33 GEORGE SQUARE, EDINBURGH, 18th June 1884.
MY DEAR LORD ARCHIBALD,– It was not in my power to get to the Museum till yesterday, when I carefully examined the lately discovered sword. That it is in its original condition there can be no doubt. As little doubt can there be that the style of the hilt a form of basket considerably earlier than that with which we are familiar on Highland broadswords is in perfect accordance with the date engraved on the blade; or that that date, with the Argyll and Lorne achievement, and the device and legend also engraved thereon, are contemporaneous with the fabrication of the weapon.
You may assure Lord Lorne that the shield is all right,– 1st and 4th, gyronny of eight; 2d and 3d, lymphad.
With regard to the device on the reverse of the blade,– taken in connection with the legend, which, though much effaced, may be read, “God’s strength and the nations,”– I am inclined to think it is meant to represent a hand holding, not a dagger, but a sword, erect– a “sword of the Lord and of Gideon” emblem! The armourer’s mark on the blade is not Eastern; and your first impression that the inscription was Arabic was no doubt due to the defective rendering obtained by a rubbing.
The extreme rarity of armorial bearings on Scottish, and especially on Highland weapons, fully warrants the inference that this sword was made for some personage of note; and I am not prepared to say that in assuming that it belonged to the Earl of Argyll of the period, you would overstrain the significance of the fact that it is engraved with the full heraldic achievement of his house.
From Dr Anderson I learnt that many years ago a number of old swords were presented to the Society of Antiquaries by the Town Council of Edinburgh, but that it is no longer possible to identify the weapons so presented. Could it be proved that this sword was one of these, an important link in its history would be supplied. The circumstances connected with the end of Archibald, the ninth earl, would rather lead to than discourage the impression that it might have been the sword of that ill-fated nobleman, taken possession of by the civil authorities here.
Yesterday I met Ian Islay in Princes Street, and told him of the sword, which he promised to go and see to-day. You may probably hear from him in regard to it. I send this memorandum to you, as you requested, so that you may make such use of it as you may deem advisable. In very great haste.– Faithfully yours,