Adventures in Acquiring Sources

Over the last few months I've been acquiring a variety of sources on various aspects of the martial arts. My initial focus was on jujutsu and its derivatives, primary judo, and especially newaza (grappling on the mat). More recently I've expanded my interests to grappling as found in the historical European martial arts (HEMA) communities. This post will outline a few of the places I've been acquiring sources.

  • Digital documents. Many of the sources which interest me are a century or more old. The early 20th century is one of my research areas, as this is when judo expanded to the Western world. Many books from this period are available online, usually as a PDF scanned from a physical book. The copyright has expired on these old books, so they are sometimes available for download.
  • Reprints, sold online or in stores. A certain number of older books have been reprinted, and can be purchased at low cost. The quality of these reproductions varies from scans of the original to reformatted versions with introduction and possibly commentary. 
  • New books in print, sold online or in stores. Many books published during the last decade, or popular books from the last few decades, are usually available in new condition from major online booksellers. These are as easy to buy as reprints and offer the best possible condition for book lovers like me.
  • New or like-new books out of print, sold no place obvious. Occasionally a book will be very obscure, but available for sale if one does a lot of legwork. This happened to be the case with a few of my "white whales," such as Reila Gracie's biography of Carlos Gracie Sr, Syd Hoare's history of judo, or the 2004 edition of The Canon of Judo. Thankfully these are rare situations affecting rare books, and they require searching and connecting on a case-by-case and person-by-person basis.
  • Old books out of print, sold online. These books are a real challenge, for both the wallet and for the book connoisseur. I am usually not willing to spend a lot of money to buy an old book just to have it, even if it's available online via Amazon, Abebooks, or eBay. I've made a few exceptions, such as a 1963 printing of The Canon of Judo featuring the gi-material cover. I was not interested in paying $600 US for a first or other early printing, but a later printing was much more affordable.
  • Inter-library loan. I have not yet received any books using this system, but I've requested a few books using the ILL system. In general you can't request a book from another library if it's younger than one year old, or older than 100 years old. I'm searching for a couple old books, out of print, not sold anywhere, or sold for outrageous prices.
  • Private collections. I am involved with a few online groups that have extensive private collections, but I've only asked for assistance and suggestions -- not access to anyone's books.
  • Foreign language editions. Sometimes it's possible to find a foreign language edition of old out of print books. My French is ok, so I bought a few French books that looked interesting. In one case I've been looking for an old, out-of-print book, but I found a cheap Italian edition and tried that instead. I can use my iPhone to roughly translate the text, but I'm more interested in the figures anyway.
That's plenty for today. In general, there are many ways to acquire good books, so if you have any comments feel free to leave them here or Tweet to @martialhistoryt or visit our Facebook page at Be devoted!


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