Medieval Islamic swords and swordmaking [Paperback]

Robert G. Hoyland(Author); Brian Gilmour(Author)

ISBN: 9780906094570 | Published by: Gibb Memorial Trust | Series: Gibb Memorial Trust Arabic Studies | Year of Publication: 2012 | Language: English 200p, 12 b/w figs
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Medieval Islamic swords and swordmaking


One of the problems pervading the study of medieval Islamic technology is the lack of surviving technical treatises. Tradition tended to be handed down by example and by word of mouth, and apprenticeships could last for decades. Fortunately, however, occasional treatises do exist. The treatise "On swords and their kinds" was written by the 9th century Muslim philosopher Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi. This work was commissioned by a powerful patron of scholarship, the Abbasid caliph Mu'tasim, and the content of the treatise presumably reflects the ruler's general interest in his army and its equipment, and his specific interest in the technical aspects of sword production. In this work, Kindi discusses the difference between iron and steel, distinguishes different qualities of sword blade, and different centres of swordsmithing. He refers to the Indian Ocean trade in steel ingots and to the distinctive character of European swords of the period. He includes technical terms used by the makers, and distinguishes swords by their physical features - form, measurements, weight, watered pattern, sculptured details, or inlaid ornaments. This publication includes the text and a translation of Kindi's treatise, and a detailed commentary on the work. The volume also includes a translation of Friedrich Schwarzlose's work on swords, which is based on the hundreds of references to swords in early Arabic poetry. Written in German, this extraordinary compendium of information was first published some 120 years ago; this volume makes it available again, and for the first time in English.

Reviews & Quotes

"Altogether, this is a well-researched and scholarly work on the subject which will be of enormous value to the scholars and the general readers alike.'"
Ayyub Malik
Muslim World Book Review (2007)

"This book is a 'must-have' for anyone interested in the swords of the medieval Near East, and in metals culture in early Islamic civilization.'"
Philip Tom (November 2006)

"'Medieval Islamic Swords and Swordmaking' contains fresh data and observations on Islamic arms and metalworking technology. As such, it is an indispensable addition to every reference library on the subject.'"
Oliver Pinchot
Center for Near Eastern Studies (2007)

"It is, perhaps the best source available, not only on swords, but on the production of iron and steel during the time. The authors are not only translators, but experts on the subject. Their commentary goes a long way to describing the meaning behind the actual translations. This book is a welcome addition to the library of the history of metalworking.'"
John Matlock
Book-On-Line (November 2006)

" invaluable reference for scholars interested in Islamic iron and steel working in general, and swordmaking in particular.'"
Muhammed Hassanali (June 2007)

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