Numerous paintings throughout. Scroll (150 x 5840 mm.), green silk brocade on front outer endpaper. “Egawa Village”: with “February 1845“ at end.
The making of Japanese swords is a complex and labor-intensive process, taking many days or weeks. Considered a sacred art, it was traditionally accompanied by many Shinto and Buddhist religious rituals. Our scroll tells the story of the earliest days of the making of superior swords in Japan when, in 1208, the retired Emperor Go-Toba summoned 13 of the finest sword smiths in Japan in sequential visits, listed here with their names and provinces, to share their secrets in making higher-quality swords. The emperor also granted the 13 sword smiths court rank and titles, greatly elevating their status and profession.
The beginning of the scroll provides an index of the topics discussed and illustrated. The text, in kanji and with three phrases in Siddham, states that the makers of swords must pray to Buddhist gods for protection. All the information in this scroll was passed down by word of mouth.
This is followed by a series of 13 images of furnaces, bellows, tools, hammers, sharpening instruments, tubs of water, etc., used in transforming the steel (tamahagane or “jewel steel”) into a sword. The subsequent text contains further instructions and tips on sword making, always referring to the preceding images.
The next section of the scroll contains images of ca. 89 nakago (the tang or hilt section of the sword), which have received file markings (creating uneven surfaces) of many types, including a grid of crosshatch marks known as higaki, allowing the hilt to remain tightly in place. A mekugi pin serves as a second method of securing the handle. The names of many types of file markings are given, along with names of the regions where the markings were used. Also given are trade names of the sword smiths, some notes on provenance and references to catalogues of important swords, etc.
Throughout, there are slightly later red-ink annotations, clarifying and explaining the images and text.
At the end of the scroll, we find three dates. The first is 1578, which is perhaps when the text was originally written or copied. The following date is 1829. Both state that those involved in the making of this text were living in Tosa province in southern Shikoku. The final date, February 1845, is when this scroll was made in Egawamura village. The compiler, Tosho (?), was an onmyoji.
Fine copy. Some worming at the beginning.
Item ID: 8940