When considering what books one should add to their own collection, it is
important to realize that an expensive reference book can more than
pay for itself if it prevents a single bad purchase. There are several books
that are necessary purchases for serious collectors, as well as many that
merely have nice pictures. I list my library so that people may know where
much of my experience has come from, see the sources of my answers
to their questions, and view my honest and unsolicited review
of these books.
Books on Swords
The American Sword
by Harold L. Peterson
The standard reference for all collectors of US swords--a must have for
anyone who wants to know the basics of just about every model of US
military sword. The book is filled with pictures and descriptions of
swords within Peterson's extensive collection, a list of makers, and a
bit of the history behind each model.
American Swords and Sword Makers
by Richard Bezdek
An advanced and highly detailed survey of American sword makers
(including Confederate swords), this book is the end result of 20 years
of researching sword makers and dealers. Almost entirely text,
but has many pictures in the back. Highly recommended for anyone who
takes collecting seriously.
Swords and Sword Makers of the War of 1812
by Richard Bezdek
A short addition to Bezdek's previous book, this gives a lot of
information that was not available before. Highly specialized to a
specific time period, I really haven’t had the opportunity to put it
to use yet.
Confederate Edged Weapons
by William A. Albaugh III
The standard reference for Confederate swords. Line drawings accompany
descriptions of most known CSA sword varieties and other edged weapons.
Very useful, if not necessary for anyone looking to collect southern
Collectors' Guide to Ames US Contract Military Edged Weapons: 1832-1906
by Ron G. Hickox
A small but thorough history of most swords made by the Ames company.
This book includes production figures, history of the making of each
model, and a list of inspection marks. The price guide in the back is
outdated, but very useful for comparative values. Since Ames held government
contracts on most models of American swords, this book is a valuable, albeit narrow addition to any library.
The American Eagle Pommel Sword: The Early Years, 1794-1830
by E. Andrew Mowbray
A very interesting documentation of the most readily identifiable of American Sword styles. The book includes both a history of the import (!) of such blades, as well as a survey of the known makers of this style of swords.
American Swords from the Phillip Medicus Collection
by Norm Flayderman
This book is probably best described as the ultimate photographic companion to
The American Sword. It documents an enormous collection that was sold in the
1950’s, ranging from the common models to rare presentation pieces. Extremely
useful, showing the wide variety of models and variations within each model, and
fun to look at as well.
The Ames Sword Company
by John Hamilton
A detailed history of the Ames Sword Company, this book is more useful to the
historian than to the Collector. The Collectors Guide to Ames Weapons gives
much more useful information about the swords, but this book does go into greater depths about officer’s swords and presentation pieces. Great for finding the background information behind a particular sword model, as well as full of nice pictures.
American Swords and Maker's Marks, by Don Furr
This is probably the most recent release on the subject, but unfortunately was only published in limited quantities. It is well written, has some of the best pictures you'll find, and is well worth the effort to get. Don sells them from his web site at www.AmericanSwords.com, and tell him I sent you!
Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia, by Francis Lord
A very interesting and informative book on all aspects of CW collectibles. The section on swordmakers from Solingen in Vol.II is especially useful.
Modern Swords of the British Army: The Regulation Patterns 1788-1914 (Revised Edition)
by Brian Robson
The British equivalent of The American Sword. This book goes much deeper into the history behind each model, as well as having much better pictures. Hard to get in this country (I ordered mine from Prospect Books in Wales), but worth the effort if you are interested in British swords.
An Introduction to European Swords
by Anthony North
This book is dedicated almost entirely to rapiers and smallswords, exclusively relying upon the swords in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. I bought it for the pictures, which are truly stunning.
Rapier and Smallsword, 1460-1820, by AVB Norman
I had to search for nearly a year before I found this book (it's being reprinted by Ayers publishing), and it was worth the effort! It's level of detail in classifying swords puts Oakeshott to shame. Full of countless illustrations and several plates of beautiful pictures, it should be required reading for anyone into Renaissance reenactment or collecting rapiers.
The Sword in Anglo Saxon England
by H.R. Ellis Davidson
Very interesting for the historian or recreator, Davidson's book
documents the sword and its impact upon a specific society. Drawing upon
the old Norse sagas as references, the sword becomes more than just a piece of
metal. The book also has a detailed study upon how pattern-welded
blades were formed, as well as drawings of various hilts styles and pictures
of blades. More useful to the reenactor than the collector, very interesting
Records of the Medieval Sword
by Ewart Oakeshott
This book is the culmination of a lifetime of collecting, handling,
examining, and studying medieval European swords. Oakeshott has compiled
all of his notes, drawings, and pictures of swords from both private and
museum collections into this one book. The book is organized along the
lines of Oakeshott's blade typology, and gives all the details about it
that the average collector will ever need. A great book for people who
like to look at pictures of authentic medieval swords.
