|A SISYPHEAN LABOR|
Between SCYLLA and CHARYBDIS
by Robert E. Haynes (1994)
I began this labor almost 50 years ago. In those days I had little idea that this might become my magnum opus, if I outlived my hedonism. At seventeen I was an inquisitive neophyte who, after viewing an exhibit of tsuba, decided then and there to become a collector. In 1947 there were so many available tsuba that iron examples sold for a dollar and the very best soft metal fittings might cost five dollars. As a high school student this was a collecting area I could well afford. The full flood of swords and fittings had not arrived in the first few years after the war, so I commenced my collecting buying pieces that had left Japan at the turn of the century. As my interest grew, along with my collection, I soon realized I knew nothing about what I was so voraciously accumulating. As there were only about four or five other collectors in all the western U.S. at that time, and all unknown to me, I wondered what course of study I might take. One day I went to Dawson's Book shop in Los Angeles and asked if they had anything relating to Japanese tsuba. To my surprise they did, a copy of the TSUBA TAIKAN, by Noboru Kawaguchi (Tokyo, 1935), at $65.00. More than I had paid for a good part of my collection, and the work was only 12 years old at that time! I bought it, rather than some fittings I had wanted, and then wondered what I would make out of a text in Japanese. Nothing at the time, but I could see from the illustrations that I had similar pieces in my collection. I returned to Dawson's to ask how I would learn what the text was all about. They advised that I buy two dictionaries they had available. The Beginners' Dictionary of Chinese-Japanese Characters, by Arthur Rose-Innes (Harvard Press) and Ueda's Daijiten (Harvard Press, 1942), both for $12.00, even though the Daijiten was a complete mystery to me, I bought them. With great labor (Sisyphus again) I found I could translate some of the text under the illustrations in the Tsuba Taikan.
What a revelation! Well it had all begun, now I was hooked and nothing would do but I must learn what this book had to tell me. It turned out to be very little, except the names of the artists and schools, none of which I was sure I had read correctly, what with my very limited translating ability. Unfortunately the remainder of the texts that I so laboriously translated belabored just what you could see in the illustrations! This was my first lesson in what the major content of the text under a Japanese book illustration told the reader, nothing that one could not already see in the photograph! Even this did not stop me from my labors, which became good lessons in the art of translation but taught me very little about the art of the tsuba. At this time I was saved in my vast ignorance by another book from Dawson's. They called to tell me they had a copy of Japanese Sword-Mounts in the collection of the Field Museum by Helen C. Gunsaulus (Chicago 1923). A book on tsuba in English and for only three dollars! Pages 167 to 187 of this work contained an alphabetical list of artists names and schools, with the KANJI. Now I was in heaven, I could check my translations of the Tsuba Taikan. Well, I did find that a few of them were correct, but thus I was put on the treadmill of translation for the next 50 years. The Gunsaulus book allowed me to begin to translate the many inscriptions I found on the tsuba in my collection. In this way I could compare them to what I saw as examples of the same artists work in the Tsuba Taikan and the Field Museum collection. About this time I obtained a copy of Japanese Names and How to Read Them by Koop and Inada (London 1923), written twenty five years before. With this one book the whole world of names and places opened to me and I was able to translate almost all the inscriptions carved on the fittings in my collection. But, all of this had to come to a halt. I was drafted into the ARMY.
