A Study of the Eastern Sword, by Kirill Rivkin and Brian Isaac, attempts for the first time to consider evolution of swords in Asia over the course of the last two millennia as a whole – from Scythians and Sarmatians, to East Asia and Japan, then back to the nomadic routes and the Pontic-Caspian Steppe of Khazars and Cumans, and then towards the whole consequent diversity of forms, employed in Persia, Mamluk Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Caucasus.
360 pages with 182 illustrations, consisting of hundreds of individual photographs. Some items, such as the famed sword of Charlemagne, were published numerous times, but never in detail and quality available in this book. Others, such as unique 14th century Mongol period examples, were never publicly displayed before, and don’t even have known published analogues. From the sword awarded by General Denikin at the height of the Russian Civil War, to the one attributed to Albania’s Skanderbeg, or European Crusader blades, carried by Mamluk dignitaries, many examples chosen for this book are some of the most prominent, artistic, and scientifically important in the field.
The analysis presented demonstrates a clear continuity in the development of a single edged long sword. It shows how this form evolved over time, and provides extensive guidance on attribution and dating of swords. Various technical, in particular – metallurgical, aspects involved in sword making are also discussed, including historical evidence related to the earliest wootz (bulat) making and the consequent evolution of this technology. There is also a somewhat controversial attempt to identify six distinctive periods in the history of Asian swords (and other aspects of material culture), and to relate transitions between them to competing forces of globalization and regionalization.
Review of the book by David Nicolle: