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THIS book started as a series of notes for my own information. I had for years been collecting Oriental arms and armor, and had found the published accounts both widely scattered and very contradictory. I also found that while the development of arms East and West often paralleled each other, practically no attention had been paid to this by those who had written about either.
As with other subjects the pioneer writers made many mistakes, most of which have been corrected by those who came later; but many have been copied and reprinted as though proved. Much has been published about arms and armor that is very contradictory. Not only do different writers disagree with each other, but they frequently disagree with themselves and call the same things by different names, and different things by the same one. I know of no book that treats of arms as a whole or attempts to point out the relationship between those of different times and places.
Very few of those who have written on the subject give consideration to the conditions under which armor and weapons were used, which is usually the controlling factor. Those who have written about European armor are usually scornful of the Oriental because much of it is unsuitable for the method of fighting used in Europe in the early times; the converse is also true but that they ignore.
The dating of arms and armor is very difficult. Most of the experts tell us that anyone familiar with European specimens should be able to date a piece within ten or fifteen years. This is both true and false. It is quite true that they usually agree; but they do not consider that changes did not occur everywhere at the same time. A particular type might have been made, say at Milan, at a certain time, then copied at the main points of manufacture in other countries and finally produced as something new at a small and remote place fifty, or more, years later. The present method of dating is probably as good as is possible; but it would be more correct to give more latitude and say "not earlier than" the date given.
The dating of oriental armor is more difficult. In the East styles changed less often and the same styles were worn for centuries and over much larger areas and by a greater variety of races. Also they spread more irregularly. The best makers and workers of metals in the middle East were Persians, and the best work done in Persia, the Turkish Empire and Northern and Central India was by them. This has led to considerable confusion of styles and often makes it difficult to say to what country a given piece should be attributed.
The Japanese is also difficult to date. Not that we do not know the different forms and when they originated, but much armor of early forms was made and worn in the Tokugawa period. At this time, from the middle of the 17th to the middle of the 19th century, every daimio was obliged to spend a part of each year at the Shogun's court, where they vied with each other in the elaborateness of their equipment. As the Tokugawa organization was feudal, arms and armor formed the most conspicuous items. It became the fashion to wear at court armor copied from the old suits preserved in the temples. These were made by men who, at the same time, were making armor for contemporary use. Most of it gives a much better idea of how the old armor looked than the faded and ragged remnants preserved in the temples and museums. Then, too, in Japanese armor the elements of each part, as well as the parts, were laced together with silk cords which chafed badly and soon wore out, so that they had to be frequently renewed, making it impossible to say whether a suit was an early one that had been relaced, or a later one, when both were of the same style. The Japanese experts who have carefully studied the most minute details can do it but few others are able to do so.
The experts and museums have never agreed on any system of classification, and many do not seem to consider that one is necessary or desirable. In this they are a depressing contrast to the biological museums all of which are arranged on the same system which is logical, extensible and flexible, being based on ascertainable physical characteristics. It has the added advantage of providing for any new and peculiar specimens which at once take their proper places.
The same confusion exists in the photographic departments. No attempt is usually made to take the objects to the same or any definite scale. Usually everything is taken as large as possible on the plate used. They all appear to think that the larger the picture the better. They need to take a course under some microscopist who would teach them that magnification without definition is worse than waste, in other words that the smallest picture that will show the desired detail is the best. It would be no more trouble to take things to definite scales than the present haphazard fashion. All that is needed is to have a fixed position for the object to be taken and to mark circles on the floor at suitable distances on which to place the camera. Plain screens should always be used for backgrounds; decorated backgrounds are very confusing. The longer the focus of the lens used the less it will distort the perspective.
In this book I have endeavored to bring together descriptions, methods of constructing, decorating and using the weapons of all countries and all times. Unfortunately the information with regard to many of them is very meagre. It was impossible to arrange it by classes as there is no agreement on, or definition of, the classes to be used. To propose a new one was only to add to the present confusion. I have therefore arranged it alphabetically—first giving the English name, if there was one—or the name most used by English writers—or the name used in the country of its origin as the main heading. I have followed this by all of the synonyms I could find, and cross referenced the latter. This has involved a certain amount of repetition but is, I believe, the easiest for the reader.
In the course of time I have accumulated a fairly complete library of books on the subject. This not only includes those devoted exclusively to arms and armor but many more that only mention them occasionally and give short, but frequently important, items of information regarding them. I have also visited the principal museums, and many private collections, in most parts of the world. I have given particular attention to the methods of making arms and armor in various countries. Whenever possible I have watched and talked to the workers. In several cases I have bought the special tools used and specimens of unfinished work showing the methods of construction. I believe that I am better qualified to do this than many of those who have written about it. I am a metallurgist and have made and studied metals during the greater part of my life. For many years I was in charge of shops working metals and am therefore familiar with most of the materials, tools and methods used.
I have included a number of subjects that seemed to me closely enough allied to the main one to warrant it. These include fencing, fortification, early military organization, hawking, and, to a limited extent, hunting, and the capture of the larger marine mammals.
The illustrations are mostly from my own photographs, some from my drawings; many are from various museums, and a few from books. In all cases all of the objects in any figure are to scale unless the contrary is stated. Where the provenance is not given the objects are from my own collection.
There is not, and could not be, any consistency in the spelling as most of the names are quotations. Many are transliterations from many languages, many of which are into languages other than English. They are made in all sorts of systems, or in none at all. I had to take them as I found them. In all cases they are followed by all of the synonyms that I could find, all of which have been cross referenced.
I am fully aware that this book is far from complete or perfect, but I trust that it may be an incentive to some one better qualified than I to write another on similar lines that will give more accurate information.
In conclusion I wish to express my thanks to the following institutions and individuals for pictures and information that have been of the greatest assistance to me: The American Museum of Natural History, for several pictures; The Field Museum of Chicago, for pictures; Mr. S. V. Grancsay, Curator of Armor, Metropolitan Museum of Art, who has selected and described most of the European specimens illustrated; Mr. C.O. Kienbusch who has given me pictures, lent me books and given much information; Mr. L. W. Jenkins, Director of the Peabody Museum, Salem, who has given me many pictures and much valuable information; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, for many pictures; The Museum of the American Indian, for pictures; Mr. W. Renwick for many pictures of objects in his unique collection of late firearms; Mr. Robert H. Rucker who has placed his unequalled knowledge of things Japanese at my disposal and who has given me valuable suggestions and most helpful criticism; The Smithsonian Institution, U. S. National Museum, for many pictures; The Ameria Reale, Turin, for pictures from its unique collections; The e Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, which has taken a number of pictures especially for me; The Wallace Collection, London, for pictures; Mr. A. McM. Welch, for pictures from his very complete collection of Scottish weapons.
Excerpted from A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms And Armor in All Countries and in All Times by George Cameron Stone. Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted September 11, 2000
This is an excellent book in the identification of various types of Arms and Armor. The book is loaded with the images and information required to identify some truly unique weapons.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 26, 2009
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Posted October 17, 2008
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