The Military Library


November 17, 2014
by Don N. Hagist Also by this Author


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An essential part of a gentleman’s possessions was a good library, containing books on a variety of subjects to reinforce a well-rounded classical education. Besides books on agriculture, literature, history, geography and arts, a selection of military books were a likely part of this library. In an era of militias officered by the gentleman class, a working knowledge of basic military matters could be expected among educated men regardless of whether the military was their chosen career.

Throughout the century, particularly in the latter half, there was a ready market for military text books of various sorts, and dozens of titles were widely produced and distributed on both sides of the ocean. Treatises on fortification, campaigning, military engineering, artillery, military history and an assortment of related topics were readily available, along with memoirs and studies of famous wars.

One military dictionary provided an extensive reading list for aspiring army officers. The entry for “Books” appeared in An Universal Military Dictionary by George Smith, published in London in 1779. Presented below, the list is an interesting survey of the literature available in several languages. Several of the titles are available today, some as facsimile reprints.

Smith’s list is only a sampling of the hundreds of military titles that were produced during the 18th Century. More were of course published after 1779. Many of the volumes that Smith lists were reprinted in other languages and locations. For example, Smith lists Jeney’s der Parteygänger as a 1766 German book, when it was in fact originally published in French in 1759, and an English translation available in London in 1760.

While only one facet of the gentleman’s education, military studies were nonetheless an important aspect of it. A few books on the subject make useful additions to the library of anyone wishing to be conversant in this important aspect of the refined 18th century education.

From An Universal Military Dictionary by George Smith, London, 1779:

BOOKS, military, the composition of military gentlemen of experience, genius, and learning, in order to communicate the various branches of the art of war to the public, and to posterity. It is certain that books are one of the chief instruments of acquiring knowledge. They are the repositories of the military sciences, and the vehicles of learning of every kind. As such, I will put down a few of the best military books in the English, German, Dutch, and French languages.

Some of the best BOOKS of artillery and gunnery in English.

  • Robin’s Gunnery, &c. 2 vol. 8vo; 1761.
  • Muller’s Treatise of Artillery, 8vo. 1768.
  • Muller’s Appendix to the treatise of Artillery, 8vo.1768.
  • Williams’s Theory and Practice of Gunnery, 8vo. 1766.
  • Simpson’s Theory of Gunnery, 8vo. 1758.
  • Hollyday’s Practical Gunnery, 12mo. 1766.
  • Gray’s Gunnery, 8vo. 1731.
  • Ardesois’s Marine Fortification and Gunnery, 8vo. 1772.
  • Euler’s Gunnery, by Mr. Brown, 4to. 1777.

In German.

  • Struensee Anfangsgründe der Artillerie, 8vo. 1769.
  • Eulers erlaüterte Artillerie, 8vo. 1756.
  • Birnbaums Unterricht für einen Artilleristen, 4to. 1752.
  • Buchner’s Theoria & Praxis Artilleriæ (in German) 3 vol. folio, printed in 1682, 1683, and 1685 (*).
  • Dilichius Peribologia (in German) folio, 1640 (†).

(*) This valuable book, on account of its being printed at three different places, and of three different dates, is become exceeding scarce even in Germany.
(†) This was probably the first printed book of artillery, and is seldom met with.

In French.

  • Nouveau Cours de Mathématique, à l’usage de 1’Artillerie, par Belidor, 4to. 1758.
  • Théorie nouvelle sur le Méchanisme de 1’Artillerie, par du Lacq, 4to. 1751.
  • Mémoires de 1’Artillerie, par St. Remy, 3 vol. 4to. 1745.
  • Traité de 1’Artillerie, par le Blond, 3 vol. 8vo. 1743.
  • Observations sur le Canon, 4to. 1772.
  • Essai sur 1’usage de 1’Artillerie, 8vo. 1771.
  • Examen de la Poudre, traduit de 1’Italien par Flavigny, 8vo. 1773.

Some of the best BOOKS of fortification in English

  • Riou’s Elements of Fortification, 4to, 1746. vol. I. The 2d was never published.
  • Muller’s Theory and Practice of Fortification, 2 vol. 8vo. 1764.
  • Horneck’s Remarks on Modern Fortification, 4to.1758.
  • Coehorn’s Fortification, translated by Saverey, folio, 1708.

In German and Dutch.

  • Speckle, Architectur von Festungen, folio, 1592. Sec. Edit. 1608 (*).
  • Dögen’s Niederlandishe Fortification, folio, 1648.
  • Celarius vollkommener Festungsbau, folio, 1656.
  • Freytag’s Fortification, folio, 1665.
  • Scheiters neuer Festungsbau, folio, 1672.
  • Gründels neu ersundene Fortification, folio, 1673.
  • Sturms gründliche Anleitung zur Kriegsbaukunst, 3 vol. 4to. 1755.
  • Bellersheim irregulaire Festungen, 4to. 1765.
  • Hahns Kriegs‑bau‑kunst, 8vo. 1775.
  • Humberts Kriegs‑kunst, 8vo. 1756.
  • Zuckows Kriegs Baukunst, 4to. Frankf. 1769.
  • Coehorn’s nieuwe Vesting‑bouw, folio, 1685.
  • ————— Verstarkinge des vys‑hooks, folio, 1682.
  • Coehorn’s Wederleginge des Architectura militaris, folio, 1683.

(*) Is very scarce, and very valuable, both the editions.

In French, Spanish, and Italian.

