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Documenting Japan

7 April 2014 by Emma

Mark examining blade

Mark examining a blade from the Hibbert collection

It would be very difficult for us to document the many thousands of objects we have in our collections without the help of our volunteers. Mark Jones has been working on the Japanese sword collections for nearly two years and he wanted to share his interest in one of the collection’s most important collectors:

“Before volunteering at World Museum I would not have thought that medieval Japan and the days of the samurai would be connected to the city of Liverpool. However due to one Liverpool businessman and Japanese enthusiast, the World Museum has a large collection of Japanese art works, swords, and armour. Randal Hibbert (1865-1942) was a Liverpool businessman who owned a cotton spinning business, he had a deep interest in Japanese culture and art which he gathered from numerous auctions. Hibbert’s fascination was deeply embedded as he researched and documented his collection turning these into his own personal records and catalogues, despite never visiting Japan himself.
Hibbert had a wide variety of objects in his collection that included swords, daggers, bows, arrows, arrow heads, armour, tsubas (hand guard) and other sword fittings. The collection spans from the Koto era of the 12th century to the Shin-Shinto period of the mid-18th century. Some of the objects are appreciated for their beautiful decorative craftsmanship, whilst others for their functional use. This all depended on the period in which the object was created, for in later periods the need for the samurai class began to diminish and this resulted in swords being developed for their aesthetic beauty rather than their practicality. The Hibbert collection contains blades that have been crafted by some of Japan’s most famous sword smiths including, Sadamune, Muramasa and also Masamune who is seen as Japan’s greatest sword smith”.

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