The National Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC) has added a number of weapons manufactured in Catalonia in the 18th and 19th centuries to its holdings. The collection comprises muzzle-loading hand-held firearms, including a cavalry pistol produced for an officer commissioned between 1760 and 1790, a pistol with a Miquelet lock from 1800, both produced in Ripoll, and two smaller pistols dated to around 1720 and 1780, and made in Olot and Ripoll respectively.
The weapons show the characteristic technical skill of Catalan gunmakers, featuring outstanding workmanship in iron, brass, silver and walnut. The exhibits provide an example both of the degree of refinement and the mechanical quality achieved by Catalan forges in their output.
The new exhibitions will be added to the items on display in the future exhibition dealing with the historical and technological evolution of the Catalan weapons industry that the mNACTEC is preparing for 2017.
Catalan firearms production
Catalonia was the most important portable firearms producing region of the Iberian peninsula between the 15th and 18th centuries. The premier weapons-making town was Ripoll, although there were also notable centres in Barcelona, Igualada, Vic and Manresa. Catalan firearms production developed into an export industry known all around for the quality of its products: Catalan weapons were sold to the rest of the peninsula; throughout the Mediterranean coast, including North Africa, and from the second half of the 18th century onwards also in Spanish America, in particular Mexico and Cuba.
One characteristic of Catalan weapons production, above all in Ripoll, was the high degree of specialisation of the craftsmen who worked on each particular part of the weapon. There were specialists producing just muzzles, flintlocks or primers, and others who would assemble the whole firearm. This system of manufacturing predates the production line of modern industrial societies, allowing for the considerable volume of output dedicated to the export market. Another distinctive feature of the weapons industry was the fact that many families maintained their same specialist field for generations, giving rise to renowned dynasties of gunmakers, such as the Deop and Peresteva families.
This acquisition forms a part of the mNACTEC's policy of increasing its collection of firearms, with the aim of highlighting the high quality technical products of the Catalan forge system.