The weird numbering of Men-at-Arms

You would be quite justified to assume that Men-at-Arms 1 The American Provincial Corps was the first ever book to be published by Osprey. But as this years advent calendar has probably shown you, this is often not the case. In fact, MAA 1 was printed nearly three years after the first four Men-at-Arms books published - all the way back in 1971.

Martin Windrow - the long term commissioning editor on the series explains this bizarre numbering system in his introduction to the Men-at-Arms Celebration.

"Understandably, obsessive collectors have been puzzled by the series numbering. In case you care, the MAAs were not numbered until 1980 because originally nobody knew how long the series would survive. I can remember being asked, after about the first 48 titles, how many more months we could realistically hope to extend it - so my feelings recently on sending MAA 450 to production can be imagined. When the warehousing of the growing backlist demanded that numbers be allocated, somebody in Sales decided to number the hundred-odd titles already in print not in their order of publication but in alphabetical orders. Thus The American Provincial Corps 1775-1784, published in 1973 was called No. 1 and the actual first- to fourth-born became, retrospectively Nos. 15, 8, 30 and 17. Clear now?"

So what was the first Men-at-Arms I hear you cry! Well it was Men-at-Arms 15 Foot Grenadiers. So, if you are a collector of the series you might want to re-organize your first 100 books into the order that they were actually published in, rather than into their series numbers - although that won't look as neat as having every book in their numerical order of course.

Over the course of the MAA series the question that was posed to Martin about how much longer the series could continue crops up from time to time. When I first started at Osprey nearly four years ago I remember a conversation that suggested that MAA 450 would be a tough ask. When MAA 450 was commissioned someone asked whether we thought it was possible to make it to 500 titles. No-one was sure, the feeling was that this would be a step too far. But, the last 6 or 7 months has seen the strongest Men-at-Arms publishing schedule in a long while - and 2010 looks just as healthy. We already have three really exciting Men-at-Arms titles pencilled in for 2011 - looking at aspects of history which you have begged us to cover on the blog and forums. 2011 will see  us pass 465 titles in the series.

I am not a betting man, but I would be quite happy having a bit of a wager that the series will surprise us all, that landmark 500 is not that far away after all!

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