956, no. 9, pls. 10-11). A level signed C.T.M. and dated 1608 was sold at Sotheby's, 8 December 1969, lot 19. Two prickers, a calibre measure, and a level signed CTDEM and dated 1619 are in the Musée du Louvre (inv. no. P282), while another gunner's level with the same signature and date is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (no. 2076.1855).