The value of WM Hawley books and pamphlets?

Hello all.

Just joined. I can NOT read nihon-go. I am thinking about purchasing W.M. Hawley's swordsmiths books and sword monographs. Do you think these are a good purchase for an english speaker who wants to identify swords and swordsmiths?

If not what would you recommend?



One of the better overall books in English is Nagayama's book:
John Yumoto's book is certainly a classic, but it's not detailed enough to take you very far, and you can learn more by reading the good web sites (like this one).
Another idea is to track down a stack of back issues of the JSSUS Newsletter, or the English-language version of the NBTHK or NTHK magazines.
Lots of people want to be able to read signatures. This is not quite as hard as it might seem (sometimes) because there are only about 300 kanji that are common in signatures. The hard part is that the "handwriting" can be so rough that it's hard to see the basic strokes. But reading signatures should NOT be your first goal. Rather, you should first learn how to tell the difference between good and bad quality. As I've said many times, the best way to do this is to have an experienced collector show you examples of good and bad, old and new, pristine and trashed. This is very difficult to do with books or on the web.


More books

Hi Kent,

I totally agree with Pete. I would also recommend Facts and Fundamentals of Japanese Swords. A Collector's Guide.

Hawley's 'Japanese Swordsmiths' is a very useful book, but it won't be sufficient to identify swords or swordsmiths just on its own. When I bought it few years ago, my first reaction was mild disappointment because to an untrained eye it looks more like a balance sheet of a big company :-) If you are looking for some smith, it will give you a list of 50 brief records, but there's no way to tell which one to choose because you'll need the ability to identify the age and style of the sword you are looking at first. Only with experience swordsmith directories like Hawley's become useful. Really useful.

In a longer term what you'll really need (if the ability to identify swords is one of your goals) is books and books of high quality oshigata (and they mostly come in Japanese).


Re: Books

Thanks Stan and Pete

I already own ‘The Connoisseurs-Book-Japanese Swords’ and the book ‘Facts and Fundamental of Japanese Swords—A collectors Guide. I have read the second and am working on the Connoisseurs book. Last summer I went 2X to the Sword museum on Tokyo, both times it was closed! :^(. In Colorado it is next to impossible to find a expert to teach you the basics. So currently I am forced to learn on my own.

I was in San Diego last week and hit the used book stores for Harry Watson's 6 volumes. Unfortunately never found any.



"Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world” ― Miyamoto Musashi

in Colorado

Hi Kent,
I'm in Colorado... Contact me at saipan59 (at) Q (dot) com.

Re: Colorado

Hello Pete and ALL

I sent you an email. So is there a Colorado Sword Club? It appears there was one once upon a time but it no longer exists?

Are there any sword shows in the area?

Any contact info would be appreciated.



"Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world” ― Miyamoto Musashi

Colorado club

I'm not aware of a Colorado club that is active any more.
We were pretty active about 20 years ago (we published our own newsletter for awhile), but a couple of the key members have since passed away (Dr. Takahashi and Gary Montgomery), another has had some "legal trouble", etc.

I don't think we've ever had a sword show in CO - we're just too far away from the "important" collectors.