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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Samurai Swords: A Collector's Guide - A Book Review

I was recently asked by Tuttle Publishing to provide a review on their book: Samurai Swords: A Collector's Guide, described on the cover as a comprehensive introduction to history, collecting and preservation - and written and compiled by Clive Sinclaire, a kendo instructor and collector of Japanese swords for over 40 years.

The one thing I will not do to you, dear reader, is try and snowball you.

I do not know anything about Japanese swords. I have the basics that pretty much the average Joe Blow possesses plus a wee bit more having written about the topic a tiny, tiny bit here in this blog.

When Sinclaire and publisher Tuttle call this a comprehensive introduction, they ain't kidding around.

This book is for collectors of Japanese swords. It is a serious book about the collecting of Japanese swords. It is a book over my head - ONLY because I am not a collector and have no desire to be a collector of Japanese swords.

But if YOU want to collect or do collect, you must have this book.

The following graphic, taken from Samurai Swords: A Collector's Guide will explain perfectly what I mean:

This, my friends, illustrates the finer points of a blade.

I don't even know if I am correct in calling this a blade. It's the proverbial tip of the iceberg... referencing the iconography (I don't even know if I am using that correctly here) of all the little things a Japanese sword MUST contain.

If you are like me, and only observed that a Japanese sword is simply deadly wicked, this book is not for you.

However... if you are like me and are a curious monkey... this book is well worth the time and effort to go over to learn about the intricacies of what a Japanese sword actually is and WHY it is a Japanese sword... because you don't HAVE to be Japanese or live in Japan to create one... though I suspect that helps.

I'm no dummy. I realize that the creation of a proper Japanese sword - a katana - is a work of art... one that takes the swordsmith decades to master.

It may explain why author Sinclaire after 40 years decided he could do this book... though to be fair, while this edition is published in 2017, it was first published n 2009...

A large, color, hardcover book of 192 pages replete with color diagrams and photos where available,  Samurai Swords: A Collector's Guide actually blew my mind wide open by pointing out all of the things that 1) make up a blade, 2) that there is so much more to a sword than just its blade 3) that every instance of the blade is carefully thought out.

The book will provide history lovers with a fine background on how the Japanese sword developed, just what made swords from the Hizen-to so great (the book explains what that is and does so in a well-researched and well-written manner that won't kill brain cells.).

Actually... the whole book is written so that the beginner referencing Japanese swords will understand while not dumbing things down to the more experienced sword collector. I think. I'm not an experienced sword collector, so I can't say for sure.

What helps what could be a dry topic to the average person, is the plethora of photos and images showing exactly what the guide is talking about. Several images per page, in fact.

I did have one complaint - a raw rookie's observation, if you will... MORE of the photos require more detailed information... you can show me a swathe of polearms, for example, but do not tell me WHEN they were made or WHERE they were made or even who made them. The When is certainly more important.

I want to know if I am looking at a classic weapon, something that was done in modern times... while I get that the purpose of a photo is often just to back up the words, I think it needs to grab the readers attention, and (since this is a book on swords) once grabbed, inform me.

Really... that's my complaint... better detailed information on the photos. There's certainly plenty of room to add cutline info.

It should back up the detailed pages that show, for example, the selection of the most common features that are encountered in Japanese blades (pages 162-163), which expands on that detailed image above...

Anyhow... I like this book... thoughtful, descriptive for the most part - and plenty of photos!!! - it's a book that would best be described as for a very specialist audience.

Look for Samurai Swords: A Collector's Guide and other great Tuttle Publishing books at better book stores everywhere or, make your purchase direct at

Andrew Joseph
PS: I apologize, but it appears as though my scanner simply isn't large enough to get the whole cover of the book - it cut out author Clive Sinclair's name at the top. 

1 comment:

  1. These satisfy the itch for someone who wants a functional and decorative blade with samurai swords for sale that they can do martial arts with, without breaking the bank for a custom piece or antique.