SŌSHŪ-DEN BOOK 相州伝日本刀名作

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 two 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

Book review

Kirill Rivkin (San Jose CA, USA)

Very impressive!

The blades are mostly TJ with a relatively long provenance, which provides interesting background regarding the old papers, koshirae, alterations done etc.

Otherwise information is excessive, there is a hint of typical emphasis on lineages, as per guesses made in Edo period, but the community does not seem to object to those...

But there is quite a lot on observations regarding the style changes during the foundation of the Soshu school, kantei issues, and great wealth of information regarding the statistics on signatures, gathered both from Juyo volumes and old publications.

The publication quality is simply above and beyond Dr. Honma's book, which includes the photography.

The book is a very substantial improvement over Dr. Honma's. Markus Sesko did a very good job with a final edit; in the present form it is extremely impressive both in terms of analysis and objects presented. Detailed information about the Soshu school's early period, its reinterpretation and the resulting great uncertainty with Soshu attributions - it actually gets more interesting towards the middle.

As good as private collections go without venturing into Kokuho territory. The praise can be repeated on and on, but it is really worth to bite the (price, weight, convenience) bullet and just read it.

My personal interest here is anti-commercial - I myself ended up buying a significant number of copies.

Darcy Brockbank (Montreal, Canada)

I reviewed the book in Japan with Kurokawa san (his comment: Sugoi!!) ...

I have had early involvement with the book as Dmitri started writing it about 5 years ago and I laid down the foundations for the photography as well as helping with the early research. Even knowing what was coming I was surprised at the huge size of the print. This is nice because very high resolution photos I think with a Hasselblad scanning back (i.e. really non-casual photography equipment) were done over multiple pages which allows some close examination of the details of the blades.

In terms of the presence of the book not to mention the contents, it is just simply beautifully laid out and done to what is the highest Japanese standards. Sanae Sakamoto who is a really great artist did the calligraphy throughout the book as she did for me, and details like this are what makes it its own piece of craftsmanship. I wrote the forward for this and one of the things I said is that until you try to make a book, you have no idea how hard it is to make a book. The details are so hard to nail down and the higher your goals are it gets exponentially harder to accomplish. When you are mixing things like nihonto photography which is hard enough on its own, with high level book construction, and getting the contents right, it's really something that is what it really was, five years of work for the author.

Dmitry has quietly accumulated a hell of a great Soshu collection without getting high up on the radar and has a few things that are not present in even top level Japanese collections.

The price may seem high but the book is massive and just the printing cost alone of such a thing is pretty much what the list price is. It's not something made for profit but is entirely a labor of love on behalf of the author.

Emilio Arroyes Rodriguez (Barcelona, Spain)

I'm just going to say that this book is one of the best books I've ever had. I received it today, it is a very beautiful work, design and quality are supreme. I can study the swords almost as if they were in my hand. A real work of art.

Brian Robinson (Johannesburg, South Africa)

I recently received my copy of the book too and plan on doing a full review once I get a chance to really sit down and absorb more of it.

But what I can say from spending some time with it, is that it is an incredible book. Don't expect some thin lightweight coffee-table book here. This is HUGE. Weight is over 5kg of amazing photography and information. I thought it would have been full of pictures and little info, but each sword comes with a huge amount of information, similar to Darcy's write-ups on his swords.

It is a BIG book, and oozes class from the paper used to the binding and slipcase. Everything has been done to showcase the best of the best. Which is what it contains. Some of the finest swords you could imagine.

Can't recommend this highly enough. This is destined to be a collector’s item in itself, and is the next best thing to having the swords in hand. You will be able to see each sword in minute detail. Nothing is as good as having a sword in hand, but if that is not possible, this is a close second.

I know it is not cheap. But once you have it, you will know why and never feel like you overspent. My honest opinions are here. Well done Dmitry! World class!

Ted Tenold (Montana, October 2019)

Japanese Swords Soshu-Den Masterpieces is the result of what can only be defined as a herculean effort to share with the reader the results of a passionate quest to assemble what is arguably one of the world's foremost collections of the most highly coveted masterworks in the history of Nihonto. In his book, Dmitry Pechalov affords us a view of his dedication as a collector, his discernment as a connoisseur, and his unwaivering spirit as an author.

This comprehensive collection of Soshu masterpieces is presented with detailed historic backgrounds, and meticulous research gathered from an impressive array of historic records, contemporary resources, and respected scholars. Furthermore, they are illustrated in superlative photographic images that reveal the width and depth of spectacular details for which Soshu master swordsmiths were so appropriately revered.

The swords exhibited in Japanese Swords Soshu-Den Masterpieces exemplify the very essence of why we collect and study. Their provenance becomes the voice that whispers their stories to us, and connects us with the past through the romance of time. The beauty of a collection is illuminated when it is shared with others in fellowship. Mr. Pechalov has made the consummate effort to share his collection with us, and in doing so, enables us to share in the appreciation and enjoyment of the resplendent Soshu tradition.

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