Japanese Edo period gusoku (composite armour), estimate £3000-4000 at Sworders.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

As part of the autumn Asian art offering, a total of 150 lots of Japanese arms and armour will be sold for the family of the late Peter Raymond Dennison.

A former marine mechanic with a deep interest in historical warfare, Dennison was a collector of Edo and Meiji period weaponry for many years and a well-known face in the collecting community.


Edo or Meiji jomanji yari with a lacquered and abalone inlaid shaft and lacquered scabbard, estimate £500-700 at Sworders.

Many of the pieces in the sale date from the Edo period (1603-1868) when the city of Edo, modern-day Tokyo, became the centre of Tokugawa shogunate power. Although a time of peace, this was the era of Bushido – The Way of the Warrior – when moral and military values were learnt and maintained by swordsmanship. The word Samurai derives from the term meaning ‘one who serves’.

The core of the collection is an array of 17th-19th century Japanese blades, each made by folding and hammering layers of high and low carbon steel.


Edo or Meiji katana with black lacquer saya (scabbard) and shagreen tsuka (handle), guide £1500-2500 at Sworders.

There are some 15 examples of the wakizashi (side inserted sword) that were worn in pairs from the sash at the side; 19 katana, the classic curved, slender, single-edged blade considered among the finest cutting weapons in military history and more than 30 varieties of polearms and spears – the naginata, omi yari and su yari. They carry estimates of £80-120 to £1500-2500 each.

With Japan at peace from the early 17th century, much of the costume and the accessories of the Samurai were used for parades and martial arts rather than on the battlefield. Japanese armour, in particular, was anachronistic, and still made in the centuries-old fashion with the o-yoroi (cuirass and skirt) formed of flexible plates once designed to repel a bow and arrow.

There are 15 gusoku (composite armours) in the Dennison collection that date from either the end of the Edo period or the beginning of the Meiji restoration that would ultimately abolish the Samurai class. The famous Haito edict of 1876 ended the ancient Samurai privilege of bearing swords in public.

The full suit of Japanese armour typically comprises the o-yoroi, sode (shoulder guards), kabuto (helmet with neck guard), datemono (crest), kote (sleeve armour) and haidate (thigh armour) with kusari (chainmail) and a menpo (face mask) with yodarekake (throat guard). Hugely decorative, the sets or near sets are offered with guides from £1000-3500 each.