Saturday 29 March 2014

Lilian & Fred Funcken's uniform plates

Plate from "L'uniforme et les armes des soldats du premier empire VOL 1"

A recent business trip to Paris offered me a welcome chance to scour the historic city’s maze of small streets for antique bookshops. After the obligatory visit to Les Invalides (fantastic collection of uniforms, arms, and historic paintings) I made my way through the 6th arrondisment via Rue Saint-André des Arts. 

Librairie Historique Clavreuil
Store front as seen from Rue Saint-André des Arts

Here I found the most fantastic little gem. Librairie Historique Clavreuil. It was just like walking into a scene of The Ninth Gate. Beautiful antique leather bound books with gilded letters packed on shelves from floor to ceiling, set in a dark old atmospheric antique books shop, all specialized in history.

Warelephants from antiquity
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

Librairie Clavreuil, founded 1878, offered and large collection of rare historical works, and interestingly also original state documents from the days of Napoleon. Up for grabs were the original educational plan for the Prince of Rome (Napoleon’s son with Marie Louise of Austria), or handwritten documents from French staff secretaries as the Grand Armée retreated from Moscow through the snow in 1812. 

After a careful look into this magical world, I found what any wargamer can’t get enough of – books with uniform plates. And these weren’t just any old uniform plates, these were something quite out of the ordinary. Thought I’d share a few plates with you.

Russian Cuirassiers
Plate from "L'uniforme et les armes des soldats du premier empire VOL 2"

The books are a series of uniform books from the 60ies published by the Casterman publishing house in Belgium. Same publishing house that launched Tintin back in the days. Casterman themselves are also historic, first founded in Tournay in 1776.

Infantry of Louis XIV
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

14th Century knights
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

Landsknechts & arquebusiers
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 1"

French Infantry, Franco-Prussian War
Plate from "Le costume et les armes des soldats de tous les temps VOL 2"

The plates are from the period before Macs and Photoshop, everything is painted by hand, and it really is visible in the quality of the work.

Illustrators were the very productive couple, Lilian and Fred Funcken. Liliane previously did some writing on Spirou, and had met Fred while working on Tintin. She’d be inking and coloring up his sketches. Together they would do magic for uniformology. After a first corporation on Tintin in 1956, their marriage was also the start of a long range of historical publishings through the 60ies, 70ies and 80ies ending in 1988 with the very beautifully illustrated “Les Soldats de la Révolution”.

Lilian & Fred - while working on their illustrations

Sadly Fred passed away about a year ago in Bruxelles, age 91. I hope this blog post will serve as an acknowledgment to Lilian & Fred and inspiration for others to discover their work. What a fantastic legacy they leave behind.

Thank you for reading!


  1. Stunning pictures !

    Very intersting blog post Sören .

    Best regards Michael

    1. Incredible amount of quality work, they made hundreds if not thousands of these, I'll bring some of the Medieval and Renaissance plates for you!

  2. A very talented pair soren , its thanks to the long hours of work of artists like these that we have such great reference books to accurately paint from. Very interesting topic


    1. Thanks for your comment Chris, I really found this discovery quite amazing. Hadn't heard of Funcken before, but what a legendary collection they left behind.

  3. Replies
    1. Indeed, I'm already hunting on Amazon for more copies from their collection :0)

  4. lovely and great memories using the Napoleonic Lilian & Fred funcken books during the late 70's for my 25mm miniatures.

    thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Phil! This range was a real welcome discovery for me. On pre-Osprey uniform book ranges I was only aware of Hamlyn and Blanford. Flipping through page after page of amazing color plates (148 pages with 74 color plates!) reminds me of the old cliche: "they just don't make them like they use to" :0)

  5. They published a lot of uniformes book : From medieval to WWII.
    I really like the Médievals one (With great plate of different kind of Helmet) and the 'Guerre en dentelle' one.

    1. Funny you mention this - I just bought the 3 volumes of Medieval books yesterday on Ebay. The few plates shown on the presentation were amazing! Thanks for dropping by the blog!