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"Review of Lucht Books on TYW Flags" Topic


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484 hits since 31 Dec 2016
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Ryan T31 Dec 2016 1:26 p.m. PST

I recently purchased Volumes 1 and 2 of the series of books by Antje and Jürgen Lucht, Fahnen und Standarten aus der Zeit des Dreißigjjährigen Krieges, 1618 – 1648. Volume 1 covers the flags of the Protestant Union and the Swedish Army under Gustav II Adolf. The second book deals with the flags of the Catholic League and the Imperial Army. Two further volumes cover first the flags of the other European countries involved in the war and lastly the flags of Electoral Saxony. A fifth book looks at the flags of the English Civil War.

The two books I obtained are both about 180 pages in length. For the most part each page consists of 4 to 6 computer-rendered colour flag illustrations. Although some flags are provided with some cursory comments about their context, most flags only have a caption that gives the unit they are believed to have originated with. This lack of context is somewhat disappointing, but the authors state their main purpose was to draw together illustrations of whatever information was provided in a number of disparate sources that may not be readily accessible. This objective has been well met.

The bibliography is not large, but I suspect that is due to the relative paucity of source material. Fortunately, the source for each illustration is provided if one wishes to do further research.

But there is one major caveat. One of the sources listed in both volumes is K. A. Wilke, and he is a problem.

In the 1990s Mark Allen wrote a series of articles in Wargames Illustrated detailing his preparing two armies to refight the Battle of Lützen. In his third article Allen provided a number of drawings of Swedish colours. Then in his fifth article he retracted all of what he had previously illustrated with the following comments:

"Lars-Erik [Hoglund of Karlstad in Sweden] wrote to me after WI 82 to inform me of a rather large error I had made in my assumptions about Swedish flags. The problem was that I had relied on a source, much used and repeated by other scholars, which was, unfortunately, completely erroneous. The so-called "Strasbourg Suite" consisted of a number of water-colour copies by a Zinnfiguren manufacturer and collector, K. A. Wilke, said to have been taken from an earlier manuscript by an artist called Andersson. Modern opinion in Sweden appears to be that Wilke invented Andersson – and the flag designs – to help sell his toy soldiers and that a number of his pictures were fakes! The problem is compounded by the authenticity of many of Wilke's pictures of Imperial colours and indeed research may later prove that some of his Swedish colours are correct. However, for the moment it is best to err on the side of caution and dismiss any Wilke 'Swedish' colours that do not have any supporting evidence."

(Mark Allen, "Building a Wargames Army for the Thirty Years War, Part Five: More on the Swedes", Wargames illustrated, No. 101 (February 1996), pp 38-43.)

Allen also presented a number of additional flag illustrations that drew on information provided to him by Lars-Erik Hoglund. Incidentally, he also had some useful commentary on the flags illustrated in Brzezinski's Osprey book on the infantry of Gustav II Adolf.

The Luchts, unfortunately, used Wilke as their source for quite a number of Swedish flags. They do, however, also include other Swedish flags that have a more established provenance. In the forward to Volume 2 they make mention of Wilke and his source for his drawing of the Swedish colours, the "Strasbourg Suite" mentioned above. My translation is as follows:

"K. A. Wilke … was a German-Austrian painter, illustrator, and set designer. His colored illustrations, according to his own statement, only gave an incomplete pictorial record. The original manuscript was noted as, "H. Henrikson 1770 ". Wilke suspected that these were, in part, drawings of Swedish flags and standards which were in the parish church in Elbing, the burial site of numerous Swedish officers. Unfortunately, this church, with all flags and standards, burnt down in 1777. Recent researchers are of the opinion that these are most likely to be pictures of the now lost Swedish flags…

The manuscript was later owned by Paul Martin, the then director of the Strasbourg Museum. Nothing more is known about its further history…

The findings of Wilke, Pahle, and all the other historians were published by Dr. G. Söllner and J. Eichhorn in the magazine Die Zinnfigur in the 1950s. In seven booklets more than 1000 flags and standards were recorded in uncoloured hand-drawn sketches with short colour descriptions."

In spite of this issue I would recommend these books to anyone with an interest in the vexillology of the Thirty Years War. If one ignores the Swedish flags attributed to Henrikson/Andersson via Wilke the books are a valuable source to anyone painting up units from the period.

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