Reviews / Comptes rendus - Elliot, Robert S., Matchlock to Machine Gun: The Firearms Collection of the New Brunswick Museum

Reviews / Comptes rendus

Elliot, Robert S., Matchlock to Machine Gun: The Firearms Collection of the New Brunswick Museum

John D. Chown
National Museum of Man
Elliot, Robert S. Matchlock to Machine Gun: The Firearms Collection of the New Brunswick Museum. Saint John, N.B.: Brunswick Press, 1981. 64 pp., ill. $12.95.

1 In the opening chapter of this catalogue, Robert Elliot indicates that his aims are to give the specialist a sampling of the firearms collection of the New Brunswick Museum and to give the non-specialist a brief introduction to the fascinating world of firearms. The author then presents the material he has chosen in the chronological sequence of development with chapters based on the various systems of ignition.

2 The catalogue contains photographs, mostly black and white, of some eighty-six rifles, muskets, and pistols. When he is illustrating parts of weapons, he has used photographs of actual items from the collection. This method of presentation gives the reader a better understanding than some of the more usual representative drawings. He has at the same time carefully avoided obscuring the picture with lines and text. In several cases one wishes the photographs had not been cropped; however, the essentials have been retained and the layout made more pleasant. In many of the photographs, contemporary artifacts have been added to give perspective to the weapons.

3 In any history of this size the specialist will find paragraphs with which he will want to argue or points that he thinks should be mentioned, but in general Elliot has expertly reduced a large and complex subject without sacrificing the essentials. The specialist will find sufficient material in the text and the illustrations to arouse his interest in the collection; non-specialists will find enough to spark their curiosity in both the history of firearms and the history of the province of New Brunswick. The glossary together with the selected bibliography will further assist the layman.

4 In this modern age of constant technological advance and almost instantaneous communication, it is sometimes difficult to realize that the time lapse between invention and general use in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could be as much as thirty years. The time-scale given in the catalogue will be of use, but it must be remembered that, while new technology may be discussed and exchanged at the princely plateaux of leisure and affluence, progress often ended there. A device invented in Toledo in 1600 might still be a novelty in Saxony or Canada twenty-five years later.

5 Within the limits imposed by the size of the catalogue, Robert Elliot has produced a pleasant and informative publication, of which the New Brunswick Museum can be proud.

J.D. Chown