"A cutlass that springs out, and which is used as a killing sword"

The cutlass was a utilitarian weapon; its thick blade and heavy weight allowed it to cut through ropes as well as to be used for defense. Short blades facilitated close combat on ships, and the simple slashing action required little formal instruction. Venetian examples occasionally displayed decorative details such as a Turk's head on the hilt; however, the inventory does not list Ximenez's cutlasses as having decorative details, suggesting they were more practical in nature. The inventory lists one cutlass "without a scabbard," reflecting the common practice of hanging a cutlass at the belt uncovered. The notary also writes that one cutlass "springs out and is used as a killing sword." The 'springing out' is probably a reference to the width of the blade, which tended to increase near the tip. Should Emmanuel have found himself aboard ship, the cutlass would have provided both utility and lethality.

Sean Nelson, Max Planck Institute, Florence

English cutlass, mid-seventeenth century, Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Image: © Victoria & Albert Museum.