My basic training at Fort Ord did allow me to meet Col. Alcadi Gluckman in Carmel California. I went to see him to buy a Venetian salade for $50.00, as I was still very interested in collecting European armor, my first love. Gluckman had many fine sword fittings as well and I bought tsuba at a dollar each from him. In the little time I had away from camp I also bought in Carmel, Monteray, and San Francisco, at Shiota's, Shibata's, Marsh's, Nathen Bentz and others. My six months of basic training did not leave much time for this but I did manage to spend all my pay on tsuba, probably the only draftee who did so. After being sent to Korea I even managed to buy a tsuba in bombed-out Seoul before eight months of campaigns. In October 1951 I was able to spend five days R.& R. in Kyoto Japan. Being a dedicated collector I found the best shop in Kyoto selling sword fittings and spent the $3,000 in pay I had received since being in Korea. What it would buy in those days! The yen at 360 to the dollar and a good tsuba at 1,000 yen ($3.60) you can see I went crazy buying. I sent home many crates of fittings, armor and other objects. Much of it bought from H. Kusunoki & Co. in Kyoto, No.382 Furumonzen. A fine Muromachi period helmet bowl of black lacquer, brass ribbed, for 7,000 yen ($19.44). An early shakudo Soten dai-sho pair for 2,000 yen ($5.55). In fact my entire bill was 29,000 yen ($80.55) for 2 helmet bowls, 7 tsuba, 2 pair of gold menuki, and a very fine Meiji tanto. To return to Korea I had to go to Kokura city on Kyushu to catch my plane. As I had some time to kill I visited all the antique shops in the area. Each shop had a suit of armor in the window to indicate they sold antiques. I bought all those suits of armor, for about a 1,000 yen each, and just had time to ship them home before my plane left. Ah well, no more about the "good old days", it will only make you cry.
After I returned home from Korea and was discharged from the army I decided to use my G. I. Education Bill to study art in London. As I had been a painter for many years I was accepted at the Slade School, University of London. In 1952 London was paradise for a collector. I soon found Sotheby's Auction House and met W. W. Winkworth. He was in charge of the Japanese works of art department, in fact he was the department. He sat me down and his first words were, Well my boy, you are young enough to be at my auction". I did not know then that there would never be a Winkworth sword fitting sale and that he would live to 1993. He had a very fine personal collection of fittings that he showed to me, in the hundreds of pieces, and I studied them hours on end. We were good friends for many years to come. At this time I also met B. W. Robinson, then deputy keeper of metal work at the V & A Museum. He asked if I might help sort out the tsuba so a display could be made as they had been packed away since before the war. This gave me a great opportunity to study thousands of tsuba and do research on the signatures. This was the beginning of my own list of unrecorded artists names. You could buy fittings in London at that time for a shilling, .14cents then, to a pound. It was a very fruitful year to add to my collection and for my study of sword fittings. I had returned to Los Angeles in 1953 and began college at U.C.L.A. That is where my first serious introduction to the Japanese language began, under, would you believe, Dr. Ashikaga! In the years from 1953 to 1957 I completed my first ten years of collecting and of study. The list of names not contained in the few books I had at that time grew at an alarming rate. The single book that added most to my knowledge at this time was DIE MEISTER DER JAPANISCHEN SCHWERTZIERATEN von SHINKICHI HARA, published by the Museums fur Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg 1931. A book one year younger than I was. This work became my bible for many years to come. There had been a smaller 1902 edition that I also used in my work, and I found that it did contain many names dropped from the 1931 edition for no reason I have yet been able to understand.
By the beginning of my eleventh year of collecting I found my first fellow collector in the U.S. In Culver City, near my home, was a gun shop I thought might have tsuba for sale. One Saturday I went there and asked in a loud voice if they had any tsuba for sale. A figure propelled toward me from a back room of the shop and came to stop in front of me asking if I collected tsuba. Why yes, I replied, just as I heard, Oh god, a fellow collector shouted Robert Moes. Thus I found my first companion collector who is a dear friend to this day. Well you can imagine the joy of finally having someone to talk to about collecting and our collections. We had heard that there was an authority on swords and fittings living in San Mateo California. This was our first contact with John Yumoto. Well a whole world was about to open for these two young collectors. John came to L.A. at our invitation, and viewed our collections, giving us far more information than we could absorb in a weekend. For me it set my course for many years to come. John introduced me to the books in Japanese that I would need to further my studies. Through him I obtained a new book on the signatures of the sword fittings artists. KOKON KINKO ZENSHU by Shimizu Fudaku (Tokyo 1959) and a new edition of TOKO SORAN by Noboru Kawaguchi (Tokyo 1959). Here I was back with my old friend Kawaguchi after twelve years. This is when my first serious translation of the names of the artists who made sword fittings began. I chose to translate the Shimizu book first. By this time I was recording each name that I found on a 3X5 index card. Which now (1994) amount to about 13 FEET of cards, or about 18,000 names. All this translation of names was now to come to a halt. I was going to study in Japan. John Yumoto had been a high-school student in Okayama Japan, which was the native city of his family. John asked me just how far I was willing to go in my studies. I replied I really did not know as I was unfamiliar with what I needed to learn. He asked if I would like to study with the leading authority on sword fittings in Japan? I said I wanted to very much. Thus I was introduced to Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye.
