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December sale curiosity...
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December sale curiosity...

A quick glance and its a flintlock pistol but very quickly there's something odd.... no barrel.
This is called a Pistol Eprouvette. As long as there has been gunpowder there has been a need to test it. For a long time it was by observation but this was inconsistent... and dangerous. 
In an book published in 1587 by William Bourne, printed in London entitled Rare Inventions and Strange Devises Very Necessary for all Generalles and Captaines a mechanical device is described which is thought to be the first tester. 

In 1627 Johann Furttenbach described a better tester in his Halinitro-Pyrobolia, printed in Ulm, Germany and, in 1647, Nye published designs improving on the Furttenbach. These designs relied on a charge pushing a weight up a tube with a ratchet to measure height obtained and therefore strength. Nye also describes another design ~ a mortar Eprouvette which was claimed by Louis XIV of France in 1686, where a mortar fires a weight into a bank of clay, and the depth of penetration measured.

While there were several other designs involving pendulums and so forth, it was a combination of the above that created the Pistol Eprouvette which was in use until the late 19th century. In this, a specific amount of charge was placed in the test chamber and some in the flash-pan.

The frizzen was lowered and the test chamber closed, the hammer cocked fully.


Then the trigger pulled, the stronger the powder the more ratchet teeth would be passed as it flew open. It was safe and required no particular skill to operate, providing a dependable test indoors or out and easily transportable.

We have such an item in our forthcoming timed auction which has well over 300 lots. The catalogue will soon be on the-saleroom.com and our own website. You can view in person by appointment from 7th to 11th December and the bidding will open on the 2nd December and start closing on the 13th.

Anyone with items for sale can make an appointment to see us on weekdays, give us a call or send us an email, one of our valuers will be happy to help. Find out more.

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