This sword is a rare survival from the medieval world. The surface of the blade was until recently untouched and retains a deep blue-black patina through which the grain of the metal can still be seen with the naked eye. A few important details can be deciphered from the inscription which confirms that this was donated in the name of al-Mu’ayyad Sayf al-Din Shaykh, who ruled Mamluk Egypt from 1412 until 1421. The blade also has a maker’s mark which takes the form of inlaid concentric circles. This maker’s mark is similar to a circular mark engraved on a blade dating to the late 14th century also from the Alexandria Armoury which sold in these Rooms, 12 December 1997, lot 263.
Our sword, together with other known examples, were produced in Europe during the 14th and early 15th century during the Crusades. The copper-inlaid cross on the pommel of our sword says something about its original owner. It has been suggested that a large number of swords were captured by the Mamluk forces following the sack of Alexandria by King Peter I, the Lusignan ruler of Cyprus and Jerusalem in 1365. Following the Ottoman annexation of Mamluk Egypt, many of these swords found their way to the Ottoman armoury which was housed in the former Byzantine Church of St. Eirene. According to an article written by David Oliver our sword then remained untouched in the armoury of St. Eirene for several centuries until Dr. Bashford Dean, the first curator of Arms and Armour department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art traveled to Istanbul and purchased it directly from the armoury in 1920. Dean then apparently gave this sword to his prodigy Stephen Granscay who replaced him as the curator in the Arms and Armour department where he remained until his death in 1980 (David Oliver, ‘A newly discovered Alexandria Arsenal sword’, in London Park Lane Arms Fair, Spring 2013, pp.15-17).
Ludvik Kalus, in his seminal publication on Alexandria Arsenal swords, recorded 15 swords which carry donor inscriptions dedicated to the Mamluk ruler al-Mu’ayyad (Ludvik Kalus, 'Donations pieuses d'épées médiévales à l'Arsenal d'Alexandrie', Revue des Etudes Islamiques, vol.l, 1982, publ.1991, pp pp.52 -64). The inscription on our sword is slightly worn in comparison to the other swords listed by Kalus, which is probably due to the surface corrosion which has removed some of the crispness of the chiselled outlines of the letters. Another sword from the Alexandria Armoury was sold in these Rooms, 13 April 2010, lot 60.