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.