Rock Island Auction Company is proud to offer the finest known cased silver mounted flintlock dueling pistol set, the masterpiece made by London's most notable, greatest gunmakers, John Manton. This set has been the centerpiece to iconic firearm collections for decades and has been well-documented during that time. The beautiful and magnificent craftsmanship demands admiration, and the set was certainly a presentation piece presented to a high ranking member of British society but unfortunately the name has been lost to time. The 10 inch octagon barrels feature rifling, are signed "MANTON LONDON" in gold on the top flat, and have gold breech bands and gold touch holes. The barrels have scratch rifling. Many of Manton's dueling pistols featured rifling contrary to the British Isles' general dueling customs in the period. However, duels could be fought with whatever weapons the contestants agreed upon. The barrels gauge at about 34 bore, which is approximately .51 caliber, and are finished in an early style mottled brown twist. The bottom of each barrel has the serial number "2837" that dates the pistols to the year 1797. The front sights are gold, and the fixed notch rear sights are iron. The casehardened barrel tang exhibits engraved military and floral motifs. The barrels are secured to the stock by two barrel keys which are slotted through plain silver oval escutcheons. The casehardened lock plates are signed "MANTON." The locks feature casehardened swan necked cocks, niter blue sliding half cock safeties, rollers on the frizzen springs and gold lined semi-waterproof pans. The screw heads are engraved. The full length stocks are nicely figured English walnut and feature checkered grips incorporating narrow flat sided slabs. The original ramrods are mahogany with horn tips. Note that the ramrods are plain at the end, a common John Manton feature. The silver furniture is simply exquisite, showing off the talents that only an acclaimed period silversmith could perform. For many years it was thought the silversmith was Moses Brent, but recent research has discovered that the mounts were actually made by Michael Barnett. During the flintlock era, Barnett was the premier silversmith for London gunmakers. The silver hallmarks on the butt cap have the initials "M*B," the mark of Michael Barnett. A masterpiece of silversmith's craft, the mounts can certainly be considered some of the finest silver work ever made for an English dueling pistol. The heavy butt caps feature finely detailed high relief military motifs on a punch dot background. The motif incorporates a grinning mask of Lucifer that would face the opponent when the pistol was held during a duel. The military motif is extended to the pierced side plates, blank wrist escutcheons and ramrod thimbles. The trigger guards have an engraved depiction of standing flags and high relief ornate finials. The pistols are housed in the original fitted mahogany case lined with green baize and featuring two wood covered compartments in the opposite corners with pulls. The exterior of the case has brass reinforced corners, a recessed ring brass carrying handle on the lid and brass closure hooks on the front. The inside of the lid once had a trade label for John Manton's brother, Joseph Manton, but it has since been removed. It has been speculated that the trade label was added when Joseph received the pistols for additional attention which likely included the addition of the spurs to the trigger guards. Note that John Manton did not start to use trade labels until 1801, thus the inside of the lid would not originally have had a label. The case has been reconfigured during the period to accept the trigger guard spurs. The case was likely altered by Joseph, and this would explain the Joseph Manton trade label. Previous owner and prestigious collector Keith Dill commissioned two professionally made partitions (one for the center compartment to separate the flask and mallet head and the other in the bottom left corner for the oil bottle), and the center partition is not attached and therefore can be removed. Dill also added the two corner compartment lids which reportedly came from another antique English gun case. These lids, too, can be easily removed. The set is complete with period accessories to include an early Manton imitation tortoise shell dyed leather covered three way powder flask, bullet mold, early turnscrew with touch hole pick, Manton style ebony and bone pan brush, loading rod with ebony loading mallet, cleaning rod with thread tip that unscrews to a screw type ball puller, silver oil bottle, main spring vice, patches and lead balls. John Manton is considered to by one of the greatest London gunmakers of his time. Around the age of 30 he started his own business at 6 Dover Street where he remained for the rest of his career. He died in late 1834, leaving his business to his son George Henry. Provenance: Roy Cole (when his collection was sold by Christies of London in 1965, this set brought a record price for English dueling pistols) and Keith Dill. Publications featuring this set: The Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Early Firearms of Great Britain and Ireland from the Collection of Clay P. Bedford" on pages 76-79; Keith Dill's "London Gunmakers and the English Dueling Pistol, 1770-1830" on page 20; John Atkinson's "The British Dueling Pistol" on page 73; D.H.L. Back's "Great British Gunmakers" on page 25; D.H.L. Black and W. Keith Neal's "The Mantons: Gunmakers" on page 73; Back and Neal's "A Supplement to The Mantons: Gunmakers" on page 41; and pictured on the cover of the August 2000 issue of "Man at Arms." These pistols were also featured on the History Channel show "Tales of the Gun: Dueling Pistols, The Etiquette of Death" which first aired in 1998 and displayed in March 1997 at the Atlanta show where the pistols won the Best of Show award. Accompanying this lot is a large notebook with many photographs and copies of provenance and a VCR tape. Let there be no doubt that these English flintlock dueling pistols are well-known and have been admired over the years.
Excellent. The barrel retains 98% original brown twist pattern showing light high edge wear. The action has faded to a dove gray mixed with flashes of original case colors. The silver is excellent. The stock is excellent showing some minor pressure dents and scratches and retaining most of the finish. The checkering is crisp overall. Mechanically excellent. The modified case (see above) is fine showing minor handling/storage marks and some high spot wear on the lining. We firmly believe this is the finest cased English flintlock dueling pistol ever offered for auction. Do not miss your chance to own a museum quality piece of firearm artwork that has a history of being in some of the world's finest collections.
As described in A.
Excellent. The barrel The barrel retains 98% original brown twist pattern showing light high edge wear. The action retains 20% original case colors, otherwise faded to a dove gray. The silver is excellent. The stock is excellent showing some minor pressure dents and scratches and retaining most of the finish. The checkering is crisp overall. Mechanically excellent.
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