Those of us in the miniature wargaming hobby are very well aware of the British book publisher, Osprey. Based in Oxford, the company was originally created as a subsidiary of a tea company that had packaged trading cards of military aircraft with their tea products. The cards’ artist proposed a series of books on warplanes, and Osprey was born. To date, the company has printed more than 1,500 books, all on some aspect of military history, and must be regarded as the most prolific publisher of strictly military titles in the world. Osprey has a small U.S. staff based in New York City, but a giant distribution partner in Random House, who handles the importing, warehousing, and channel management to get the Osprey books to retailers and book distributors.
I have several of their very extensive line of Civil War books, many of which are of value to both wargamers, dioramists, modelers, reenactors, living historians, and general Civil War buffs. Each book is typically 60-70 pages in length, but is chock full of incredibly detailed (and exhaustively researched) full color illustrations by some of the leading military artists in the world. These plates are often useful guides for painting miniature figures, as well as helping reenactors reduce that “farby” look by at least getting the style and colors correct, as well as the accoutrements (the illustrations don’t help the fact that many reenactors resemble me – 50ish, graying, and a tad in excess of the average weight and height of a typical ACW soldier). One particularly useful series of books covers the wide variety of state-issued Confederate uniforms throughout the war.
Osprey’s books are also profusely illustrated with period photographs, and each includes crisply written text. The books on campaigns and battles include detailed orders of battle (also of interest to the gaming community). Osprey books cover specific topics such as the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Battle of Shiloh, as well as general subjects such as field artillery and flags. While the books are short and therefore cannot go into extreme detail, the information is concise and generally offers a sweeping overview of the topic, as well as extensive bibliographies.
Osprey also offers an interesting blog related to its products and military history in general. There are nearly one hundred titles specifically related to the American Civil War. Osprey books are often found for a few dollars at wargaming convention dealer halls and flea markets, as well as on eBay and other secondary markets. Newer issues are available from amazon.com and other retailers, as well as in leading bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.
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