The following passage from Bowles' Natural History of Spain, written in 1752, is also of especial interest here: - "At a league's distance from Mondragon is a mine of varnished, or, as miners term it, frozen iron. It lies in the midst of soft red earth, and produces natural steel - a very curious circumstance, seeing that, as I am assured, there is no other mine of this description in the kingdom. A tradition exists that the iron from this mine was used for making the swords, so celebrated for their tempering, presented by Bona Catalina, daughter of the Catholic Sovereigns, to her husband, Henry the Eighth of England. A few of these swords are yet extant in Scotland, where the natives call them Andre Ferrara,1 and esteem them greatly. The famous sword-blades of Toledo, and the Perrillo blades of Zaragoza, which are still so highly valued, as well as others made elsewhere, are said to have been forged from the iron of this mine, which yields forty per cent. of metal. It is, however, somewhat hard to melt. With a little trouble it is possible to secure excellent steel, because this mine, like many another, possesses in itself the quality of readily taking from the coal of the forge the spirit which is indispensable for making first-rate swords; but without cementation I do not think it would serve for making good files or razors.
1 Andres Ferrara was a well-known armourer of Zaragoza.
"The swords of which I spoke as being so famed were generally either of a long shape, for wearing with a ruff; or broad, and known as the arzon, for use on horseback. It is probable that when the ruff was suddenly abandoned at the beginning of this century, large quantities of ready-fitted swords began to be imported from abroad, of such a kind as was demanded by the novel clothing. This would account for the decline and the eventual collapse of our factories, and the loss of our art of tempering swords. Concerning the mode of executing this, opinions differ. It is said by some that the blades were tempered in winter only, and that when they were withdrawn for the last time from the furnace, the smiths would shake them in the air at great speed three times on a very cold day. Others say that the blades were heated to a cherry-colour, then plunged for a couple of seconds into a deep jar filled with oil or grease, and changed forthwith to another vessel of lukewarm water, after which they were set to cool in cold water; all these operations being performed at midwinter. Others, again, declare that the blades were forged from the natural iron of Mondragon by placing a strip of ordinary iron along their core so as to give them greater elasticity; and that they were then tempered in the ordinary manner, though always in the winter. Such are the prevailing theories about the iron swords of Mondragon, which are, in truth, of admirable quality."
Magnificent examples of Toledo sword-blades, produced while her craft was at the zenith of its fame - that is, throughout the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries - are in the Royal Armoury (Pl. lvii., Nos. 5, 6, 7). Among them are a series of montantes made for tournament or war, and a superb blade, dated 1564, forged for Philip the Second by Miguel Cantero. The Count of Valencia de Don Juan considered this to be one of the finest weapons ever tempered; adding that the sword-blades of the city of the Tagus were held in such esteem all over Europe that he had seen, in numerous museums of the Continent, weapons professing to be Toledo-made, in which the blade and mark are evidently forged; bearing, for instance, Ernantz for Hernandez, Johanos for Juanes, and Tomas Dailae for Tomas de Ayala.
It is generally agreed that the changes in the national costume, together with the importation of a lighter make of sword from France, were directly responsible for the decline of the Toledo sword-blades early in the eighteenth century. However, this decline was only temporary. Townsend wrote in 1786: "From the Alcazar we went to visit the royal manufactory of arms, with which I was much pleased. The steel is excellent, and so perfectly tempered, that in thrusting at a target, the swords will bend like whalebone, and yet cut through a helmet without turning their edge. This once famous manufacture had been neglected, and in a manner lost, but it is now reviving."
Laborde endorsed these praises subsequently: "Within a few years the fabrication of swords has been resumed at Toledo; the place allotted to this object is a handsome edifice, a quarter of a league distant from the city, which commands the banks of the Tagus. This undertaking has hitherto been prosperous; the swords are celebrated for the excellence of their blades, which are of finely tempered steel."
Old Sword (Erroncously Attributed to the cid. Collection of the Marquis of Falces)
The modern small-arms factory of Toledo, situated on the right bank of the Tagus, a mile from the city walls, had, in fact, been opened in 1783, when the same industry was also reviving at Vitoria, Barcelona, and elsewhere. Toledo worthily maintains to-day her ancient and illustrious reputation for this craft. The Tagus still supplies its magic water for the tempering, while part of the prime material of the steel itself proceeds from Solingen and Styria, and the rest from Trubia and Malaga.
Cutlery continued to be made in Spain all through the eighteenth century. Colmenar says that the knives of Barcelona were considered excellent. According to Laborde, cutlery was made at Solsona and Cardona in Cataluna, at Mora in New Castile, and at Albacete in Murcia. "The cutlery of Solsona is in great repute; but the largest quantity is made at Albacete. In the latter place are about twenty-eight working cutlers, each of whom employs five or six journeymen, who respectively manufacture annually six or seven thousand pieces, amounting in the whole to about one hundred and eighty thousand pieces."1
1 Vol. iv. p. 358.