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The Book of the Sword: With 293 Illustrations (Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor) Paperback – July 1, 1987
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About the Author
Richard Francis Burton was an explorer, translator, writer, soldier, spy, fencer, and diplomat. He is most famous for his translations of One Thousand and One Nights and the Kama Sutra and for having been the first European to visit the Great Lakes of Africa. He traveled to Mecca in disguise and spoke nearly thirty languages. He died in 1890. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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The material itself is an odd lot, covering everything from the swords of Ancient Egypt to Central Africa to the Middle East to India to China to Rome to ...
One thing that must be born in mind is that it is a book of its time. At that time, Diffusionism was the height of Sociology and the Burton viewed all cultures as being derived from Egypt. The civilization of the Indus had not been found and Mesopotamian archeology was in its infancy. But it is surprising to read what was known at the time.
One final comment: If you are put off by the Politically Incorrect, this is not the book for you. Burton is from his time and not ours. For the 19th century, he is liberal. By today's standards, he is racist. Read this as a window to that time and not to ours.
The book has two prominent drawbacks. First, it is part one of a three-part history which did not progress beyond this volume. Second, Burton's subtle racism and belief in British superiority can be annoying to a modern reader. (It is interesting to note that Burton was considered to have "gone native" in the 1850s, so his views at the time were considered radical endorsements of foreign practices as opposed to the anachronistic racist observations we would consider them today). On Hindus: their gods are "abortions of imagination" and their religious texts contain "few of the golden grains of truth hid in tons of rubbish." On the Irish: they "seem to have been rather savages than barbarians." And so forth...
Bottom line - if you are interested in swords, this book is for you. If not, take a pass. One last note on the author if you are not already familiar with him: Burton was a man amongst boys. A soldier, explorer, spy, linguist, poet, diplomat, and all-around prolific writer, he spoke over 20 languages and retains fame to this day for translating the first unexpurgated versions of "A Thousand And One Arabian Nights" and the "Kama Sutra." He also went to Mecca under-cover in 1853, a feat which puts modern "extreme" adventures to shame.