  • Piedro de Navaro, Fortificatione; supposed to be the first printed book of fortification, without date.
  • Francisco Jeorg Senensis, Fortificazione, no date.
  • Gerolamo Maggi, del Fortificazione, folio, l559.
  • Francisco de Marchi, Fortificazione, 3 vol. grandos, Roma, 1540 (†).
  • Pietro Paola Floriani, Fortificazione, folio 7654.
  • Pietro Sardi, Corona Imperiale del 1’Architecture milit. 1677.
  • Les Fortifications, par De Ville, 4to. 1666.
  • Les Fortifications, par M. Pagan. folio, 1668.
  • Architecture militaire, par un Officier de Distinction, 2 vol. 4to. 1741.
  • Vauban véritable Manière de fortifier, par du Fay, 2 vol. 4to. 1757.
  • Essai sur la Fortification, 8vo. 1755.

(†) This is the first printed book of fortification with a date, and supposed to be even the very first. History informs us that there are only 3 or 4 copies in being; 1 in the king of Prussia’s library, 1 or 2 in Italy, and 1 in the possession of colonel Pattison, of the royal artillery.

Some of the best BOOKS on the art of war, in English.

  • Muller’s Attack and Defence of fortified places, 8vo. 1769.
  • Muller’s Field Engineer, from Clairac. 8vo. 1760.
  • Bell, on Military first Principles, 8vo. 1770.
  • Elementary Principles of Tactics, 8vo. 1771.
  • Dalrymple’s Military Essays, 8vo. 1761,
  • Bigg’s Military History, from 1739 to 1748, 8vo. 1756.
  • Pleydel’s Essay on Field Fortification, 8vo. 1708.
  • Entick’s History of the late War, 5 vol. 8vo. 1766.
  • La Cointe’s Science of Military Posts, 8vo. 1761.
  • Military Instructions for Officers detached in the Field, 1770.
  • Le Blond’s Military Engineer, 2 vol. 8vo. 1759.
  • MacIntire’s Treatise of the Marine Forces, 8vo. 1763.
  • Jones on Artificial Fireworks, 8vo. 1768.
  • Treatise of the late Wars in the Netherlands, 8vo. 1759.
  • Simes’s Military Works, 3 vol. 8vo. 1772.
  • Lloyd’s History of the late Wars, 1 vol. 4to. 1772. The 2d was never published.
  • Turpin’s Art of War, by Otway, 2 vol. 4to. 1761.

In German.

  • Frederici anleitung zur Kriegs‑Wissenschaft, 8vo. 1763.
  • Genies practische Kriegs‑kunst, 8vo. 1760.
  • Von Lohens Soldat, oder Abhandlung vom Kriegs‑stande, 8vo. 1752.
  • Historie des Kriegs, 6 vol. 8vo. 1758‑1762.
  • Königs von Preussen Unterricht von der Kriegs‑kunst an Seine Generals, 8vo. 1761.
  • Tolner Bildung eines jungen Officiers, 8vo. 1763..
  • Fäsh grosse Meister in der Kriegs‑kunst, 8vo. 1764.
  • Jeney der Parteygänger, 8vo. 1766.
  • Tielke’s Feld‑Ingenieur, 8vo. Leipz. 1774.
  • Tielkes Kriegs‑kunst, 4to. Freyb. 1776.
  • Guiberts Versuen über die Tactik, 2 vol. 8vo. Dresd. 1774.

In French.

  • Art de Guerre, par Principes, & par Règles, par Puisegur, 2 vol. folio, 1749.
  • Attaque & la Défense des Places, par Vauban, 2 vol. 4to. 1742.
  • Histoire militaire du Prince Eugene, du Duc de Marlborough, & du Prince d’Orange, par Dumond & Rouset, 2 vol. folio. 1747.
  • Petit Guerre, par Grand‑Maison, 2 vol. 8vo. 1756.
  • L’Ecole de Mars, par de Guignard, 4to.1758.
  • Histoire générale des Guerres, arrivées dans le monde de depuis le Déluge, jusques en 1748, a vol. 4to. 1756.
  • Histoire de Polybe, par M. de Folard, 6 vol. 4to. 1720.
  • Traité général des Subsistances militaires, 2 vol. 4to. 1744.
  • Traité de la Guerre dernière en Allemagne, 6 vol. 8vo. 1763.
  • Mémoires de Montecuculi, 2 tom. 8vo. 1758.
  • Mémoires militaires du Duc de.Luxemburg, 6 tom. 4to. 1756.
  • Guibert, Essai général de Tactique, 4to. Lond. 1772.


One thought on “The Military Library

  • A note of clarification on the nomenclature used above:
    “8vo”, “4vo”, etc. refers to the size of the book, that is, the width and height. During this era, several pages of a book were printed on one sheet of paper, and the large sheet was folded the appropriate number of times to create a series of pages. These groups of pages, called signatures, were then bound together, and after binding were cut along the folds so that each page was free.
    If the large sheet was folded once, this yielded two leaves or four pages and was called folio.
    If the sheet was folded twice, it yielded four leaves or eight pages and was called quarto (4to).
    If it was folded three times, it yielded eight leaves or 16 pages, octavo (8vo).
    Folded four times, it yielded 16 pages, or 16mo.
    There was also a duodecimo size, 12mo.
    Notice that the printer had to carefully arrange the plates for each page of the book in the right location on the sheet of paper, so that when printed on both sides and then folded up, the pages would be in the correct sequence. Try this yourself by folding a sheet of paper in half, then in half again, writing a number on each page, and then unfolding it to see where the numbers are!

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