Flintlock Repeating Pistol with Lorenzoni Action, Bearing the Crests of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), with Case and Accessories

Gunsmith Harvey Walklate Mortimer British

Not on view

Harvey Walklate Mortimer, gunmaker to George III (1730–1820), took special interest in the repeating mechanism thought to have been invented by the Florentine gunmaker Michele Lorenzoni (d. 1733) over one hundred years earlier. Complex internally, the Lorenzoni system allows for up to ten successive shots that fed from a magazine concealed inside the grip. A one-hundred-eighty degree turn of the lever forward and back reloaded, primed, and cocked the pistol. Mortimer’s Lorenzoni-type firearms, meticulously constructed, reflect his admiration of, and desire to update and refine, a successful design from the past. This particular pistol is believed to have belonged to Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), whose heraldic insignia are engraved behind the barrel and on the grip’s escutcheon, and is a rare cased example that retains its cleaning and loading accessories.

Firearms technology advanced at a rapid pace in Europe in the early nineteenth century. London’s elite gunmakers, focused on optimizing accuracy, handling, and speed to meet the expectations of England’s sporting gentry were at the forefront of its development. Building on design advancements made in the 1780s and 1790s, particularly the refinement of the flintlock ignition mechanism, they secured in the next three decades dozens of patents for a dizzying variety of new technologies ranging from improved lock mechanisms to novel barrel-making techniques, competing to protect and market their inventions. Handmade with great precision, many London firearms of the period display extraordinary mechanical ingenuity, in addition to being elegantly designed. This creative push in the firearms field may be framed within the broader context of the Industrial Revolution in England—a period marked by the glorification of technological advancements and the celebration of individual inventors and engineers.

Flintlock Repeating Pistol with Lorenzoni Action, Bearing the Crests of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758–1805), with Case and Accessories, Harvey Walklate Mortimer (British, Newcastle-under-Lyme 1753–1819 Hampstead-heath (now London)), Pistol: steel, wood (walnut), silver; reserve barrel: steel; bullet mould: steel; punch; steel; wrench: steel; case: wood (mahogany), brass, textile, paper, British, London

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