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Ultra Rare English Punishment Axe, ca. 1548
Of the same form as known executioner’s axes, but of smaller proportions and designed for cutting off hands and other appendages. Hand forged blade features an angled slightly convex 6 ½" cutting edge with integral conical ferrule. Engraved with a crowned hand and "GODE+HELPE+MEI+" in a banner in two lines, with various symbols. The other side with a cross bearing "INRI" and the date "1548". All engravings are gold filled. A stamped mark is closer to the ferrule and probably is the mark of the maker. Original ash shaft (wormed and repaired) with fire gilt embossed silver butt cap and fleur de lis decorations at butt and ferrule (gilding remains primarily only in protected areas). Length of ferrule 8 3/4", maximum distance of cutting edge from ferrule 9 3/4", overall length 34 ½". Metal surfaces moderately pitted overall.
I am always skeptical of any so-called executioner's axe because for every authentic one there are at least a thousand which are actually woodworking axes. If there are execution style markings, they are almost always fake. However, this axe is unquestionably a very old axe and its markings original to it. Never have I encountered an axe made specifically for cutting off human appendages. Since almost any axe would do the job, one can speculate that this axe was made and so marked so as to act as a warning of the consequences of misdeeds. It is well known that torture implements were usually displayed to accused criminals to elicit a confession without the need to actually use them. The populace, knowing that such devices existed, were therefore far less likely to commit crimes that could result in such punishment. On an even more gruesome note, when restoring the shaft my restorer found traces of dried blood at the base of the ferrule. He did not remove it.
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