by Robert E. Haynes

It was fascinating to read the review of Japanese Sword-fittings in the LUNDGREN COLLECTION, by Steven Frankfort (J.S.S. of U.S. NEWSLETTER, volume 26 no 4, July-August 1994, page 27).
It brought back a flood of memories of my more than twenty five year friendship with Helge Lundgren.

About 1958-59 Robert Moes and I heard of a collector of note in Europe. Bob was planing a trip to England and the continent in 1959, and we thought it would be great if he could visit Mr. Lundgren. Bob did visit and came back to tell me that he had seen a vast collection of fittings and swords. Mr. Lundgren, at that time, did not have any other collectors to correspond with and was most anxious to be in contact with others interested in Japanese sword fittings. Thus began my contact with Helge, and the more than several hundred letters from him that I still have. I have a copy of my first letter, dated, January 3, 1960, though I seem to have started it in Dec. 1959, which is crossed out. After introducing myself to him I mention that I had (at that time) a card file of about 3,000 names not in Hara, and could he send me the signatures from any fittings that he did not find in Hara. His reply, dated March 18, 1960, is as follows.

Dear Mr. Haynes,                          18/3/60
As soon as I got your letter, I started answering you. In between I got the busiest time in my life and never finished it. To get this letter posted, I am writing as short as possible, but intend to let you hear from me again. What about names in Shosankenshu compared with Hara's remarks? We have many works, the signatures of which are not to be found in Hara, plus some in sosho, not read yet. Unfortunately, except the swords our coll. is not yet catalogued only sorted up in the main branches, and the mounts on the swords are not fully checked.
The coll. consists of about 800 pairs of fuchi kashira 300 kozuka some kogai, few menuki, some iron animals and 250 swords some spears arrow heads arrows quivers and bows some good guns one of which is dated 1573, etc. etc. Some of the finely mounted short swords ought to be of interest to you. To let you have all suitable information will take a long time, the quickest way is to photographing (sic) the mounts and send you a number of photos from time to time. I shall certainly do what I can for you, but it can not be done quickley (sic)!
Forgive me for the long delay in answering you! I wish you good luck with your work!
Yours very truly                         C. H. Lundgren

From this first letter began a flood of mail, August 5, 17, 19, 22, 1960, and many hundreds more to follow, and from one sheet to 2, 5, and 10. Most with many fine photos of pieces from his collection that he wanted to discuss with me.

In 1961 when I was a student of Dr. Torigoye he wrote to me in Okayama with many questions to relay to my teacher. I thought it better if he wrote directly to Dr. Torigoye, which began their long friendship. Dr. T. went to visit Lundgren in Stockholm several times. A note here. Lundgren could not obtain the kiri wood boxes needed for Dr. T. to write certificates on so he had duplicates made of Swedish pine, some of which still exist. In 1963 I had my first chance to visit Helge at his home and to see his shop in Stockholm. Each morning I would go to his home to look at his collection of hundreds of fittings. The large room used to hold his collection was also the room that he worked in most, not at fittings , but at the real business at hand. One object that did not survive the war was the many thousands of chandeliers in Europe. Lundgren had found and bought hundreds of damaged chandeliers that he could restore. One wall of this room, perhaps twenty feet long was a cabinet six feet high with several hundred drawers. They contained the cut glass drops for chandeliers. While I was looking at tsuba Helge was recreating period pieces from this vast collection. Which would be sold to Germany and other countries for vast sums.

Back to the collection. In 1963 it was very heavy in kinko and most were small fittings of about 2000 pieces. The tsuba were about 500 to 700 with most being kinko. From this very large number of pieces the collection was formed. It was not until Dr. Torigoye saw the collection that its composition changed. He encouraged Helge to buy many fine iron tsuba to balance the kinko. This he did, with a vengeance. Since about 1955 Helge had been doing most of his buying at auction in London. In those days Glendinings was the premier Japanese sword fitting auction house (due to Douglas Wright who found many fine collections which were sold there through the fifties and sixties). Sotheby's, under W. W. Winkworth, also had many fittings sales and Helge attended both. Another interesting note here. When Helge was in London he would hire the same taxi driver for the full time of his stay. In fact over the next 15 years or more he kept this same driver. His name was Williams. Mr. Williams would go with Helge to the auctions and years later was so well trained that he would bid for Helge at the auctions. Naturally right after the war the dealers in London had neither the means or the customers to be able to pay high prices at the auctions. Helge, on the other hand, had the money and the collector bug to buy all that he could. He would buy half or more of each sale of fittings in London, which did not endear him to the other dealers at the sale. Winkworth loved it, but for some reason they never hit it off, and did not do business together. Thank heavens, for I was able to buy many Winkworth tsuba that would now be in the Lundgren collection. Which brings up another point. The collection that I saw and knew over the many years from 1960 to 1980 was a far superior group of fittings than those published in the book mentioned at the beginning of this article. What happened to those fine pieces I can not say, except some were sold after the book was published, at auction and others were I guess just sold. The pieces in the book do not represent the high point of the collection. At one time the Lundgren collection was almost equal to the Halberstadt collection in Copenhagen. In fact I do not see any of the fine tsuba that Lundgren obtained from Dr. Torigoye in the book. The last time I saw Helge was in San Francisco. We had returned together from Japan. I still have a photo of the two of us with Dr. Fukunaga, of Token To Rekishi fame, at dinner in Tokyo.


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