The Archaeology of Weapons
by Ewart Oakeshott
Recognized as one of the most respected experts on medieval swords,
Oakeshott uses this book to give the basic history of medieval European
weapons. He also uses this book as a platform to restate (again) his
typology of weapons. In conjunction with the previous book, makes a
great reference base for anyone who wants to collect medieval swords.
The Sword in the Age of Chivalry
by Ewart Oakeshott
This book is a very thorough manual on Oakeshott’s typology of medieval
sword blades. Mostly giving information on the shape of the blades, it
also goes into details about the pommels and quillons. Unfortunately, he
ignores weapons such as falchions and katzbalgers entirely, focusing
only on swords of the knightly class. Not very useful information for
the average collector, and I recommend the previous two books instead.
The Sword and the Centuries
by Alfred Hutton
Mostly a collection of stories about the actual use of the weapon, with
line drawings of a few swords throughout. Interesting to the recreator,
fencer, or modern-day duelist for the stories about fights and duels,
but not of much interest to collectors.
Military Swords of Japan 1868-1945
by Fuller and Gregory
A thorough introduction to the swords carried by the Japanese military
since the demise of the Samurai class. Very informative and also useful
as an introduction to the study of the Samurai sword.
The Book of the Sword
by Sir Richard F. Burton
A very detailed, albeit dated, study of the history and evolution of the sword in different times and cultures on earth, written by quite a remarkable
individual. Burton covers a wide variety of topics ranging from bronze
weapons to steel, from African throwing knives to Aztec macahuitls. Very
thorough in its scope and filled with many line drawings, I recommend
this book to anyone interested in learning the history of the sword. It
is fascinating reading, but not very useful for the average collector.
Swords and Hilt Weapons
from Barnes and Noble
This is a beautifully illustrated book by many authors, each an expert
in their own field. Most attention is given to European swords from
ancient times to the 20th century, but there are also chapters on
American, African, Asian, Japanese, and Indian Swords. This book is
worth buying just to look at all the pictures, but it is also great for
identifying sword styles and for learning the history of a specific type
of sword. I recommend this book to all collectors and students of the
A Collector's Guide to Swords, Daggers & Cutlasses
by Gerald Weland
Some authors have names that almost require them to be interested in
swords. Richard Fuller. John Edge. Frederick Wilkinson. With a name like Weland (or Wayland in Norse mythology), what else could a person be interested in? This book is a pretty thin introduction to collecting swords. Mostly dealing with sword styles and varieties, it doesn't really do enough to help a beginner, and a more advanced collector would do better to buy the previous book. It does have a lot of nice pictures, though, so I do recommend giving it a quick
Sword Collecting for Amateurs
by James Henderson
This book concentrates almost exclusively on British swords, giving cursory
details about swords of Asia and Africa as well. The book is dated, and
gives no real information that couldn’t be acquired in a more recent book.
Books on Armor
British and Continental Arms and Armour
by Charles Henry Ashdown
A very thorough documentation of the evolution of European armor from Roman
times through full plate and up to the English Civil War. Very useful, but since it was originally written in 1909 has become a little outdated in some areas.
Arms and Armour in Antiquity and the Middle Ages
by Charles Boutell
Similar to the previous book, this one was originally published in 1907. Previous comments apply, but these older books have the advantage of documenting
artifacts that have since been lost due to two world wars.
English Weapons and Warfare, 449-1660
by AVB Norman
A more accessible, although a bit more cursory, overlook of armor and the
weapons that were used against it. This book also gives a bit of information about the history of the times in which the weapons were used. Quite an entertaining read for the reenactor or amateur historian.
The Armourer and His Craft
by Charles ffoulkes
Originally his thesis for his Bachelor’s degree at Oxford in 1907, ffoulkes put
together what can only be described as a masterpiece of useful information for
anyone interested in the construction of armor.
Arms and Armor in the Art Institute of Chicago
by Walter Karcheski, Jr.
A very interesting survey of the items in this museum, most notable for the
stunning pictures. A hard to get book, but if you’re into armor, I highly
recommend it, if for the pictures alone.
Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight
by David Edge and John Miles Paddock
A very thorough and entertaining study of the history of the development
and decline of the armor of the knightly class. This book also has great pictures and a very informative section on the construction of mail and plate armor. This book supersedes the older books by Ashdown and Boutell as an historical reference, and has enough history to keep the historian happy. If I could have only one book on armor, this would be it, and it is inexpensively priced at most Hasting’s stores.
