Reviews by mei

Battle Studies

by Charles-Jean-Jacques-Joseph Ardant du Picq

This book is in the public domain, so it can be downloaded for free from several websites. This translation (English from the French original) was first published in 1921. The printed version has 242 pages.

The author of this book is considered to have been a talented military analist and military historian. He was a colonel in the French army and died of wounds sustained in battle in 1870. So this book has to be written no later than 1870.

I do recommend this book to anyone who is interested in military history, history in general, or in military strategy.

CONTENTS

FRONTISPIECE--PORTRAIT OF COLONEL ARDANT DU PICQ
FOREWORD
PREFACE
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE
INTRODUCTION
A MILITARY THINKER
RECORD OF MILITARY SERVICE OF COLONEL ARDANT DU PICQ
EXTRACT FROM THE HISTORY OF THE 10TH INFANTRY REGIMENT

PART ONE: ANCIENT BATTLE

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER
I MAN IN PRIMITIVE AND ANCIENT COMBAT
II KNOWLEDGE OF MAN MADE ROMAN TACTICS; THE SUCCESSES OF HANNIBAL;
THOSE OF CAESAR
III ANALYSIS OF THE BATTLE OF CANNAE
IV ANALYSIS OF THE BATTLE OF PHARSALUS AND SOME CHARACTERISTIC
EXAMPLES
V MORALE IN ANCIENT BATTLE
VI HOW REAL COMBATANTS ARE OBTAINED AND HOW THE FIGHTING OF TO-DAY
REQUIRES THEM TO BE MORE DEPENDABLE THAN IN ANCIENT BATTLE
VII PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY AND WHAT IS NECESSARY TO COMPLETE IT

PART TWO: MODERN BATTLE

I GENERAL DISCUSSION

1. Ancient and Modern Battle
2. Moral Elements in Battle
3. Material and Moral Effect
4. The Theory of Strong Battalions
5. Combat Methods

II INFANTRY

1. Masses--Deep Columns
2. Skirmishers--Supports--Reserves--Squares
3. Firing
4. Marches--Camps--Night Attacks

III CAVALRY

1. Cavalry and Modern Appliances
2. Cavalry Against Cavalry
3. Cavalry Against Infantry
4. Armor and Armament

IV ARTILLERY
V COMMAND, GENERAL STAFF AND ADMINISTRATION
VI SOCIAL AND MILITARY INSTITUTIONS; NATIONAL CHARACTERISTICS

APPENDICES

I MEMORANDUM ON INFANTRY FIRE

1. Introduction
2. Succinct History of the Development of Small Arms, from
the Arquebus to Our Rifle
3. Progressive Introduction of Fire-Arms Into the Armament
of the Infantryman
4. The Classes of Fire Employed with Each Weapon
5. Methods of Fire Used in the Presence of the Enemy;
Methods Recommended or Ordered but Impractical
6. Fire at Will--Its Efficacy
7. Fire by Rank Is a Fire to Occupy the Men in Ranks
8. The Deadly Fire Is the Fire of Skirmishers
9. The Absolute Impossibility of Fire at Command

II HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

1. Cavalry (An Extract from Xenophon)
2. Marius Against the Cimbrians (Extract from Plutarch's
"Life of Marius")
3. The Battle of The Alma (Extract from the Correspondence
of Colonel Ardant du Picq)
4. The Battle of the Alma (Extract from the Correspondence
of Colonel Ardant du Picq)
5. The Battle of Inkermann (Extract from the Correspondence
of Colonel Ardant du Picq)
6. The Battle of Magenta (Extract from the Correspondence of
Colonel Ardant du Picq)
7. The Battle of Solferino (Extract from the Correspondence
of Colonel Ardant du Picq)
8. Mentana (Extract from the Correspondence of Colonel Ardant
du Picq)

As an sample I copy a bit from the chapter II (on Hannibal):

[...]
A mass of seventy thousand men surrounded and slaughtered by
twenty-eight thousand foot soldiers, or, counting Hasdrubal's cavalry,
by thirty-six thousand men, by half their number.

