Review: Posters of the Great War (Hadley & Pegler)

hadley

Posters of the Great War.

Don’t let the small size of this book fool you: it features a large selection of poster reproductions from the collection of a Somme battlefield museum. All of the major belligerents are represented, although the majority are British, German and American.

The book opens with a brief explanation of the museum and its collections, followed by prefatory remarks and an introductory chapter about the history of war posters. The illustrations are grouped topically into seven chapters: Recruiting, Loans and Money, The Soldier, The Enemy, The Family and the Home Front, Films, and After the War. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the topic, and each reproduction is accompanied by an explanatory caption. Editing failures include one misused figure of speech, and a misspelled name which was compounded by its being repeated three times.*

There are a few of the famous posters that make their way into many illustrated histories of the war, but most in this book are unusual. Overall, the analyses of the posters seem to be reasonable (I rarely disagreed), but there is no way to check the facts that are asserted, because there are neither references nor bibliography. The illustrations are not numbered, listed or cross-referenced, and there is no index.

The illustrations are crisp, clear and colorful, and present well as glossy plates on the heavy, smooth, matte stock that is used throughout the book. One to three posters are reproduced per page, which means that some are rather small, which can be frustrating when the researcher would like to examine them in greater detail, but many of them may be available for viewing online, where magnification would likely be possible.

This publication is a high-quality product in hardcover with a dust jacket (the printing on my copy differs from the one that’s pictured). The illustrations by themselves supply an insight into the culture of the era that may get short shrift in other books. The Great War novelist will benefit from having access to a generously-sized archive of the kinds of visual images that people were commonly exposed to, in the world which the writer is re-creating. It’s unfortunate that the book lacks documentation and indexing, which would have made it a more helpful resource.

* This book is one of the better-proofread texts I’ve seen lately, but to misspell an artist’s name three times, when it is clearly legible on two reproductions of his work, is unprofessional laxity in attention to detail. I often make note of editing and proofreading problems in traditionally published books that I review, because Independent Author-Publishers are continually badgered to hire professionals to edit their works to a level of polished perfection that writers are presumed to be incapable of achieving on their own.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Great War, History, Uncategorized, World War I

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