The Napoleonic Books of Tranie & Carmigniani
Reviewed by Yves Martin
The genesis first of all - let's put ourselves back at the end of the 1960's. It's a wonderful time for Napoleonic aficionados. The bicentennial of the great man's birth is coming up and publishers are eager to come out with luxurious volumes on the Napoleonic period. It's also very fitting for Gaullist France to celebrate the Napoleonic Epoch.
Amongst the works thus published, one outshines the others in quality of content, illustrations and above all, maps. It is the Atlas de la Grande Armée by Jean-Claude Quennevat. Like so many amateurs, even though he is a physician he's devoted his spare time to travelling across Europe taking photographs of the battlefields and amassing considerable documentation. He also has an uncanny gift for drawing precise, clear maps and his Atlas became an overnight classic amongst French amateurs.
Atlas de la Grande Armee
Two years later, getting closer to the bicentennial, Quennevat once again turns up with a very nice volume - this time picturing the life and times of the common soldier using exclusively primary sources (Suhr, Zix etc.). This volume was to have less of a success than the previous one, but still it had its impact.
Les Vrais Soldats de Napoleon
Four years pass by, the concept of nice books on military history is no longer that popular, but it does have its audience. On French TV, a regular series "The Great Battles of the Past" has been airing since the late 1960s. At first it was devoted to World War II, but it was expanding to other periods and bringing together some individuals who share a taste for military history, but also an artistic touch. Juan Carlos Carmigniani was part of the crew and as was Baron Louis de Beaufort. Their first editorial endeavor was to bring in Jean-Claude Quennevat for his maps and to use Commandant Henry Lachouque's well-known text on Waterloo. De Beaufort has an easy enough job for the uniform plates - since the early 1960's, he's been drawing a series specifically on Waterloo for "Le Briquet" in Orleans. He puts in color a selection of them for the purpose of the book, which is published in time for Christmas 1972.
The book is somewhat of a success. In a way, it is the book translation of the successful TV series. Lets think back for a minute how amazing this was -- for getting an audience with a show dedicated to military history in the midst of the Vietnam War and the high tide of flower power was truly an achievement!
Almost two years later, Stock decides to come up again with a similar project. In line with the TV series, they switch periods and come out with a book on the battle of the Marne in 1914. The author is Georges Blond. His text is well known and as colorful as Lachouques Waterloo. The choice of illustrations done by Carmigniani continues to be superb. de Beaufort creates a specific series of plates showing all the early WW1 uniforms and Quennevat comes up with the maps.
Unfortunately, the book simply does not have the same success. World War I is not the Napoleonic period and Stock seems to have concluded then not to pursue the series anymore.
In 1978, Carmigniani; with the support of Louis de Beaufort for the uniforms, teams up time with Jean Tranié who is charged with writing a text based on the notes of Commandant Lachouque, who has since passed away, comes up with the Campagne d'Espagne. This time, a new publishing house (incidentally also publisher of extreme right-wing political works) takes up the challenge and will maintain it for the next four years. This along with the original Waterloo will be the only two books of the series to be published in English. This volume long out of print came out again last year with a slightly modified set of illustrations.
Napoleon et la Campagne d'Espagne 1807-1814
The series is now established as a "classic" and Jean Tranie will rely heavily on Lachouques notes. Unfortunately Tranie lacks his colorful style - however the attractiveness of the illustrations and the uniform plates by de Beaufort, often depicting little know uniforms, will make each volume a success amongst the hobbyists.
Napoleon et l'Autriche: La Campagne de 1809
Napoleon et la Russie: Les Annees Victorieuses
In 1981, Copernic was not doing well and the series is picked up by the prestigious military publishing house: Charles Lavauzelle.
La Campagne de Russie, Napoleon 1812
In 1982, both Tranie and Carmigniani take a pause in the series and come out first with a volume on the 1st Polish Lancers of the Guard published by Copernic and then with a new edition of Lachouque's Garde Imperiale (also known as The Anatomy of Glory in English). The beauty of the French edition is that it provides different illustrations and very nice plates by Leliepvre and de Beaufort
Les Polonais de Napoleon
La Garde Imperiale by Henry Lachouque
In 1983, they depart completely from the Napoleonic saga and turn to a topic which is dear to de Beaufort and a number of French collectors: the civil war in the west. This book is perhaps one of the finest as it shows little known illustrations and Beaufort outdid himself in his plates.
Les Guerres de lOuest 1793-1815
They resumed work on the Napoleonic period in 1984 with a book on the Jena Campaign.
Napoleon et lAllemagne, Prusse 1806
In 1985, they republished, with Lavauzelle, the original start of the series Waterloo with some slight changes in illustrations and all uniform plates in color. Incidentally, the full original series of Waterloo plates has NEVER been published in color or in totality in those books. It is currently available again from Le Briquet, but as black and white plates only and as a complete set.
Waterloo: La Fin d'un Monde
In 1987, the last book published with Lavauzelle is the 1st volume dedicated to the Revolutionary Wars - it wass not a success. It was slim, had no uniform plates, and was fairly expensive.
La Patrie en Danger 1792-1793: Les Campagnes de la
At the same time Tranié and Carmigniani were starting with a new publisher: Pygmalion. Also new uniform illustrators were brought in. From 1987 to 1991, the series gradually was completed and has boasted some excellent names like Courcelle, Rousselot, Coppens etc.
Napoleon 1813 La Campagne d'Allemagne
Jean Tranié & Juan-Carlos Carmigniani; uniform plates by Patrice Courcelle; Pygmalion, 1988.
Jean Tranié & Juan-Carlos Carmigniani; uniform plates by Lucien Rousselot & Henri Bidault; Pygmalion, 1989.
Jean Tranié & Juan-Carlos Carmigniani; uniform plates by Lucien Rousselot & Louis de Beaufort; Pygmalion, 1990.
Jean Tranié & Juan-Carlos Carmigniani; uniform plates by Louis de Beaufort; Pygmalion, 1991.
Napoleon et l'Angleterre
The more recent works have been around the re-publishing of some of the older titles (Russia 1812 & Spain).
So, which titles are available today? All the Pygmalion titles still are (except for 1814) and the prices range from 520 FF to 680 FF.
The qualities of the series are many, especially the superb illustrations and the great uniform plates. The text, however, is poor to very poor (with the noticeable exceptions of Lachouques Waterloo and Garde Imperiale) and the prices are very high. They are not difficult to find at auctions or flea-markets and can be bought at good prices. Horutoulles excellent books on Ney and Lasalle, also published by Copernic in the 1980s, are in comparison, much more expensive when they show up (500/700 FF). The reason is that the text is massively superior and illustrations are also of high quality (Courcelle for Ney, Girbal for Lasalle).
Actually this is nothing in comparison with Quennevats works - over time they have been acknowledged as some of the best ever published and the Atlas usually is in the range of 1000/1500 FF and the Soldats 800/1000 FF. Not bad in retrospect for coffee table books first conceived by eager publishers in the late 1960s!
Reviewed by Yves Martin