Friday, September 1, 2017

Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification 1848-1870 (1)

Advertised as the first of a two-part series covering the three Italian Wars of Unification, I awaited the release of Osprey's MAA's 512 Armies of the Italian Wars of Unification 1848-70 (1) with anticipation.  While my interest is primarily focused on the second unification war of 1859-1860, the first and third wars would hold interest as well.  What topics and uniforms would be included in Volume 1?  I enjoy Giuseppe Rava's artwork so there was much for which to look forward.  Over several months leading up to its release, several versions of the cover artwork were shown.  Which illustrations would make the cover?  

Upon announcement of the book's release, I quickly ordered a copy.  With quick Amazon shipping, the book arrived in two days.

While Rava's illustrations are colorful and first rate works of art, the textual content is a disappointment.  The text consists almost entirely of describing organization and weapons.  For a proper uniform guide, I expect some historical background and army organization, no doubt, but details on uniforms worn are paramount.  "Details" in the sense of providing enough information to make the book a valuable addition to the body of uniformology.  Ideally, the book should offer a uniform guide first and foremost.

Some uniform details are present.  However, uniform specifics are tucked away in the back of the book in the Plate Commentaries as well as in captions accompanying black & white illustrations.  Having uniform details accompanying period black & white illustrations is an odd choice.    Still not enough information from which to paint the Piedmont, Neapolitan, and Sicilian armies.  With a wealth of uniform information readily available on the internet, gathering these sources and incorporating into a booklet could provide a foundation for a uniform guide.

For a few, useful uniform guides on the Risorgimento, see my earlier post on Risorgimento Uniform Guides.

While this is not the book I would have written, all is not lost.  Looking at the B&W illustrations and Rava's full color uniform plates, the 1848 Neapolitan uniforms have a striking similarity in style to uniforms worn by the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War.  That is a useful bit of information!  If fielding a Neapolitan army for the 1848-1849 conflict is troublesome with respect to figures, Mexican regulars (including Grenadier Guards of the Supreme Power) could stand in for Neapolitans with only minimal differences especially in 15mm.  Well, that may be my approach if I work in that direction. 

27 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review Jon. I had thought to maybe pick this up out of interest, but like you, I expect modern MAA titles to be uniform guides first and foremost. Still, I do have a number of Ospreys that I bought just for the colour plates.

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    1. Nathan, you buy Osprey books only for the pictures? I guess it really is wargamer porn...

      I have many Ospreys purchased for the color plates too. Most have uniform details described in addition to wonderful uniform plates. Not all Osprey MAAs booklets are created equally. This one is a cut below the rest.

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    2. Ospreys are notoriously inconsistent. There's no proper historical editorial support behind the scenes. The good are very good, the poor are...well, poor isn't an adequate word for them. At least it isn't thoroughly objectionable, unlike the one about the Condor Legion.

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    3. Quite right about that! When they are good they are very, very good and when they are bad they are horrid. Excuse my paraphrasing...

      Good to see you pop in to leave a comment!

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    4. Yes. For some reason I thought I was a follower and you had just given up posting. Whoops.

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    5. As you see, I never stopped posting.

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  2. I second Napoleon's sentiments. I was leaning forward to pick this book up, but your review tells me everything I need to know--I could go on at length, as I'm sure others could, at the Ospreys that miss the point like this. I'll probably still pick it up, eventually, but will understand what I'm getting and not be disappointed. Thanks for taking the time to share the review.

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    1. Ed, if you pick up MAA512, I would enjoy reading your thoughts. Hopefully, my assessment was correct.

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  3. Useful review, I like the commentary. If you haven't listened to it already, the "Revolutions" podcast is currently covering this time period. It has great summaries on developments in Northern Italy and Hungary.

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    1. Thanks, Jake. I have not listened to the Revolutions podcast but it is now in my queue. I appreciate the reminder.

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  4. Excellent review Jonathan. I still have copies of the excellent Miniature Wargames magazine from the 1980's that piqued my interest in the Italian Wars.

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    1. Mark, I have a number of excellent resources for the time period and was let down by the latest Osprey. Do you happen to recall which issues of MW contained the articles to which you refer? Perhaps I have an MW article index around here somewhere?

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    2. I can't lay my hand on the copies at present, but there were three articles on the war of 1859 by Luigi Cassali starting I THINK in issue 145.

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    3. I was wrong with the issue numbers. Issue number 45 (February 1987) has the article on the Piedmontese and issue 47 (April 1987) the Austrians. I can scan these for you if you need.

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    4. Mark, I have Casali's little green booklet but not the issues of MW that contain his articles. If you can scan in the articles, I would enjoy seeing them.

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  5. Very helpful book. Thank You fof a review Jonathan.

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  6. Thats disappointing, I've taken some photos of the book on piedmont uniforms I picked up in Florence 20 years ago, I'll try and post it over the weekend. On the subject of ospreys some are little gems and others fall below the mark, at one point I had every maa and elite that they published, luckily I don't feel the need for all of them anymore!
    Best Iain

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    1. Iain, I look forward to seeing your Piedmontese uniform plates picked up in a visit to Florence. A time-consuming but useful exercise might to be categorize MAA, Elite, and Warrior books as either Useful or Not Useful to the wargamer.

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  7. Amazon UK have it up for £6.02 for the Kindle at the moment, which I think is around half the price of the printed version.

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    1. Thanks, Norm. That makes it less than BP1.00 per uniform plate. Not bad if you are content with the digital version.

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  8. Its a period I've toyed with several times, I still don't know too much or enough about the wars, so they'd be a perfect purchase for me.

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    1. Ray, there are many better "first" books on the period. If you want suggestions, drop me a note.

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  9. Interesting review Jonathon useful......but sadly not a period for me 🙂

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    1. Matt, even if you were interested in the period, this booklet would not be a suitable introduction.

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