I left for Japan in 1961 to study under Dr. Torigoye in Okayama city. Dr. Torigoye had graduated from Clark Univ. in New England and from Kyoto Univ. as well. He taught English and social studies at the business college in Okayama. Now the real work of translation began. Dr. Torigoye had just been awarded his doctoral degree from Kyoto University that year for his book TSUBA GEIJUTSU KO (Okayama 1960). The title as a straight translation is "Considering (thoughts) on the Art of the Tsuba". In the english translation we changed this to, "TSUBA An Aesthetic Study". A year was spent in morning and afternoon classes at Dr. Torigoye's house working on the verbal translation of this work. I would then transcribe the literal translation from my hand written notes and type the results for Dr. Torigye to expand for the Western student who did not have the backgound in Japanese studies. I also had many opportunities to see many collections and to visit the historic and cultural areas that were part of the history of the fittings of the Japanese sword. I thus learned the fundamentals of sword fittings but also added to my list of names from the hundreds of pieces that I saw in many collections. By the end of the years study I and Dr. Torigoye went to Tokyo together and I was able to see many famous collections in private hands and public collections such as that at the Ueno Park Museum. By the way I got to meet Noboru Kawaguchi whose book had started it all 14 years before. He inscribed a 1959 edition of his TOKO SORAN as a gift to commemorate our meeting.
The years 1962 to 1964 were spent preparing for the exhibit at the Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park Los Angeles. Which was held from February 19 to March 22, 1964. This was another great opportunity for me to learn and study many fine fittings. I was able to mount the most comprehensive exhibit of fittings ever held outside of Japan, even to this day. Fred Martin who mounted an equally impressive collection of swords and armor and the many members of the collecting world of L.A. put everything we had into this exhibit. So much so that I was in bed with exhaustion by the day the exhibit opened.
From 1964 to 1970 I continued my studies and my collecting to the point that I had amassed hundreds of fittings which represented all schools, styles and artists. A "one of everything collection". In 1970 I moved to San Francisco and in the next couple of years decided to sell-off my collection. I did not sell my books, or my interest in the recording of tsuba artist's names. In fact that is when the real work of the compilation of the text began. I spent several years working on the names which began from A to I. About the time I finished this section a new world opened for me. Enter Takeshi (Homatsu) Wakayama with the first new book of tsuba artist's names since that of Kawaguchi. The KINKO JITEN edition of 1974 was completed about two years after I first met Wakayama. I had shown him my list of names at the time but we never got a chance to really go over what he was doing and what I was working on, so we went our independent ways for a number of years.
The rest of the seventies were interrupted for several years work at Butterfield & Butterfield Auction House in San Francisco. At the end of the seventies I had only slightly expanded my work on the list of names. Then there were the years of my auctions and I did add much information from the many pieces that were included in the catalogs at that time. By 1982 I had another opportunity to work with Wakayama. That year we were both at the Chicago shinsa and he was working on the proofs of the 1984 edition of TOSO KINKO JITEN, and he was kind enough to give me a copy he had annotated during the shinsa. Again as fate would have it we had only brief periods to compare what I was working on, with this new book, as it was sadly to turn out, this was the last dictionary he would write.
After moving to Seattle in 1987 I have had much more time to work on the list of artists. Except for the three years I spent working on the sale of the Compton collection. But now I am back at it, even though it is very slow going I have completed the section of names from A to those beginning with KE. By the time I have completed the names beginning with M, I will be half way to completion of this labor. I can hardly wait to do the "L" section!
