Monday, April 8, 2013

UNIFORMOLOGY 101 Revisited!

      So it was a while ago when I mentioned I had an interest in UNIFORMOLOGY and that I was a budding Gibernard albeit a novice uniformologist  (a gibernard being a " uniformologue" to say one impassioned with military uniforms). But the biggest dilemma for me was where to start exactly? So I guess here is better than nowhere.

      My intent here is to try and share and inform those interested in Napoleonic Uniforms of the numerous manuscript sources that exist (Around the world and within my own collection), where to possibly find them (various places), and the difficulty that exist when attempting to try and understand and establish not only their original point of origin (Provenance), but the uniform information that they portray itself (I.E. credibility) as a valid contemporary uniform source?

      First, I'd just like to start out by showing how difficult it can be to verify many of the uniform plates that one often sees portrayed in various places! Some are the original contemporary artists plates, hand painted, or manufactured by the original artist. Such as Martinet's wonderful series of contemporary commercial prints for example. While others yet are merely copies (Both authorized (By the Manuscript's owner), & unauthorized knock offs made over the passing years), and others yet simply rendered with only a B&W (sketched plate), or with just text to relay the uniforms most basic information, or possible misinformation, directly intended, or not so directly intended by the artist?

      Thus you can see the difficulties one encounters when merely attempting to try and simply decipher these various manuscripts sources which are often referenced to by more modern artist in today's works (Such as Knotel & Rousselot's series of plates), but that are not always so easily understood, or decipherable? Many being published in their native tongue which is not in English. Some manuscript sources contain mysterious origins and surroundings, and these will be mentioned here as well when appropriate. These suspect circumstances call into question their very provenance, and validity as to whether or not they should even be considered as contemporary resources and as to whether they should, or shouldn't be actually counted as an official original contemporary uniform resource!

Can you easily tell the difference/s yourself?

This print is considered to be one of four existing original copies of the "Abbildung der Uniformen aller in Hamburg seit den Jahren 1806 bis 1815 einquartirt gewesener Truppen" circa 1820 and located at the Commerce chamber library in Hamburg. As you can see the original colors have already started to fade and change from Red to Pink on the two figures to the right! I have a theory about this print vs. others which I'll explain, and can be found online here and here;

This is a copy of the above and below print, which in my theory was reworked from the above work specifically for the later release in 1859 the work entitled "Sammlung verschiedener Spanischer National-Trachten und Uniformen der Division des Marquis de La Romana, 1807 und 1808 in Hamburg in Garnison". Notice the more detailed background work not present on the original above work, figure #2's head gear and the corrected colors on the right two figures. This work can be found here;

Original plate I believe from the "Sammlung verschiedener Spanischer National-Trachten und Uniformen der Division des Marquis de La Romana, 1807 und 1808 in Hamburg in Garnison" 1859 and purchased by me! Amazingly it was amongst a bunch of plates attributed to P. Suhr which were all of only Hambourg scenery, but this and the others I purchased with it were all of only Spanish troops! It can be found here; Authors personal Collection! Notice the boundaries that surround the plate are similar to the below plate.

Original plate held amongst the Ann S. K. Brown collection at Brown University in Rhode Island and attributed to the original work "Abbildung der Uniformen aller in Hamburg seit den Jahren 1806 bis 1815 einquartirt gewesener Truppen". Yet in appearance it does not seam to exactly match the top print. Notice no grenade emblem at all on the second figures head gear. It's provenance however is well documented and recorded as such here;

"It is actually very rare, and two copies only have been found so far. The first one belongs to the Trade Library of Hamburg, the 2nd one belongs to M. Le Vte de Bois-Lecomte, who got it from his father in law M. de Noirmont. This second copy has actually got fewer plates than the one of Hamburg and is the one purchased by Anne S. K. Brown. (Tradition #5)

      The French magazine "Tradition" published in 1998 in a special issue the color reproduction of the copy from the Lipperheide collection in Berlin.

      Every possible country and type of uniform is illustrated, and it is truly a treasure trove of interesting plates. The price of the magazines is incredibly low when one considers that the 1902 copy of the Hamburg Manuscript goes for thousands of dollars (if you can find one!).

      My only criticism is that there isn't the lively and informative narrative as found in Guy Dempsey's books on the Otto Manuscript and Martinet prints.

Tradition Magazine has a wonderful series of issues dedicated strictly to Napoleonic Era Uniform manuscripts as well as articles dedicated  to uniformology in it's regular monthly issued series of magazines.

Copies can be purchased here;

N 131
Un corps espagnol à Hambourg
- La division espagnole "La Romana" à la Grande Armée 1807-1808
The monthly publication!

