Uniforms Osprey Publishing Men-at-Arms books, hate them or love them?

major bill

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Some of the earlier Osprey Men-at-arms were two books published in 1971; The Iron Brigade and The Stonewall Brigade. John Selby provided the text while Michael Roffe provided the color uniform plates. By today's standards these books leave a lot to be desired. Still they were the start of a total of 24 Osprey books covering Civil War uniforms with a total of 434 full color uniforms shown in the uniform plates. The books have improved over the insuring 50 years.

Still some Civil War uniform buffs are not enamored with these Osprey Publishing Men-At-Arms books. The positive thing about them is they are colorful and inexpensive. There are some questions about the quality of the representations. No one can really complain about the total number of uniforms shown.

I think one of my favorite books are the 6 books in The Confederate Army 1861-65 series.
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Ron Field did a good job with the text which was very informative. The 144 full color uniforms by Richard Hook and very well done as well. The down side is that Osprey Publishing wants to keep the books short so does not have proper end notes. The reader just has to trust Ron Field is a well known expert on Civil War uniforms. Still I think this 6 book series is worthy of anyone interested in Confederate uniforms to have on their book shelves.
 

major bill

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The 5 books of The American Civil War Armies is also a good choice.
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These have 122 full color uniforms. Philip Katcher proved the test and Ron Volstad the color uniform plates. The first book came out in 1986. I am a fan of Volstad's work. Again this series should be considered for you library.
 

Kurt G

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May 23, 2018
As you said the early ones are not so great . Because I paint miniatures I have collected nearly all of the Civil War books and several about the colonial wars and Native Americans . At the time they were the cheapest and most readily available reference books .
 

major bill

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Kurt if you painted Civil War miniatures in the 1970s you may have purchased these books as well.
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These were even worse than Osprey books. No disrespected to Michael Blake. These were cheep and available in most hobby shops. Despite their short comings, many miniature painters bought these.
 

Kurt G

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Kurt if you painted Civil War miniatures in the 1970s you may have purchased these books as well.
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These were even worse than Osprey books. No disrespected to Michael Blake. These were cheep and available in most hobby shops. Despite their short comings, many miniature painters bought these.
Yes I did !!
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Coffeeville, TX
They're not the best uniform books, but are a good start. Now that's talking CW, other subjects I find them to be very good if not the best currently out there, but it all comes down to subject. Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas Army, I'd say currently the best, Napoleonic Wars excellent place to start, US Army from 1783-1811? Awesome place to start with no competition. WW1? Excellent.

Its just when it comes to CW subjects, some are a good place to start learning, others horribly off.

No Osprey book will ever be the final word on anything, but they can be good to excellent first words on a subject.
 

major bill

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This is an example of an Osprey book that is both colorful and not well covered by other authors or artists. If one is interested in the early 90 day Union regiments, then I would suggest this book.

That said the above is not the final word on the subject. Ron Field has expanded this subject and published these: books.
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These two books are excellent: Well researched, well written, and extensive end notes. They are not as colorful as the Osprey book. The real issue is that these two books cost $45 each for a total of $90. I am assuming that Ron Field will add two more books for the remaining Union states, so we are looking at $180 verses $18 for the Osprey book. For some people the $180 would be well worth the cost. Still for those only mildly interested in the subject, the Osprey book would probably work.
 

7thWisconsin

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Nov 21, 2014
I find the text can be dry at times. They also can be very short on details about the conflict under consideration, and very long on minor uniform details like changes in pocket details, or number of buttons, or cuff colors, often with no hint of context. As a miniature painting reference they´re very useful, but I would never recommend them as a source for reenactors. (You´d be surprised how often someone will cite one, though!) I probably have dozens of them, though, even with these complaints. Some volumes are better than others, which is understandable given the huge range of writers, illustrators and topics Osprey covers. Those first volumes they published on the Civil War were positively terrible: The Iron Brigade and Stonewall Brigade volumes were filled with inaccuracies and downright mistakes, as were the early ¨Army of the Potomac" and ¨Army of Northern Virginia¨ volumes. I also feel like if you leaf through them looking for interesting inspiration for your minis, you come away with the impression that odd uniform variants such as color or hats, etc were a lot more common than they really were.
 

DixieRifles

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Anyone ever checked out the books by Liliane & Fred Funcken? I have the 2-volume set on Napoleonic Wars which are nice. However many of the other books looked more like sketches than nice drawings.

It appears they made two volumes on US uniforms. I think this is a Funcken book. It looks like they cover a broad period of history. It also is likely not in English.

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SeaTurtle

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Jun 14, 2021
I find the text can be dry at times. They also can be very short on details about the conflict under consideration, and very long on minor uniform details like changes in pocket details, or number of buttons, or cuff colors, often with no hint of context. As a miniature painting reference they´re very useful, but I would never recommend them as a source for reenactors.

