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Albert 24th March 2020 07:27 PM

Review of 'Steel and Magic'
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Title: Steel and Magic. Edged Weapons of the Malay Archipelago.
Author: Sixt Wetzler (ed.)
Texts: Udo Kloubert, Michael Marlow, Achim G. Weihrauch,
Peter Dekker, Runjeet Singh
Photography: Lutz Hoffmeister, Runjeet Singh
Language: English
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 316
Format: 24 x 32 cm / 2,5 kg
Price: € 75,00
Publisher: Edition Fichter, Frankfurt am Main 2020
ISBN: 978-3-947313-06-8

'Steel and Magic' is the catalogue of the exhibition shown at Deutches Klingenmuseum Solingen, from 1.12.2019 until a date to be determined.
Yes, it is a catalogue, but it is much more than that.
Not only the 140 weapons that are exhibited are shown and described, but the whole is embedded in their background of the local culture and beliefs.
Moreover, the book itself is a feast for the eye.

- Acknowledgements
- Preface
- The Development of Blade Making and Blade Types in Southeast Asia
- Religious Beliefs and Magic Symbolism in the Malay Archipelago
- Edged Weapons of the Malay Archipelago
- Keris of the Malay Archipelago
- Bibliography

The catalogue shows a choice of the multitude of different blades that the archipelago produced. It includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.
The highest level of blacksmithing mixes with equally excellent processing of wood, horn, bone, precious and non-precious metals and other materials. At the same time, many traditions attribute a magical meaning to the blades: weapons have their own, mysterious inner life.
The catalogue presents the blade culture of the Malay Archipelago in all its versatility. From the metallurgy to the symbolic meaning of the pieces to the associated fencing, from the supernatural dimension to the history of the keris, a blade shape that has been included on UNESCO's list of the intangible cultural heritage of mankind.

The chapter 'Development' briefly describes the tradition of metalworking in Southeast Asia, the connections between, and the mutual influences of, civilizations from the first millennium BC until recent times.
Chapter ‘Religious Beliefs’ describes cultural and religious backgrounds and influences, originating from areas ranging from the Asian mainland to European ones.
In chapter ‘Edged Weapons’ 104 objects are shown on 200 pages with full-page photos plus photos of details and extensive, high quality descriptions. Literature references are included in the text.
The chapter ‘Keris’ has the same setup with 36 objects on 80 pages.
As a valuable addition, maps of the archipelago have been included, which indicate the origin of the described weapons.
An extensive bibliography concludes the book.

The texts, photo’s and lay-out all are of an excellent quality.
'Steel and Magic' is thus not only an essential reference work for devotees, collectors, museum professionals and dealers, but also a beautiful look-and-read book for aficionados of ethnographic art and of the history that comes with it.

Highly recommended!

Albert van Zonneveld - March 2020

Loedjoe 25th March 2020 02:32 PM

I agree with Albert on the great value of this book.

I was intending to post something about, when I had finished reading it, but Albert has done a much better review of it than I would have managed.

I was also impressed with the way that blade forms and types were compared with blades of other cultures and period, in a number of the individual entries.

There are many exceptionally fine items in the book.

A. G. Maisey 25th March 2020 08:23 PM

I have not read this book, however, it does appear to be a very well produced, high quality publication.

A video tour of the exhibition is available at the link below, and I very strongly recommend that it needs to be watched.

asomotif 25th March 2020 10:04 PM

Thank you Albert for the review, and Alan for the nice link to the video tour.

Some diversion for those who are staying at home.

Stay safe.

ariel 25th March 2020 11:04 PM

Ноw to order the English version?

Sajen 25th March 2020 11:13 PM

Also my thanks to Alan and Albert. I was able to visit the exhibition by it's opening, there are shown very rare and outstanding pieces, some you will find in old threads since Michael Marlow is a member here. Other pieces are from Dr. Udo Kloubert and from the IFICA.
I hope that they will find a way to extend it until the end of the year that I will be able to visit it again.

Stay healthy,

Sajen 25th March 2020 11:15 PM

Originally Posted by ariel
Ноw to order the English version?

The catalog is in English, only the booklet is in German.


kino 26th March 2020 12:19 AM

As I understand, one of the forum participants has loaned a significant amount of items to the exhibit.

kai 26th March 2020 07:00 AM

Hello Ariel,

For ordering this catalog, there is a post in the swap forum with the contact to the publisher.

I'm also still in the reading phase and will comment later.


Ian 26th March 2020 08:45 AM

I ordered and paid for this book more than two months ago, and then received several emails to say that publication was delayed and I may not receive a copy until May. Although I live in Australia, it seems an unusually long wait if others already have received their copies. Thanks for posting this review and I will contact the publishers again.

kai 26th March 2020 06:46 PM

Hello Ian,

Since you ordered early, I'm sure your copy is already on its way to you. I guess they gave a worst case estimate for arrival under current circumstances... :eek: :rolleyes:


Ian 27th March 2020 02:28 AM

On checking with the publisher, the book was indeed sent over a week ago but presently sits in a Frankfurt shipping office awaiting clearance to forward to Australia. We have been in lock down for ten days, and who knows when it will be lifted. No overseas flights in or out. So I guess it will be a while before I get a copy.:(

CharlesS 28th March 2020 11:37 AM

Mine arrived yesterday. A very impressive volume, indeed. I can't wait to dive into it.

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