The bourgeois Hamburg. - Manuscript drawn in 1806, by Professor Cornelius Suhr? (As you can see not always labeled correctly to original artist,) notice how it mirrors the top print in the background, it was published in 1968 by. M. Henri Achard. Notice the second figure appears to possibly have an additional grenade emblem on the right of his cap? Artist copy error, or a correction (See TOP plate)? It can be found online here;

Accompanying above plate #19 information.

      Among the works and manuscripts relating to contemporary 1st Empire uniforms, the most famous and perhaps the least known among collectors, is undoubtedly the manuscript, called "The Bourgeois Hamburg".
      Like many Germans of that time, fans of uniforms, Artist Christian (and not Christoffer) Suhr of Hamburg, drew from 1805 to 1815, all the costumes of the numerous units that were stationed in Hamburg during this period. 

      Discovered in the late nineteenth century, this manuscript was a revelation on "Uniformology". It includes more than 500 uniforms in 158 plates with the following breakdown:
- 58 sheets of the French army, where, according to J. Margerand are "des renseignements uniques .... sur les aides de camp et les Guides du Prince of Ponte-Corvo, Marins de la Garde... "and the representation of all arms: infantry, cavalry, engineers, train, artillery, gendarmerie and Linea Elite, customs, etc. ...

- 33 sheets of troops Marques de la Romana, is the most complete work is known of these troops. 

- 4 sheets of the army of the Kingdom of Italy. 

- 34 sheets of the army of the Kingdom of the Netherlands before 1810. 

- 7 sheets of the Kingdom of Westphalia. 

- 5 sheets of German allies of the Confederation of the Rhine. 

- 5 sheets of German allies (Hanover, etc..). 

- 3 sheets of Danish troops. 

- 1 sheet of Swedish troops. 

- 7 sheets of Russian troops.

Another copy of the above series "Sammlung verschiedener Spanischer National-Trachten und Uniformen der Division des Marquis de La Romana, 1807 und 1808 in Hamburg in Garnison" PLATE #11. Notice no second grenade emblem on the second figure? Mirroring the later work from 1859 (See plate 2). It can be found here;

Accompanying text for plate #11 wth noticed differences from plate #19 above.

      To add to the above there are these as well from the NYPL
Vinkhuijzen collection.

Collection History:
      The collection assembled by H. J. Vinkhuijzen (1843-1910), a Dutch physician, and presented to the Library by Mrs. Henry Draper in 1911, consists in its entirety of over 32,000 pictures, from many sources, mounted in 762 scrapbooks. (The digital presentation will ultimately include them all.) The collection is remarkably diverse, depicting costume as various as the rough wool garments of Bronze age Etruscan warriors, the robes of Ottoman Turk court officials, and the elaborate uniforms of the preening armies of 19th-century Europe, the collection's special strength. Found here;

Los Uniformes que le han dado a todo Exercito de España. Anno 1806. [Title page] . (1910) found here;

Kleeding en Uitruiting der Spanische Troopen en Burger, de period 1807-1810.

An original Martinet print that was produced for the masses during the era!

And most recently printed by Bertrand Malvaux and can be found here;

And brilliantly deciphered here for the layman by my good friend Guy Dempsey whom I befriended while operating my book store "Les Grognards" in the early 1990's, and with whom I've corresponded with and collected from and for for years now. I'm greatly indebted to him for his willingness to assist me with gaining knowledge of this truly fascinating era in Uniformology in which he is a master and for his friendship in always answering my never unending questions. Copies of his many books which I'll cover in subsequent postings can be found here;

The Rousselot series of plates are some of the most popular today! Traditionally they are accompanied by text in French although the later reprints done in the 1970's and later included text in both French & English.

Most recently captured and printed in this latest work! And can be found on the web here;

A Knotel print! One of the most widely popular series of prints known the world over and most recently printed by my good friend and mentor the late Col. John Elting in a series of 4 vol's in 2000 and again on 2007. And can be found on the web here;

The original series in German!

And can be found here;

The most common English text version!

And most recently by the late Col. John Eltings works. The amazingly gracious individual who first got me started in collecting and researching Napoleonic Uniforms.

The 2007 version!

Some can be found here;


  1. Interesting stuff. A good place to start your compendium on British and French uniforms might be the late C19th/early C20th indexes of military prints. Much as I love Knotel et al, I do find that using post period renderings tends to dilute or mislead research more often than not, and these indexes re-focus you on the early or contemporary sources.

  2. These indexes and print research materials will be the subject of a later posting. Thanks for the reminder!