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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 5:47 pm    Post subject: Question on meaning of "coat of mail".         Reply with quote

While doing some research on Japanese armor I have read several accounts from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s from
Westerners in Japan who have described seeing samurai wearing a "coat of mail", my question is what would they have been describing at that particular time period. They seem to have been referring to some type of European armor that they were familiar with but what would that have been?

Here is an example>http://books.google.com/books?id=RdQyAAAAIAAJ...mp;f=false

from :Japan: a compilation of miscellaneous articles from various periodicals ...Volume 2 of Japan: A Compilation of Miscellaneous Articles from Various Periodicals, Published 1904, Original from the University of California
Digitized May 12, 2007

Quote:
The troops that I have seen in Japan were clothed in a coat of mail, with hats of paper, Japanned, broad-rimmed, low-crowned, and close fitting to the head.



Here is another>http://books.google.com/books?id=2i0PAAAAYAAJ...mp;f=false

from:Japan: historical and descriptive, Author Charles Henry Eden, Publisher M. Ward, 1877, Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized Oct 12, 2007

Quote:
The army has already almost completely abandoned the helmet, the coat of mail, and the heavy sabres-in fact, all the military attire of the feudal times.
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Joshua McGee




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 6:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a 19th century samurai in actual mail armor on the far right:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nationaalarchief/3774080165/

The writers may have meant armor like in the photo. Alternatively, being that they wrote in 1904 and 1877, they may have meant mail as a general word for armour (as in the Victorian usage of plate mail, chain mail, etc., "coat of mail" could just mean any armour.). I think the latter case is probably most likely. In any case, some samurai did wear a form of mail as the primary defense in feudal Japan, at some point. In the case of the photograph, I believe it's just standard butted 4 in 1 sewn onto a backing garment.

Here is a closeup of a similar armored garment:

http://www.the-kura.com/items/98761/en1store.html
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 11:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua McGee wrote:
Alternatively, being that they wrote in 1904 and 1877, they may have meant mail as a general word for armour (as in the Victorian usage of plate mail, chain mail, etc., "coat of mail" could just mean any armour.). I think the latter case is probably most likely.
Joshua, that is the information I am looking for, what did someone from that period consider a "coat of mail" to be. Was it a general term for armor or were they comparing to an specific type.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 12 Apr, 2012 11:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At the time "mail" was just a generic term for metal armour. It could be anything from a solid breastplate to lamellar. If the text was talking specifically about mail then it would use "chain mail".
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Joshua McGee




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 12:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric S wrote:
Joshua McGee wrote:
Alternatively, being that they wrote in 1904 and 1877, they may have meant mail as a general word for armour (as in the Victorian usage of plate mail, chain mail, etc., "coat of mail" could just mean any armour.). I think the latter case is probably most likely.
Joshua, that is the information I am looking for, what did someone from that period consider a "coat of mail" to be. Was it a general term for armor or were they comparing to an specific type.


Like I said, and Dan as well, when you take into account the dates that these writers were published, "coat of mail" probably just means any armour. In the case of the 1877 writing, it probably refers to the modernization of Japan's military and their uniforms, and the discarding of all samurai armour in general.

I'm not 100% certain, but I thought that in most cases the Victorians used "coat of mail" to mean (chain) mail, scale armour, or lamellar specifically, as in Victorian Beowulf and Bible translations, et al. In other words, would Victorians use "coat of mail" to describe a plate harness? I suppose that a Westerner at the time would see samurai armour as mail, scale, and/or lamellar-like (all "coat like") instead of plate-like anyway so "coat of mail" still serves as a catch-all for all Japanese armour.
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Joshua and Dan, it does appear that plate armor may not be included in a catch all of "coat of mail" as in this list of acquired Japanese armor items dated 1896

A Description of Indian and Oriental Armour, Wilbraham Egerton Egerton (Earl), Publisher W. H. Allen & co., limited, 1896
Original from Harvard University, Digitized Jun 14, 2007

http://books.google.com/books?id=WXcDAAAAYAAJ...mp;f=false

Quote:
#170. shirt of plate mail, made of papier mache, lined with silk brocade.
#171. Gauntlets of plate and chain mail.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Apr, 2012 5:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Thanks Joshua and Dan, it does appear that plate armor may not be included in a catch all of "coat of mail" as in this list of acquired Japanese armor items dated 1896


No it doesn't. In that text the author is specifically listing different types of armour. In the first text he is not. If the term "mail" is used by itself, then it is a catch-all phrase for ALL types of metal armour, including plate.

The first author is including plate in the armour he is talking about and so is the second author. He should be read with the word "mail" being implied in the first instance. He is saying

#171 Gauntlets of plate mail and chain mail.

It is clearly implied from #170. Why would he use "mail" to describe plate armour in one line and not the next one? He is not separating plate armour out of his definition of "mail". He literally is saying "gauntlets of plate armour and chain armour". The first instance is redundant and does not need to be repeated twice in the same entry.
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