'Italian Society of Military History' web site. It's in Italian - naturally - so it was quite a feat of luck that I came across their download section (thank goodness for Google Chrome's translate feature)!
The site has a pretty large PDF archive, the contents of which is offers FOR FREE. I didn't expect much so imagine my surprise when I came across Koppen's 1890 'Armies of Europe' and the NYPL - Vinkhuijzen Collection's 'Uniformi Svizzere 1875-1909'!
Now, as far as I understand both of these antique publications are now in the public domain having been out of publication for well over 100 years, so I was happy to make use of this resource and downloaded...
Koppen's 1890 'Armies of Europe'
Actually, although - of course - the quaintly illustrated colour plates are very welcome this book has wealth of period text describing the disposition and organisation of the armies that it covers. These include; Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Italy, France, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Spain and Portugal, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium and Turkey and The States of the Balkan Peninsula!
To be honest, the colour plates are not the best illustrations I have seen - I'm almost tempted to say that they are intended for a younger audience - and to make matters worse whoever scanned this publication did so rather amateurishly and the plates are rather dark (hiding some of the more subtle colours). The example plates I have included here have been Photoshoped by myself to enhance brightness, contrast and vibrance and are now a little more useful.
|One of the colour plates for the German army. All together - Boo! Hiss!|
However, I was very pleased that the publication included a few armies that are not usually covered and in particular appreciated the fact that the Scandinavian nations were represented.
All in all, this is a wonderful volume and definitely fills in some of the reference holes that modern material leaves in the history of European uniforms of the period.
Koppen's 1890 Armies of Europe - PDF direct download link
'Uniformi Svizzere 1875-1909'
No, these sturdy chaps didn't see any action in the 19th/20th centuries, but that didn't stop them becoming one of the more modern, professional and well equipped armed forces on the continent. For sure, if anyone had infringed their neutrality then they would have payed a very high price for doing so.
But anyway, Switzerland - or Army Red and White to put it in Funny Little Wars terms - is a wonderful subject for a book on uniforms as they really do turn out a smart body of men.
The book - some 45 pages long - is actually more of a pictorial study or collection of period lithographs. There is no accompanying text other than some very short captions within the illustrations themselves. But what illustrations!
|The rifle is the 1889 Schmidt-Rubin in 7.5×53.5mm.|
Unusually for the time it had a 12 round capacity.
As well as a glorious reference tome these colour plates would look very handsome indeed in picture frames, they are that attractive. But the real joy of well drawn illustrations like these is the level of detail when it comes to the uniforms, there is little room for doubt as every uniform is captured accurately.
The Swiss army may be something of a niche subject - although I can think of at least one of my readers who will be very pleased with this book - but one cannot help but being very impressed with these superb illustrations.
'Uniformi Svizzere 1875-1909' - PDF Direct download link
My thanks goes out to the Italian Society of Military History for making these publications available freely to it's visitors. You can see it's full download archive here: Società Italiana di Storia Militare - ARCHIVIO LIBRI IN REGALO