It may be asked how seventy thousand men could have let themselves be
slaughtered, without defense, by thirty-six thousand men less
well-armed, when each combatant had but one man before him. For in
close combat, and especially in so large an envelopment, the number of
combatants immediately engaged was the same on each side. Then there
were neither guns nor rifles able to pierce the mass by a converging
fire and destroy it by the superiority of this fire over diverging
fire. Arrows were exhausted in the first period of the action. It
seems that, by their mass, the Romans must have presented an
insurmountable resistance, and that while permitting the enemy to wear
himself out against it, that mass had only to defend itself in order
to repel assailants.
[...]

Reviewed on 2013.07.21

Initiation into Literature

by Emile Faguet

This book has 1810 locations on Kindle or 135 pages in the printed edition, no pictures, the table of contents is not active. At the end of the book 1682-1810 there is a 'Index op [sic] Names Cited', this is a very long list of names (8% of the book!) that is not active and has no way of telling you where to find that person in this book, so it does not refer to a chapter, page or location.

The information in this book is not reliable, just 2 examples:

-It is not generally agreed that there were 2 Homers as this author claims at location 127. The discussion about Homer is still going on and this discussion even has a name: 'Homeric Question'. It is not known whether there was just one Homer who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey, or whether there were 2 Homers (one who wrote The Iliad and the other the author of The Odyssey), or whether both poems are the result of the joining together of many works by several poets.

-Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was not a German as this books claims at location 859. Erasmus was born in 1666 or 1667 or 1669, almost certainly in Rotterdam, the Netherlands - died in Bazel, Switzerland on the 12th of July 1536. He was a priest, author, theologist and philosopher. He was a humanist and one of the most important Dutch philosophers ever.

This book is not only not reliable, it is also boring to read: it reads like a list of names of authors and the books they wrote. It is a bit 'lifeless'. The information given is often not very helpfull, I copy the entry 'Leibnitz' from location 868 below, so you can see for yourself.

(quote, location 868:)
LEIBNITZ.--German poetry of his period, possessing neither originality
nor power, could only interest the erudite and the searchers. The domain
of prose is more enthralling. Leibnitz, who wrote in Latin and French,
and even in German, is pre-eminently the great thinker he is reputed
to be; but though he never possessed nor even pretended to possess
originality in style, he is nevertheless highly esteemed for the purity,
limpidity, and facility of his language.
(unquote)

(Gottfried Wilhelm (von) Leibniz (also spelled as Leibnitz), born in Leipzig on the 1st July 1646 - died in Hannover on the 14th November 1716. Leibnitz was one of greatest thinkers of the 17th century. Leibnitz was one of the three great rationalists of the 17th century, the other two were Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza and René Descartes. Leibnitz was a versatile mathematician, philosopher, logician, fysicist, historian, jurist and diplomat. He developed the infinitesimal calculus at the same time as Isaac Newton, but independently from Newton. His refinement of the binary number system is the foundation of most digital computers. Mei)

Reviewed on 2012.08.17

Rembrandt

by Mortimer Menpes

This is a little book riddled with faults, it has no pictures in it. There is some background information about Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 or 1607-1669), but a lot of the information given is not correct (see below). This e-book edition does not have the pictures in it that the printed edition had, making this almost like a picturebook wihtout the pictures.

I do not recommend to download this book, it is not reliable. It's better to look up information about Rembrandt online (for example in the famous online encyclopedia), that information is more reliable, better-written and does have illustrations. If you read this book you will get a lot of faulty information, so it is better not to read it.

Some (not all) examples of faults in this booklet:

-At location 366 the author states that Rembrandt may have married his mistress Hendrickje Stoffels, the author is the only person to suggest this. It is generally accepted they were not married (proof of this is the trouble Hendrickje got into with the church-authorities because she lived as a 'prostitute');

-Rembrandt and his wife Saskia van Uylenburg did not get 3 children (as stated on loc. 367) but 4, only one of these -Titus- survived childhood;

-Rembrandt and Hendrickje Stoffels did not have 2 daughters (as this book says at loc. 367) but only one: Cornelia;

-Rembrandt studied for 3 years (1619-1622) as an appentrice in the studio of Pieter Lastman, and not for just a few months as this bookle claims at location 366;