Arms and Armor of the Samurai
by I. Bottomly and A.P. Hopson
Apparently made as a companion to the previous book, my previous reviews also apply.
The American Civil War
Fighting Men of the Civil War Commanders of the Civil War Battlefields of the Civil War
all by William C. Davis
The Civil War books I read in high school. Not very informative on a linear, timely scale, but very useful to get to know who the people that fought the war really were. The books also have many pictures of a wide variety of CW weapons, uniforms, relics, etc. which collectors of a wide variety of militaria will find useful.
Weapons of the Civil War
by William C. Davis
A short book giving basic information about the weapons carried during the ‘late
unpleasantness.’ The pictures are good, but the identifications of many of the swords are wrong.
The Civil War Years, A Day by Day Chronicle
by Robert Denney
An interesting book that lists the major events of each day, as well as following the wartime experiences of several soldiers through their own words in letters home and journal entries. Well worth a read by anyone interested in the Civil War.
The Civil War, an Illustrated History
by Geoffrey C Ward, Rick Burns, and Ken Burns
This book can best be described as the Civil War book for fans of The History Channel. Well written, entertaining, and full of pictures. The literary equivalent of the PBS Civil War series.
Ordeal by Fire, the Civil War and Reconstruction (second edition)
by James McPhereson
My college Civil War textbook. Very thorough, but you’ll probably have to hit a
college bookstore to get it. My professor described it as the best book on the Civil War, and he's got decades of teaching experience to back it up.
The Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara
The book that the movie Gettysburg was based upon. The history of the battle
of Gettysburg, as told through the eyes and records of the men who fought there.
Very entertaining and informative. Also a text from college, but more likely to be found at the average bookstore.
The Vacant Chair
by Reid Mitchell
The story of what it was like to be a fighting man during the war. Required reading for my CW class, the college bookstore wouldn’t buy it back at the end of the semester.
European History Books
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades
by Johnathan Riley-Smith
I haven’t really read it all, but it’s pretty much a textbook on the subject. Only one picture of a medieval sword in it.
How the Irish Saved Civilization
by Thomas Cahill
Their monasteries were fall enough away from Rome to not really be affected by the dark ages, therefore they just kept on transcribing old books. Nothing on swords.
Armies of Medieval Burgundy, 1364-1477
by Nicholas Michael and G. A. Embleton
Actually a very interesting, although short, book on the history and armor of the times. It’s part of the Osprey series of Medieval books, and I recommend it to anyone interested in that era.
Misc. Related Books
The Art of Blacksmithing
by Alex Bealer
A thorough introduction to the art, it also has chapters on the making of weapons. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning to pound hot metal.
The Art of the Foil
by Luigi Barbasetti
A fairly good fencing manual, this is the only modern fencing manual I've seen that includes substantial historical information as well. Originally written in the early part of the century, the book teaches a style that may seem a bit old fashioned, but is more rooted in surviving a duel than some modern techniques. The second half of the book is entirely dedicated to training in ancient weapon styles. My only complaint is that the dust jacket on the reprint
has people fencing with epees...
American Military Collectibles Price Guide
by Antique Trader Books
Thoroughly disappointing. The section on swords is vague, and the prices were already outdated by the time the book was published. There was also no information describing how the prices were arrived at in the first place (condition, model, etc.).
Man At Arms
vol.2, no.1: bought for the article on C. Roby, West Chelmsford, Mass, and his swords
vol.11, no.5: bought for the article on Colonial Swords of New England
vol. 15, no.2: bought for the article on Schnitzler & Kirschbaum’s US contract swords
vol.2, no7, Special issue on Medieval Swords & Swordplay
I have a subscription to this quarterly magazine as part of my membership in the SCA. Since I have been a member, there have been no articles on swords.
The Dixie Gun Works Catalog, published yearly. Just about the only place to find some of the books listed above, also filled with a lot of useful information, good replicas, and accessories. They also put out three antique weapons catalogs per year. Check out their website for more info.
Civil War Supply Catalog
by Alan Wellikoff
A catalog full of information on where to get anything and everything that
a Civil War reenactor will want, so long as they want reproduction items.
Illustrated Catalog of Civil War Military Goods
by Schuyler, Hartley and Graham
A reprint of the catalog that SH&G put out during the war. Very useful as a
primary reference and for the information it gives on uniform regulations.
Bannerman Catalog of Military Goods-1927
A reprint of the catalog of the original Army Surplus store. If it weren’t for Bannerman, there wouldn’t be anything left for us to collect from the Civil war. Very useful as a primary reference, not to mention heartbreaking to look at the prices.