I think I should explain how this dictionary is formed and what is involved. I felt it was necessary to make a translation of Wakayama's TOSO KINKO JITEN. There were several ways that I could go about this. I could start at page 1 with A and continue to page 628, but I had already finished the section A to I based on the list of names I had compiled plus the Hara book and I wanted to do the translation in Roman alphabet order. So I began the translation of Wakayama with A but I have skipped through the text to conform to the Roman order. This has many problems with the phonetic pronunciation of various kanji. I am sure that I have already skipped sections that will have to be added later as I change or alter the sounds of various kanji. Also one has to realize how a Japanese dictionary is constructed. The IROHA system was the way up to only a few years ago, Kawaguchi used it as did most others. Wakayama uses A I U E 0 and that allows me to use the Roman order. So now I have finished (I hope) what were some of the most difficult kanji because of the many sounds that each could have. Would you believe that the Romanazation of some kanji sounds have even been changed since I started this project. Riu is ryu and Ye is e and several others that were the common forms fifty to a hundred years ago are no longer used, so I have had to go through my list and Hara to change all those readings.
To get back to the method I use. I have just finished KA to KAZU (Kazuyuki), and the KE to KETCHI. First I compare the 3X5 cards in my file with the names in Wakayama and with those in Hara, then I make a new card for each name in Wakayama that is to be added to the index, and include any new information to the cards that already exist. Some times my cards or Hara have more information than Wakayama or other changes are needed. When I translate the Wakayama name I must decide what is the proper or best reading to use. In Wakayama the first kanji of the name is given under the ON reading of the kanji, for the most part, as is the second kanji of the name, but this has nothing to do with the common or accepted reading of the name. Sometimes Wakayama will add furigana and also Roman letters to some of the names, but the Roman forms are his own and not always correct, such as Junzyo for Junjo etc. To make my part more complicated I have over these many years collected as many of the KAO and seals of the various artists as I could find. Also I have recorded the source of each name I could not find in the past, and the books and collections where examples of the work of these many artists could be found, as well as the books that have examples of the work of the famous artists we know so well. Another step that I must take, but have put off, because it is so daunting, is the cross-indexing of all the signatures in my completed list with those illustrated in the three volume set, TOSO KODOGU MEIJI TAIKEI by Wakayama Homatsu (Tokyo 1978). I wish Wakayama had done this in the Toso Kinko Jiten. Now a new edition of the KINKO MEIKAN by Kokubo Kenichi and Matsumoto Senichiro (Tokyo 1974) has been published under the title, SHINSEN KINKO MEIKAN by Kokubo Kenichi (Tokyo 1993). So as you see it will never end and Sisyphus has a larger rock for me each time.
Just what will be the final product of all this labor? A list of the names of as many fittings artists as has been correlated up to the present time with as many cross references to readings, of each name and the various art names, family names and a cross reference to where each name may be found in TOSO KINKO JITEN or in Hara, and all those names not contained in either of these two will have a reference where that name was obtained and when. The kao and seals will be added for each name and references to where examples of illustrations of the artists work is to be found. In short I hope this will be the most comprehensive list of names yet compiled. There is one additional thing that I need to complete this task and that is the help of the readers of this article. Anyone who has the name of an artist that they can not read or thinks is not recorded in any source that they might have is very welcome to contact me and I will do all I can to tell them who the artist might be and if it is an unrecorded name it will be added to my dictionary.
The next 5 pages are reproductions of some of the pages in my personal name list that I have compiled over the last 45 years. The entire work is 839 pages like these samples. This work is being combined with my annotated Hara and the translation of Wakayama to produce the final book of names that will have all these parts as the final source of sword fitting artists names. It will contain about 18,000 names when finished.
SISYPHUS was the crafty son of Aeolus and Enarete, and the husband of Merope. He was founder of Ephyra (Corinth) and of the Isthmian games. He was the main father of the sea god Glaucus. He was condemned in Hades forever to roll to the top of a steep hill a huge stone that always rolled down again.
The next two pages are the working sheets of the final form of the finished manuscript. The typed page was first started about 30 to 40 years ago. It has since been checked against the TOSO KINKO JITEN, and the cross references have been entered, such as HIROCHIKA F.: Uchikoshi is in Wakayama page 199 upper section eighth name from the right margin. Hara page 26, bottom. Such names as number 833, Hirochika, 836, 839, and 840, a sword smith not in Hawley's 1981 swordsmith list, and 842 are examples of artists not in the TOSO KINKO JITEN. The hand written page was completed this year (1994) and will be typed later. The final printed book will be as complete as possible.
|Return to Index to Articles - Go to Home Page - Email to Shibui Swords|