Masterpieces from the Collection of Dr. Walter A. Compton
Published by Christie’s and edited by Sebastian Izzard in 1992. This
well-known reference of important blades and kodogu features the 100
best pieces from the famous Compton sale at Christie’s Auction
House. It features a glossary and essays on the subject matter. Both
color and b&w plates with descriptions in both English and Japanese.
Clothbound with dust jacket and slip case, 10 ¼ x 14 ½”, 321 pages,
7 pounds, 6 ounces. Excellent condition.
For additional information
on both this historic sale and Dr. Compton, please read the article
below regarding the sale.
$100 plus S/H
PURCHASE / INQUIRIES
at Christie's For Japanese Swords
By RITA REIF
Published: April 1, 1992
Buyers -- most of them Japanese -- paid record prices yesterday at
Christie's in New York for swords and fittings collected by an
Indiana physician and businessman. The first day's sale of the
Japanese sword collection of Dr. Walter Ames Compton, described by
the auction house as the most important ever held in the West,
totaled $8 million, a record figure for a sale of Japanese works and
within the auction house's expectations of $7 million to $10
"It's the best private collection in the world," the president of
the Japanese Sword Company of Tokyo, Tomihiko Inami, said before the
sale. "The quality and the quantity is extraordinary. A Japanese
cannot keep such a collection."
Mr. Inami outbid all competitors to acquire a 19th-century
magnolia-decorated sword guard, called a tsuba, for $88,000 and a
17th-century small auxiliary sword, called a kozuka, embellished
with an image of Mount Fuji, for $104,500. Both prices were records.
He also bought some of the most important larger swords in the sale,
including a 13th-century Kamakura long sword, or tachi, for
$340,000; a 14th-century dagger, or tanto, for $154,000, and a
15th-century long sword for $132,000. Interest Began in His Youth
The most expensive sword at yesterday's sale was a 13th-century
Kamakura blade that was sold for $418,000 to a European collector
who was not identified.
Dr. Compton's interest in Japanese swords began when he read about
them in a boy's magazine when he was 14 years old. While a student
at Princeton University in the early 1930's he bought his first
samurai blade for $6 in a Chinatown laundry in New York. He
collected Japanese swords for 50 years while he worked at and
eventually headed, as president and later chairman, Miles
Laboratories of Elkhart, Ind. He continued to buy swords until
shortly before his death in 1990 at the age of 79.
The cream of Dr. Compton's collection was exhibited in 1976 at the
Japan House Galleries in New York. The show included the first
registered National Treasure lent by Japan for exhibition abroad: a
13th-century sword Dr. Compton had acquired in the United States and
identified as a registered missing rarity, which had been taken from
a shrine in Kagoshima Prefecture by a member of the United States
armed forces after World War II. In 1963, he returned it as a gift
to Japan and in later years made six other such gifts. The Compton
family gave two important daggers to Japan last month when
Christie's exhibited the swords in Tokyo. The Previous Record
Although most of the buying was by Japanese bidders, European and
American collectors and dealers were present at the sale or bid by
The previous record at auction for a Japanese sword was $132,000, a
sum paid in 1986 at Christie's in New York for a signed 13th-century
weapon once owned by the Duke of Windsor.
Yesterday's sale was the first in a three-part auction the Compton
collection of 1,100 swords and fittings that continues in October
and ends in December. The collection was originally estimated to
bring $15 million to $20 million, but Sebastian Izzard, who heads
Christie's Japanese art sales, said he now expects the collection to
total about $15 million.