One Christmas long, long ago–back in the days when My Own True Love was no more than my buddy and business partner–we exchanged packages that looked oddly similar. I gave him a book on the battle of Dunbar, part of Osprey Publication’s Campaign series. He gave me a book on Attila the Hun, part of Osprey Publications Elite series. Both gifts were references to inside jokes, made funnier by the shared impulse.
In the intervening years, I’ve come to have a great deal of respect for Osprey’s little books on military history. They’re only fifty to one hundred pages long. Each volume focuses on a specific battle, campaign, regiment or leader. They’re beautifully illustrated and what a friend of mine used to call “pelucidly clear”. The reading lists in the back are well chosen. I’ll admit that the books are a little short on color commentary. I wouldn’t curl up with an Osprey, the cat, and a cup of tea on a rainy Sunday. But when I need to follow the course of battle at Gettysburg, understand how armies were organized in the 30 Years War, or compare the gun power of Tudor warships with that of their sixteenth century Spanish counterparts, I turn to the Osprey catalog.
Speaking of which, I have some books to order.