Michael R. Zomber’s areas of expertise encompass European, Japanese, Islamic, and American arms and armor from the 16th through the 19th century.
As Thomas Jefferson once wrote to George Washington: “One loves to possess arms.” Fine arms and armour have been justly prized since men first began to forge and decorate them with gold, silver, and precious stones. The exquisite solid gold and enameled dagger belonging to King Tutankamon is one of the greatest treasures in the Cairo Museum. In more recent times, monarchs from French King Louis XIII, sometimes referred to as the “Gun King’ to Katherine the Great of Russia, and King Ludwig of Bavaria all commissioned and collected exquisite works of art in the form of firearms. President Abraham Lincoln commissioned and sent pairs of splendid gold inlaid Colt revolvers to the Kings of Denmark and Sweden.
Ownership of artwork requires stewardship and Michael believes that future generations can and must understand this responsibility. Therefore, he hopes that the precious weapons he does sell go to people or institutions that will preserve them in pristine condition thereby honoring their historical as well as their monetary value.
The Japanese samurai – Men and Women of Legendary Honor and their equally famous Weaponry
A country that is predominantly rugged and mountainous, very little of Japan’s terrain is suitable for agriculture. During the 12th century, powerful Japanese clans and warlords began battling fiercely over arable land. The threat of losing arable land to outlaws or predatory neighbors gave rise to the Japanese samurai, a revered class of military warrior, each of whom pledged unwavering loyalty to his daimyo or hereditary noble lord.
Ideally the bond between daimyo and samurai was severed only by death. This unbreakable contract was governed by an adamantine code known as Bushido, or “Way of the Warrior”, under which the sacrifice of one’s own life in service to the master was the highest honor.
Samurai were raised from infancy to be respectful, loyal, brave and self-disciplined. Between 1467 and 1573, the samurai’s influence and prominence were paramount. Samurai held different military ranks but each enjoyed the privilege of carrying two swords, the daisho – one long katana and one short wakizashi or tanto. Commoners were not permitted to carry swords on pain of summary execution.
Following decades of civil war at the end of the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi began the process of uniting Japan, which was completed by his protégé and successor, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The cessation of civil war meant that samurai could pursue other roles as well as the Way of the Warrior and many became teachers, artists, poets and bureaucrats. By 1871, land owned by the daimyo was returned to the emperor Meiji and samurai privileges were officially ended. Many samurai, desperate over the loss of their social status and unable to make a living, mounted an insurrection known as the Satsuma rebellion in 1876. Outnumbered and fighting with sword and bow against bolt action repeating rifles, despite the able generalship of Saigo Takamori, they were defeated.
The Japanese samurai sword first forged in the 7th century remains more than a thousand years later, the finest blade ever fashioned by man. The unique construction surpasses even the peerless swords of Damascus. A WWII video shows a man cutting through a machine gun barrel with a Kanemoto katana. The Sword together with the Mirror and the Jewel were the treasures given to the first Japanese emperor by the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. The sword can truly be said to be the soul of the samurai.