-the correct spelling is: the 'Rijksmuseum' (in Amsterdam), not Ryks Museum as it is spelled at locations 412, 438 and 524 of this book;

-At several locations the name of his wife is misspelled, it should be spelled as: Saskia van Uylenburg (and not as Saskia van Uylenborch as it it spelled in this book);

-The author writes at location 102 that Rembrandt died in obscurity, but in the year of his death he had gotten a commission for an altarpiece by Cosimo III de' Medici (14 August 1642 - 31 October 1723, who reigned from 1670 to 1723 as Arch Duke of Tuscany), who had even visited Rembrandt in Amsterdam two years previously. This does not sound like 'obscurity' to me.

-The author writes at locations 438 and 524 that he likes the painting 'The Syndics of the Cloth Hall'(Dutch titel: 'De Staalmeesters') beter than 'the Night Watch' (Dutch title: 'De Nachtwacht' or 'Het korporaalschap van Frans Banning Cocq en luitenant Willem Ruytenburgh maakt zich gereed'), I believe very few people will agree with the author, I certainly don't.

As a sample I copy a bit from location 366 and enclose the correct facts by brackets:

[...]to study painting under Swanenburch, and later in the studio of Lastman at Amsterdam. After a few months (incorrect: it was 3 years, form 1619 till 1622)) with Lastman he returned to Leyden, "to practise painting alone and in his own way." So much for his schooling. At the age of twenty-one he produced a picture called St. Paul in Prison, and Gerard Dou became his pupil. In 1631 he left Leyden and settled in Amsterdam. In 1634 he married Saskia van Uylenborch (correct spelling is: Uylenburg), who bore him three children (not correct: they had 4 children, three died as infants, only Titus lived long enough to reach adulthood), and Titus was the youngest. Some years later he had two daughters by his servant, Hendrickje Stoffels (not correct: they had only one child, a daughter named Cornelia). Perhaps he married her (there is no 'perhaps' about it, he did not marry her and she got in trouble with the church-officials, she was accused of 'living as a prostitute'; the only reason Rembrandt himself did not get in trouble with the church-authorities is that he was no official member of the church). She was a kind, good soul, faithful and loyal to her master. His friends do not seem to have disapproved of this irregular union, but the Consistory of her church summoned Hendrickje before them and forbade her to communicate.
[...]

Reviewed on 2012.08.13

The Ethics

by Benedict de Spinoza

This translation by R. H. M. Elwes of Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza's work 'Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata' has 3493 locations on a Kindle, this is app. 250 pages in print. This edition is a very readable translation of the 'Ethica' and I did not find any typo's or other problems with this version. There are very few notes in this edition (there are 17 notes at loc. 3485-3493), no bibliography, no introduction, no epilogue. I recommend the 'Ethica' to anyone who is interested in Spinoza or in philosophy in general.

Baruch Spinoza was born in 1632 in Amsterdam to a Portugese-Jewish family. Baruch was expelled from the Jewish congregation in 1656, the exact reason is not known, the reason given being: '[...] evil opinions and acts[...]'. He changed his name into Benedictus. He died in 1677 possibly of lung-problems.

One of the most important parts of Spinoza's philosophy is that according to him God is visible in Nature, God and Nature are two names for the same reality. He was a rationalist and only believed in explanations based on reason. There are many interpretations of Spinoza's ideas about God: from atheist to pantheist. Spinoza also wrote about freedom, politics, true knowledge and more. In his political philosophy he states that the power in a state should never be given to 1 single person, because that would guaranteed lead to misuse. Other works by Spinoza are also available as free e-books online.

I give a sample below:

(the first few lines from 'The Ethica', location 6):

PART I. CONCERNING GOD.

DEFINITIONS.

I. By that which is self--caused, I mean that of which the
essence involves existence, or that of which the nature is only
conceivable as existent.

II. A thing is called finite after its kind, when it can be
limited by another thing of the same nature; for instance, a
body is called finite because we always conceive another greater
body. So, also, a thought is limited by another thought, but a
body is not limited by thought, nor a thought by body. [...]

Reviewed on 2012.08.11

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