Friday, 1 June 2012

A pile of books.....

An old friend of mine is having central heating installed and was thus forced to pack up her extensive collection of books to allow the workmen access. This is no easy task given the number of books she has both inherited and collected, nay rescued, form second hand bookshops. She comes from a line of similarly inclined bibliophiles and so her eclectic collection is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of the great, good, curious and obscure. There is even the most fantastic collection of paper figurines, each one beautifully hand drawn and coloured by her late uncle and father in their youth. These were used to play wargames and political campaigns from their imaginations and the most unique and wonderful pieces I have ever seen. I will see if I cannot photograph them and post a few here for you all to see, they really are a true slice of early wargame history!  But I digress.

In moving these books my friend began to take stock of just what she really had, and no doubt surprised herself. She decided to re home a few titles with those that would understand and appreciate them as she did, and so I got a call and was offered some wargaming related pieces. Big happy smilie face!

The first piece to catch my eye was actually a magazine.

This is the first time I had ever seen a copy of this early but august publication, a precursor to today's glossy magazines. I have no idea as to whether the 30p cover price made this an expensive purchase back in 1974, I was eight at the time and still unaware that such a hobby existed; let alone that it would take over my life! Inside there are article and adverts just as one would find today and whilst primitive by today's production standards it is still readily identifiable and as readable as ever.

I was particularly drawn to the adverts, this one especially for Peter laing;

15mm figures at just 4p each are a thing of the past and, thankfully I have to say, so are Peter Laing figures. Back in the very early 80's I saved up and sent of my letter and postal order to Mr Laing for some of his colonial range pieces; can't remember which now, possibly Sudan or Zulu wars. I was hugely disappointed by what arrived, to my eye the figures were shapeless, poorly detailed random pieces of metal and quite useless. I even had the temerity to send them back demanding a refund and telling him just what I thought of the horrid things; I was just fifteen. I got a refund and a letter back saying that most adult and serious wargamers loved his wares and my lack of experience in all things worldly was to my everlasting shame, at least that was the gist of it. Happy days. God they were awful figures...and that was by the poor standard of the day then too.

The other books of particular note were;

The British Navy in War, edited by Herbert Strang, c.1925. some very interesting insights to the effectiveness of ship types, weapons and tactics of the day.

European Military Uniforms, a short history, by Paul Martin. 1967. An interesting piece, a large hardback version of a modern osprey book really. It has some nice pencil illustration and some very nice period prints.

Annals of a Fortress, by E. Viollet-le-Luc, translated by Benjamin Bucknall, 1875. This is a great book that follows the history of defencive building from ancient times to the time of writing, has some good illustrations too.

But, the greatest title in the set is the two volume 'Battles of the Nineteenth Century', 1897. These books provide detailed, if perhaps a little dated, battle histories illustrated throughout with wonderful engravings. Curiously, none of the battles appear to be in any particular order. Both volumes are falling apart but seem complete. I am considering having them restored, not because they are collectible and worth any money, rather to protect them and make them more accessible to read. I am also tempted to photograph the pages of specific battles and publish them as blog posts. Anyone have a favourite they would like me to look up?


  1. I've never even heard of this mag???

    1. hi Ray, I have only heard it mentioned once or twice, usually as a reference, but that was it. Its the first I have ever actually seen certainly. No doubt some of the much older wargamers out there remember it, you and I are too young of course ;)