Brace of Reference Books Earns Top Marks

"WWI French Army" and "German Army 1870-1914"

June 24, 2010

The universe of reference books is immense, but very few rise to the upper reaches of quality. These two – incomparably lavish and detailed – are at the furthest limit.

The French Army in the First World War – From 1914 to 1918 Uniforms, Equipment, Armament, Vol. 2, Laurent Mirouze, Stéphane Dekerle, Stefan Rest, Ed., 640 pages/ approx. 1700 photographs and illustrations, 10”x11 ½ “ hard cover, linen bound, Price $123.00, Verlag Militaria, Vienna, Austria, www.verlagmilitaria.at, ISBN 978-3-902526-20-5

The German Infantry, from 1871 to 1914, Uniforms and Equipment, Vols. 1 and 2, Ulrich Herr, Jens Nguyen, Ed. Stefan Rest, 864 pages/ca. 2100 photographs and illustrations, 10”x 11 ½” with protective slipcase, $161.00, Verlag Militaria, Vienna, Austria, www.verlagmilitaria.at, ISBN 978-3-902526-23-6

The first covers the French Army in WWI, the second, Germany from the Franco-Prussian War to the outbreak of 1914-1918 conflict. The breadth and depth of the martial trappings surveyed is unusually extensive and wide-ranging. The authors do a stunning job, exhibiting the same care and intelligence in the writing as went into the laying out of the uniforms, insignia and field gear. Often, this regalia is shown adjacent to terrific, amazingly crisp period images of the same items.

Consider a few pieces of headgear alone: we’re treated to Poliau helmets and marshal’s kepis, Adrian helmets with Polock visors, Algerian colonial troops’ Spahis. And on the German side miters, shakos, spiked helmets in leather and steel, tschapkas and, well, the lists grows long. Views are multiple. The same applies to the profusion of beautiful uniforms, epaulettes, edged weapons and field equipment.

Bavaria, Hesse, Saxony, Prussia, French guards troops and the other Old Familiars all get their due (and then some!) Plus, there’s separate coverage of individual branches like machine gunners, artillerymen and musicians.

The mostly-color photography is consistently spectacular – museum quality. Hundreds of gorgeous examples from signal whistles and bedroll straps to generals’ attire are on view, mostly in exceptional condition. Many objects have never been illustrated.

The text is the illustrations’ equal – well wrought and expert, with fine historic background on the items and changes to them over time, and the forces who wore or carried them. All is arranged with exceptional care and intelligence, and will be marveled at by the militaria student and collector, historian and museum curator.

Both of these two books are splendid in every way. A fantastic achievement, and a most worthwhile investment. - Review by David Walsh

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