JAPANESE SWORDS

SŌSHŪ-DEN MASTERPIECES

Darcy Brockbank's Foreword (fragment)

 

The Sōshū tradition has captured the imagination of warlords and warriors, of sword smiths and nobility, of CEOs and children alike, for seven centuries. These swords of unmatched beauty were intended to first and foremost to be functional. In their time they saw war, were used, and used up, and many of them destroyed.


Since Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 1500s, Sōshū swords have been carefully preserved, hoarded, held in highest esteem, presented as gifts of the highest rank, were rewards to the most beloved retainers and relatives and allies, were means of obtaining favor of the shōgun or showing faith to one's master, and were hidden away by the covetous for their own jealous eyes only lest someone with greater power forcibly take them away.

They have been prized so highly that cottage industries in fakery sprung up to clone them, and even today we continue to sort the fallout from centuries of attempts both noble and criminal to copy the works of the Sōshū masters.

As well, the ravages of time have taken their toll on what remains to us to study in the current day. When Ieyasu burned Ōsaka castle many great masterpieces were lost. Echizen Yasutsugu worked diligently to re-harden these blades with new hamon and in some cases we only know of the original works because of his copies. Others through fate or lack of knowledge were left to rust, and the disaster of the Second World War saw many more destroyed. The famous meibutsu Shikibu Masamune met its end during the Tōkyō bombing raids. This blade was covered with kirikomi from past battles and authenticated by Hon’ami Kōtoku, and its destruction was a great loss.

 

The rarity of the remaining Sōshū masterworks and the fact that so few retain signatures have created controversy over the last 150 years.Where myths and legends terminate and where facts begin has been an argument for hundreds of years. Without a lucky moment in which one can hold a cherished work of one of these masters, doubt may continue to exist. But seeing, and holding a Sōshū masterpiece has a way of clarifying one's vision and understanding. High experts continue to state that without this intimate interaction with the few outstanding  and unquestionable examples left to us by makers like Masamune and Gō Yoshihiro, that arguments against them lack necessary weight.

Some of the examples presented in this book are in no uncertain terms, unique and not even the incredibly impressive collections within Japan have similar items. I mean by this that some of the items presented in this book are the only remaining preserved examples of their kind. Others presented herein are extremely rare, or extremely important, or both.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), treasure swords like these were treated as major assets by the clans who owned them. They were cared for meticulously, inventoried, and when given or received as gifts this information was recorded. With the industrialization and modernization of Japan, along with the disaster for Japan of the Second World War, the great daimyō collections were broken up and dispersed in auctions and private sales for the first time.

 

This is easily the most important, most beautiful book on the great swords of Sōshū since Dr. Homma's Sōshū Den Meisaku Shū.  As can be seen from the Table of Contents, blades by many/most of the great masters are included.  There are 113 pages of large, crystal clear photos taken by staff at The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and 219 pages of well researched text by the author.  Chances are very good you want  a copy of this book.

There are 2 versions of this book: English and Russian. This book is new, unopened in original packaging.  

 

Author: Dmitry Pechalov

Photos and design: Dmitry Sirotkin

Scientific edition by Markus Sesko

Japanese calligraphy by Sakamoto Sanae

 

Technical specifications:

 

Number of pages - 368

Block size: 290 mm x 398 mm

Block paper: Gardamatt SMOOTH 200 g/m2

Fly-leaf and Back: paper NAPURA PURA 1023

Binding: Cardboard 3 mm Bukram P.Extra Fantasia 2269

Stitching: kettle-stitch of the block

 

Weight is 5 200 gr.

The clothbound with slipcase and cardboard storage box include (320x430x85 mm).

The book is available in Russian and English.

Price: $350.00

ISBN 978-5-91726-153-9

Printed in Italy

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© 2023 Dmitry Pechalov