Kokon kaji biko [trans.: Sword Smithing: Old & Modern].
by YAMADA, Yoshimutsu.
Many illus. in the text. Seven vols. 8vo, orig. patterned pale blue wrappers (rubbed), orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching. [Japan: ca. 1830]. First edition. The Yamada family of sword testers was famous; for many generations they made a living as executioners and kept detailed records of each sword's performance. Bodies were mounted on a cutting stand and specific cuts were made. One of their toughest tests was to cut centrally through the thorax, the so-called chiwari ("breast splitter"), as it had to go through several ribs. The sword was judged on how many bodies were severed with each type of cut. Following the index in the first volume of the present work, there are three introductory essays: 1) Yamada on the metallurgical processes for making steel for swords; 2) Masahide Kawabe on the manufacturing of swords; and 3) Natae Kamata on the testing of swords. This final essay contains several illustrations of the "testing grounds" for the sharpness of swords: chopping blocks and mounts to secure bodies. The remaining portion of the first volume is devoted to histories of the leading sword smithing families of Japan. Vols. II-IV contain an invaluable dictionary of sword smithing families, alphabetically arranged. The final three volumes contain depictions of hundreds of sword blades, arranged by manufacturer and region. Each manufacturer's seal is illustrated. Fine condition. . (Inventory #: HillBibl-5427)
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