Part 10 - Historical vs Modern Weaves
by Lord Thomas the Black




             Welcome back for another month of Blackmaille! Last month I wrapped up the last of the technical basics of mail with the "Tips and Tricks" article. This month, I wanted to address something very important to most re-enactors and re-creationists: authenticity. There is a lot of debate going on right now on the internet about which mail weaves are the most period-correct and which aren't. I've decided to use this month's edition to set the record straight.

 Period                                     Maybe, maybe not                    Not

European 4-in-1                      Byzantine                                      Box

European 6-in-1                      Spiral                                            Trizantine

Half-persian 4-in-1                                                                       King's mail

Japanese 4-in-1                                                                            8-in-1

Japanese 6-in-1                                                                            12-in-1

                                                                                                    Any other X-in-1

            There are many different weaves out there, and many seem to be period-looking styles, or similar to them. European 6-in-1, 8-in-1, 12-in-1, or whatever all seem to be reasonable extrapolations of the European 4-in-1 pattern, but almost without exception they are all modern weaves. Of the X-in-1 family, only 4-in-1 and (to a much lesser extent) 6-in-1 are actual medieval weaves. "Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight" by Edge and Paddock shows an effigy of a knight with what seems to be 6-in-1 maille around the collar, and there are several other similar effigies as well. Enough to imply that this was not the artist's misconception of a 4-in-1 pattern, but not enough to suggest that this was a common weave. There is some speculation that a few individual armorers may have experimented with 8-in-1 or heavier weaves following the battle of Agincourt (supposedly to protect against the English longbow), but as maille was already giving way to full plate armor by this time, this is highly unlikely. I have seen no surviving evidence to suggest otherwise. "King's mail" or doubled 4-in-1 (8-in-2) is subject to similar speculation. No evidence of doubled 4-in-1 maille survives to this day, and the general consensus is that "king's mail" is most likely a misinterpretation of some period illustrations (whose painters may not have been as familiar with mail as their subjects).

            The jewelry weaves are much the same story, but worse, as one is period, and two may be, leading to even more confusion. The "Persian" weave, for example, is a modern weave, but the "Half-persian" weave is period (many examples of chains-of-state woven in this pattern survive today), but has a non-period name. There is much debate over the "byzantine" weave, with lots of bickering (but not much real evidence) thrown up by both sides. As the box pattern is a modern weave, and the byzantine seems to be a variation of that, I'd have to say that it, too is a modern weave. If evidence is brought forth proving otherwise, I'll move it to the "Period" column then. The "trizantine" weave, which is an extrapolation of the byzantine, but with an extra ring in each set, is without a doubt a modern weave, having been developed only a few years ago.

            The "spiral" pattern falls into this same category. There's been debate (bickering, conflict, whatever) by both sides as to whether spiral is a period weave or not. The most convincing argument I've heard rests in spiral's flexibility. One can remove 3 out of every 4 rings from the weave and still have a simple 2-in-1 chain left. If the pattern was woven of gold rings, then the spiral chain becomes a sort of money-belt. One can simply remove however many gold rings they wish, to pay for goods and services, and still have a wearable chain. Still, as plausible as this sounds, there remains no evidence to suggest that this was a common practice, and spiral remains in the "maybe" column.

            I hesitate to delve into the Japanese weaves, as I confess, I haven't done as much research into Japanese arms and armor as others have, and am therefore not as familiar with the names and terminology as I should be. For this, I apologize if I get some things wrong. That being said, the period Japanese mail patterns include so-gusari (sometimes referred to as Japanese 4-in-1), which forms a square design, Asa no ha gusari (Japanese 6-in-1 or hana gusari), which forms octagonal designs, and nanban gusari, which in reality is the same weave as European 4-in-1, but hung 90 degrees from its usual orientation. It is believed that nanban gusari was brought to Japan by Dutch traders, and was named after the Port of Nanban in the south of Japan, where the Dutch landed. Lord Takahara Otoshi, who has done way more research into Japanese Armor than I could ever hope to, tells me that these are the most common names for these weaves, and refer to rings made with only a single turn each (Japanese mail was constructed of rings similar to split rings, like on key chains). He told me that mail made from rings of two, three, or more turns each have different names, even if the pattern remains the same. I will go into more depth on Japanese mail in a future article.

            To wrap up, there are relatively few weaves of mail found in period. They used what worked, and stuck to it for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Most weaves seen nowadays are the result of mail's relatively recent resurgence in popularity. There are some lovely patterns out there, but sadly, they are best avoided if one wishes to be historically accurate.

            If anyone out there has any documentation proving the existence of spiral or byzantine in period, or if any of you have any mail-related questions, please send them to me at:

                                    c/o Tom Beckett
                                    6112 E 126th St, Apt 104
                                    Grandview, MO 64030

            Thanks for joining me for another month! See you all for next month's column!



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