This book is a reference work that provides details of several hundred surviving medieval swords. We start with an explanation of Oakeshott's classification systems - one for blades, one for cross guards and one for pommels. The details later in the book help justify his blade system, showing that there were indeed clear differences between the main types of sword blades, even if some of the types do blur into each other somewhat.
This is followed by the heart of the book - over 220 pages looking at individual weapons. Most swords get one page, although some of the more important examples get a second page. In most cases the text is supported by at least one photograph, although in a few cases where photos aren't available high quality sketches have been used instead. The text includes details of when the sword was found, the blade, hilt and cross guard types, sword length, current location and an estimated date, followed by a more general discussion that looks at the history of the sword, its condition and any decorations.
The author owed an impressive number of these swords at one or another. It is fascinating to get an insight into his workings, and his willingness to alter his conclusions when new evidence comes to light. The most significant example of this is the discovery of a number of swords believed to be of later types in clearly datable Viking tombs, a discovery that has convinced the author to adopt new dates for quite a few weapons.
This is an invaluable reference work for anyone interested in the medieval sword. It will also be of interest to interested in medieval warfare or in weaponry in general, but it might be a bit specialised for the general reader - it is very much a reference work to dip into rather than a book to read straight through.
A - The Living Sword, construction of modern replicas of the knightly blade
B - Beati Omnipotensque Angeli Christi
C - The 'Morgarten' Sword
D - A Sword of Edward III
Postscript for Pedants
Author: Ewart Oakeshott