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The History Book Man and
W J Rawkins (Military Books)
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THE ARMIES AND UNIFORMS SERIES
by W. J. Rawkins
Introduction to the series
This series of small reference books designed for the war gamer and military modeller originated some forty years ago and the first volumes published from 1972 were a series of illustrated booklets and colour plates on various uniforms and flags of the Napoleonic Wars, many with artwork by the late Pat Evans some of whose work appeared in the later books until 1979. At that time there were virtually no easily available reference works on many of the uniforms of Napoleonic armies and so a small publishing company ‘The Historical and Military Research Group’ was formed with the intention of trying to fill the gap in low cost, no frills, easy to use uniform guides. In 1978 when we relocated from Maidenhead to new premises in Norwich the publishing was absorbed into my bookselling business and The HMR Group Ltd ceased to exist as a separate entity.
In 1977 thirty odd pamphlets and papers were combined into the first two larger and more comprehensive studies of the uniforms of the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian Armies; subjects which had never been adequately covered in the English language. Unable to find a main-stream publisher who was willing to take on the project as the subject matter was ‘obscure with no discernable market’ I decided to use the completed manuscripts and publish the books in a duplicated booklet format, re-jigged the original colour illustrations into black and white, and printed an initial 500 copies of each. The booklets were ‘cheap and cheerful’ and not without flaws but the entire 1000 copies had sold out within two weeks and I saw no reason to change the format or look elsewhere for an outside publisher. By the time that the final print runs were made in 1984 the series consisted of nearly twenty 'In Print' uniform guides, two volumes of skirmish wargaming rules, two books of solo wargaming scenarios, with a further seven Armies & Uniforms titles in the draft stage of preparation. Most titles had been reprinted multiple times and several of the earlier works had been substantially revised and updated with newly acquired information and in total the ‘Armies & Uniforms Series’ had sold well over 200,000 copies.
By 1984 with my own health deteriorating rapidly, plus added concerns over family health issues, I was forced to withdraw from most daily business activities and only returned to the book trade full time after a break of several years although I continued to research and formulate new and revised titles for the series. I finally retired as a book dealer in 2009 after forty-nine years. The last five years have been spent scanning and indexing an office full of filing cabinets containing forty years worth of documents, photographs and illustrations into usable digital images, including the huge photographic image collection of uniforms by the late Erik Carlsen-Smythe courtesy of Erik's family and estate in Sweden.
It had always been my intention to update and re-issue the Armies and Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars series in one format or another and perhaps finish the unpublished manuscripts; the publication of these books was always totally customer driven and so the advent of E-publishing seems to be an ideal medium to be able to offer the books to modern enthusiasts in a low cost, no frills format, in keeping with my original principals of fifty years ago.
Unlike paper editions where size and weight must be a consideration for the independent publisher, e-books have no such restrictions. A large amount of information omitted from the early books will now be included and hopefully the errors, some minor and some real 'howlers' have now been corrected in the revisions. Many of the original colour illustrations which were not used in the 1970s and 1980s have been updated and will replace the black and white versions, and from 2014 most of the new editions will be in full colour throughout. In particular I am over joyerd to be able to use the fine colour illustrations of flags by my late wargaming partner Pat Evans which were last published as a series of colour plates in the 1970s. For the first time it will now be possible to make use of illustrations sourced from contemporary or well known military artists.
I started work on revising the text elements of the original books in 2011 and the new colour illustration boards in 2013 to replace the older black and white versions. It is intended to re-publish most of the original titles in time and a couple of the unpublished manuscripts are now in the process of being finally completed. I hope that these new editions are of interest to the modern generation of war gamers and Napoleonic enthusiasts, so far the response has been very encouraging. It is particularly satisfying that so many clients from the 1970s and 1980s have contacted me to acquire the new editions and have been very kind in their comments.
My particular thanks must go to those correspondents who have reminded me of booklets and prints which appeared briefly in our publication schedules in the 1970s and 1980s and were kind enough to send me copies of those which had disappeared from our archives in the course of various shop and office moves over the years.
W. J. Rawkins June 2014