Reviews written by howjust
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A must have, despite its imperfections
|Value for Money:||5.0|
This book has also already been reviewed on the Plastic Soldier Review and Amazon websites, however neither of these reviews looked at this book from the point of view of a Napoleonic enthusiast, which is my specialist era.
The first remark to make is that it was originally published in French under the title "Les Petits Soldats Airfix - a l'echelle H0/00 de 1959 a 2009 -". The English language version was very eagerly awaited and it was probably due to time pressure that the translation is not very good.
Since publication, Histoires & Collections has made the English-language version of page 51, which was mistakenly left in French, available as a PDF to download from its website. The relevant web page can be found under: "http://livres.histoireetcollections.com/en/publication/2299/the-airfix-little-soldiers.html"
The H&C website includes four preview pages of the French version, from which can be seen that the layout of the illustrations is exactly the same as in the English version. Interestingly, the original version correctly names PSR, while the English version calls the site "Plastic Soldiers Review", which PSR were a bit miffed about. Also, in the English version, some of the quotes attributed to PSR seem to be translations back to English of the French translation of the original text, while other quotes seem to be lifted directly from the PSR website, which would seem the easier option for a translator.
In fact, I found it strange that the PSR reviews were used at all, as they were all written in retrospect, which doesn't really capture the spirit of the era in which the sets were released.
So much for the presentation of the book, now to the contents: Anyone who buys this book expecting hundreds of photos of Airfix figures will be disappointed. By far the majority of the illustrations are of the box art, however this is not any less interesting, and the figures can already be seen on other websites.
The only photos of Napoleonic figures are two of individual figures from the Waterloo Wargame set (which were anyway copies of figures from the normal Airfix sets). All of the Napoleonic sets are included in the box art illustrations, and there is even a picture from an Airfix catalogue, showing a preview of the box art for the Waterloo French Cavalry set, where a Red Lancer (though called "Polish chevau-leger" in the book) appears among the Cuirassiers. In fact, while looking at the French Cavalry box art, I noticed for the first time, that there is a cuirassier armed with a lance! (This is not mentioned in the book).
The Waterloo Farmhouse and the Waterloo Assault Set box art is shown, and there is even a photo of the Assault Set with the lid open, showing the contents neatly packed inside, but which is of no real benefit, except maybe to recreate the feeling of first opening the set.
Having gone through each set in the text, the last dozen pages list them again in a sort of encyclopaedic format, which is really not necessary. Mixed in with the descriptions of the sets, there are snippets of interviews with the Airfix figure designers and box artists, which are a nice addition.
There is a note at the end of the list of contents, which states that the illustrations speak for themselves, so that captions are usually not included. However, I would have preferred if there had been captions listing the generation of the box art shown. This can only really be deciphered by referring to the table on page 100, which shows how the edges and sides of the boxes evolved over the years.
Most of these points may seem very negative, but considering the lack of books on the subject, it's natural that each one which does appear will be dissected by its readers. The point to remember is that this is a book - a whole book! - dedicated to a subject close to our hearts, and despite its faults, it is more than welcome.
The book is marked as no. 6 in the series "Figures and Toys"; the other books seem to be dedicated to collecting 12-inch action figures, so are not at all in the same vein. Carbonel has written one other book for H&C, "Heller: la maquette a la Francaise", so there is a good possibility that other manufacturers' ranges will be profiled in the future, especially as this book about Airfix figures is bound to sell well.
This book is definitely one to buy, though because of the poor translation, I would recommend anyone with reasonable French to buy the original version.
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