Among not numerous weapon items in the All-Union Museum of A. S. Pushkin in St. Petersburg there is a pair of dueling cap pistols manufactured in the workshop of the prominent Prague weaponry blacksmith A. V. Lebeda drawing the visitor's attention.
Lebeda was born in Cernosi in 1797 and started to learn weaponry in Smichov. In 1820 he arrived in Prague and after a year showed his skills to the foremen of Prague city. On February 22, 1822, Lebeda was recognized as a master by the commission. Soon he began to specialize in the manufacture of the cap locks, enriching their design by his own improvements and inventions. His customers were not only local gentry, but many wealthy people from Russia and Poland. In 1828 Lebeda was granted the privilege for the cap lock manufacture and in the same year his works were for the first time presented at the Prague international industrial exhibition. At the exhibition of 1829 the big silver medal was awarded to the articles manufactured by his firm.
After 1848 the Lebeda workshop competed successfully with other European weapons manufacturing firms. The arms made by his firm were presented by Austrian diplomats to the British king and to the Russian Emperor. In 1852 Frans Joseph conferred the title of the court supplier to the master. In 1854 because of the growing fatigue Lebeda handed down the workshop to his sons Antonin and Ferdinand and retired.
He died in Prague on July 2, 1857.(1)
The pistols from the Museum of A. S. Pushkin's collection bear the features peculiar to those manufactured by Lebeda firm. There the special, so-called Prague, engraving was made, composed of the arabesque, plant ornament and figures of beasts.(2) Lebeda owned the engraver's workshop. Among its workers there was the famous engraver N. L. Kotner, who worked after the sketches by Joseph Navratil and other well-known designers. It is also known that Lebeda dated his works on the inner side of the mechanism or barrel.(3) Dismantling the pistol we found on the joint of the barrel and breech part the date of its making - 1831.
Unfortunately the history of these pistols couldn't be traced thoroughly: they were received by the Museum from the police. Nevertheless it is possible to tell the first owner because the coat of arms was cut on the pistol's handle. The shield is parted horizontally, on the upper part against the golden field the state eagle is placed with Paul I's monogram, which is the sign of the Highest mercy. In the lower part an arrow is planted vertically in the ground against the azure field.
The coat of arms was found in the 6th volume of the heraldic book(4) on page 154. According to the elucidation note the upper part of the coat was granted to collegiate secretary Iskritsky on December 13, 1800.
A. M. Iskritsky was born in 1782, served to the rank of collegiate secretary and got the post of the senior secretary in the Senate.
Was Aleksandr Mikhailovich the owner of the pistols or not? According to the date of manufacture, they could belong to his sons, because it's improbable that someone in his fifties could fancy dueling.
Iskritsky had 3 sons who inherited his coat of arms. No one of the other branches of the family had the right for that coat of arms bearing, save the direct descendants. The senior son, Mikhail, born in 1802, was a peaceful man. In 1828 he graduated from the Aleksandr's Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo and completed his earthly way having the rank of collegiate secretary and the post of Kammer-Junker. Besides that he was a member of the Kharkov trustee committee for the prisons.(5) His peaceful disposition was stressed continually, so he can't be considered the owner of the pistols.
The middle son, Demyan, was born in 1805 and was known as a Decembrist. Being brought up in the Jesuit boarding-school in 1820, he entered the service of column leader in the Emperor's retinue. From 1821 he was in the Guard's Staff having the rank of ensign. In March of 1825 he had the rank of second lieutenant, and in December was appointed to stand in the military school in Petersburg. He was a member of the Holy Troop, the Prosperity Union, the Northern Society. He didn't participate in the uprising, although he was among the crowd in the square. He was arrested on January 29, as believed, by his maternal uncle's denunciation, who was none other than Faddey Bulgarin. After his 6 months long imprisonment in the Peter- -and-Paul fortress, he was sent to the Orenburg garrison having the same rank. After that he was transferred to the 42th Jäger Regiment in the Caucasus, where he took part in the Russo-Turkish war of 1828. He died in the borough Tsarskie Kolodtsy in 1831, i.e. in the year when the pistols were made.(6) No matter how we could want to have in the Museum collection the pistols of the registered Decembrist, the matching of the manufacture date and the date of the death didn't allow us to consider him the owner .
Iskritsky had one more son, the junior son, Aleksandr, who was born in 1806. In 1823 he entered the service as a column leader. Together with his brother, Demyan, he took part in the Russo-Turkish war in the rank of quartermaster of the 18th Infantry Division. After the war he was appointed to the post of the General Staff's library assistant, where he was noticed by Nicholas I for his first stenographic trials. In 1839 he became a member of the archaeological commission of the military department established for the investigation of the old acts from the department archives. On August 15, 1840, A. A. Iskritsky was appointed to the post of the head of the military-topographical archive. On August 20, 1848, attaining the rank of Major General he retired. He died in 1867.(7)
We should note that everywhere, except the service, of course, the brothers Aleksandr and Demyan were inseparable. About that M. A. Bestuzhev indicates unambiguously in his memoirs:
On Sunday we used to hire a carriage that should carry me, both brothers Iskritsky, Chevkin and Galiamin to Ivan Aleksandrovich Yakovlev's, who resided in Zagibin lane on Vasilievsky island. The carriage waited for us at the gathering point near the Blue bridge where Iskritsky and Chevkin resided. Once on Sunday in December of 1825 I found Aleksandr Iskritsky and Galiamin at the gathering point. Chevkin and Demyan Iskritsky serving at the corps' staff, have not yet come at the lunch time.(8) Even explaining where Ryleyev resided Bestuzhev is referring: several houses apart the Iskritsky's house ...(9)
It is not excluded that in the Square the brothers were together, but the uncle denounced one of them, so Demyan became the registered Decembrist and Aleksandr was not registered.
Thus, we can maintain reliably that the pistols from the Museum belonged to the Decembrist's brother, Major General Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Iskritsky, who was close to the Decembrist movement, who made a contribution to archeography of our country and who was at the beginnings of stenography in our country.
Captions for pages 36-37
1) The pistols of A. M. Iskritsky. General view. The All-Union Museum of A.
2) The coat of arms of Iskritskys.
* * *
1) The brand on the pistol.
2) The coat of arms of Iskritskys on the handle.
3) The date on the pistol's barrel. ENDNOTES
(1) Letosnikova, L. Clovecke zbrane v Cechach. Praha, 1980 .
(2) Lugs, L. Hand-fenerwaffen. Praha, 1956. Bd.I. S.68.
(3) Letosnikova, L. Op.cit. S.188.
(4) The General Book of the Coat of Arms of the All Russian Empire. St. Petersburg. Vol.6. P. 154.
(5) The Memorial Book of the Emperor Alexander's Lyceum. St. Petersburg, 1886. P. 135.
(6) Decembrists. Bibliographical Guide. M., 1982. P. 74-75.
(7) The Russian Biographical Dictionary. Ibak - Klucharev. St. Petersburg, 1897. P. 149.
(8) Bestuzhev, M. A. Notes // The Writers-Decembrists in the Memoirs of Contemporaries. M., 1980. Vol.1. P. 232.