S&SWM PR papers L1811

L1811 first drawing  copyright S&SWM PR papers Ethnographical Department | (Pitt Rivers Collection) | University Museum | Oxford. | 30.4.97

Dear General Pitt Rivers

Dr. Tylor has sent me in a letter which he received from you relating to your series illustrating the peculiarities and distribution of the Kopis blade. I am writing in answer to this as I am solely responsible for the disposition and arrangement of the specimens in this Museum. After the death of Professor Moseley, the original Curator of the collection, whose assistant I had been, the University appointed me to the Curatorship and I therefore have the entire control over the Ethnographical Department, which is your own magnificent collection together with the Ethnographical additions to it, which are I am glad to say numerous. I mention this because I do not think that you are aware of it as you seem to think that Dr Tylor is the official head, which is not so. Dr. Tylor is Professor of Anthropology whereas I have charge of the Ethnographical Museum, just as Ray Lankester has change of the Zoological Department etc. I am therefore entirely responsible for the whole of the arrangement & am glad of the responsibility, as I am devoting my whole time to the progress of the collection so magnificently presented by you to the University.

Now as regards the kopis blade ... Let me hasten to assure you that that series is absolutely intact, its component specimens have never been distributed, and it is and always has been arranged according to your own original disposition. Beginning with the symmetrical bronze leaf shaped blade, the Almedinilla sword is next to it & there follow the Kukri, yataghan, flissa & Indian swords of similar shape. The drawings (4) from Greek vases etc are all exhibited by their side, & your own map shewing distribution is there also. The whole series is demarkated [sic] and labelled as a distinct whole. I have in fact from the beginning seen the importance of this series & shall always keep it together. I have added drawings to it, and widened the geographical distribution by the inclusion of a Chinese knife [arrow pointing to drawing] (or as I believe it to be a Malayan one) I have added a sketch of the iron sword from Praeneste. I have the series arranged next to that comprising the "flamboyant" blades as the latter in their single edged form approach so nearly to the "kopis" shape. [3 drawings 2 captioned Swiss lake bronze and 1 captioned French bayonet] e.g. the forms sketched here, which have edges of similar shape to that of "Kopis".

L1811 second drawing  copyright S&SWM PR papers As regards the name, in view of the doubts which have been expressed as to the use of "Kopis" to designate this type of blade, I have thought that it might be better to adopt a general and purely descriptive term, and as the peculiarity of the edge of typical "Kopis" blades is to present a combination of concave and convex elements or curves [Drawing] it has occurred to me that it would perhaps be desirable to class these blades as "OGEE-EDGED BLADES", not of course to be confounded with the "ogee-section blades" of which of course I have maintained the series in your collection. Hitherto I have kept to your name of "Kopis", but should be very glad to hear what you think of the name which I suggest & which seems to meet the difficulty. The whole subject is one of great interest to me, and the continuous distribution of the "Kopis" blade is, I consider, a matter of great Ethnographical importance.

I have examined the Halstatt  period finds in the Museums of Vienna and of Sarajevo in Bosnia & see how closely the "Kopis" shape is identified with that period. I have omitted to say that the description of the "kopis" series from your catalogue is fixed up by the side of the series so that everyone may read it.

I hope that my paper (a copy of which I sent you) describing a very interesting Assyrian composite bow, was of interest to you. I have given this bow with its arrows & also an Egyptian bow & arrows to the Museum and it now forms part of your series of composite bows. I regard it as a very important find & was delighted to have the opportunity of describing it and of purchasing the whole equipment.

I am very glad to hear that you have a new volume of excavations ready, especially as it relates to bronze age entrenchments, it will be a most important addition to our knowledge. I am very sorry to learn that you have again been in poor health & hope soon to hear a better account.

If at any time you should wish to know anything relating to your collection I shall always be very pleased to tell you what has been or is being done. Much progress has been effected & the Museum is greatly appreciated by all who visit it.

Yrs very truly
Henry Balfour

Transcribed by AP for Rethinking Pitt-Rivers project June 2011

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