That's also one of my main problems with Osprey's Men-at-Arms series ... but I guess it all depends what you're looking for. I actually haven't read too many of Osprey's books on the Civil War, but one that I did and can recommend is "Confederate Artilleryman 1861-65" from the Warrior series. Years ago I participated in a Civil War reenactment as a CSA artilleryman, and reading that book was interesting because it gave a look not only at what the guys were wearing and carrying, but also things like their recruitment/training and the conditions of their daily life on campaign. When it comes to Osprey books I much prefer the Warrior series over Men-at-Arms for this reason, because Warrior books cover both equipment and service history, as opposed to just uniform details.
 

Cavalier

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Jul 20, 2019
@DixieRifles I also have the Funcken Napoleonic books. Pretty good, although I think they have been surpassed since their publication years ago. I guess that would be expected though. I never did see the Civil War books.

John
 

DixieRifles

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I have several Osprey books left from my days of painting Napoleonic War figures. Some of the later booklets seem to be better quality of info.
The only one I have on the Civil War is one on Forts on the Mississippi River: I think one of 2 parts. But what makes me skeptical is the book is published and drawn by British chaps. It seems they fid their research well and likely visited the sites.
 

major bill

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Anyone ever checked out the books by Liliane & Fred Funcken? I have the 2-volume set on Napoleonic Wars which are nice. However many of the other books looked more like sketches than nice drawings.

It appears they made two volumes on US uniforms. I think this is a Funcken book. It looks like they cover a broad period of history. It also is likely not in English.

View attachment 414559
View attachment 414560
I have the cavalry/artillery book.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
But what makes me skeptical is the book is published and drawn by British chaps.
I wouldn't let they're nationality bother me. For example, the best Texas Revolution books, histories, and knowledge are wrote by the Brits. I think mainly because too many Texan authors, like too many Southerners, will go with the legend over fact any day.

Osprey is a good example, they have a pretty darned good, but way too short, book on Republic of Texas Army uniforms from 1836-1842, and its probably the best out there, other books not getting they're terminology right on cloth and other small details, it goes into what detail it can, has good documentation and so forth. Most American/Texan authors insist no such thing existed as a uniformed Texas Army and they were, (and this is oversimplifying it) all in rags and coonskin caps with "Kentucky Rifles" and no muskets in sight, which is a disgraceful, willful ignorance in my blunt opinion.

And that's not even getting into how the Brits reproduce some of the most period correct CW era woolens on the market!

Also I find it odd I'm defending Osprey on uniform books! I feel dirty now...
 

mofederal

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Southeast Missouri
I have quite a few covering everything from early periods to the Korean War. The later books are good. I have some of the very early ones also. There are a few I would like to pick up though. Mostly the ones covering the Trans-Mississippi area.
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
I wouldn't let they're nationality bother me. For example, the best Texas Revolution books, histories, and knowledge are wrote by the Brits. I think mainly because too many Texan authors, like too many Southerners, will go with the legend over fact any day.

Osprey is a good example, they have a pretty darned good, but way too short, book on Republic of Texas Army uniforms from 1836-1842, and its probably the best out there, other books not getting they're terminology right on cloth and other small details, it goes into what detail it can, has good documentation and so forth. Most American/Texan authors insist no such thing existed as a uniformed Texas Army and they were, (and this is oversimplifying it) all in rags and coonskin caps with "Kentucky Rifles" and no muskets in sight, which is a disgraceful, willful ignorance in my blunt opinion.

And that's not even getting into how the Brits reproduce some of the most period correct CW era woolens on the market!

Also I find it odd I'm defending Osprey on uniform books! I feel dirty now...
I'm not limiting this post to the M at A series, so I'm also including at least the New Vanguard, Campaign, and Elites. Osprey does a generally good job at covering issues/information that nobody else does. The AWI is one strong example - their books on US Navy vessels and US Privateers, American Loyalist units, British Light Infantry, Hessian units, AWI tactics, and the Camden Campaign fill big gaps and they're well-researched and accurate. For the ACW, the NV books covering the different types of vessels used by both sides are solid (just wish they'd add one on USN screw sloops, etc)
 
Joined
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Location
Southwest Mississippi
They're not the best uniform books, but are a good start.
No Osprey book will ever be the final word on anything, but they can be good to excellent first words on a subject.

In my opinion, a mixed bag. Sometimes even within the same era, (Civil War, War of 1812, Napoleonic, etc.).

John

I agree 100% .

Personally, I don't think Osprey ever intended to publish a set of reference books for any of their topics.
I think their goal from the start was to only be an introduction.

A pre-internet "wiki" for lack of a better description.
 
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