Ironically, what was perhaps the most celebrated aircraft of of the First Wolrd War has been singularly ill-served by the aviation press. Over the years, histories of the famous fighter have perpetuated an astonishing number of falsehoods, and, long after the true facts are established, new books continue to repeat the old errors. This unfortunate work is thus the latest representative of a long-running fashion. The authors haven't done their homework.
Albatros Publications first approached the Fokker D-VII in the Datafile published in 1989. The current, much-anticipated publication is twice as long, with twice the number of photos and well over twice the price. While the introduction proclaims that "this book breaks new ground in WW I aviation publishing," in truth, it merely recycles some old (and false) chestnuts from earlier books. There are two sections in the text, one by Charles Schaedel and the other by David Roberts. These describe the construction of the D-VII in some detail. Unfortunately, the two sections overlap considerably. Responsible editing could easily have eliminated a lot of repetition. The space could then have been devoted to photographs.
The Fokker D-VII Anthology 1 is the first in a planned three-volume set on the D-VII. Each volume is meant to cover a manufacturer of the type and the markings of a group of Jastas that flew it. Yet field units were seldom, if ever, mounted exclusively on aircraft built by a single manufacturer. Thus, while the first installment supposedly focuses on Fokker-built aircraft only, photographs of Albatros- and OAW-built machines have slipped in in the markings discussion, which covers Jastas 1 to 21. This could easily be a source for new errors and confusion.
The center pages feature drawings by Ian Stair in 1/72 and 1/48 scale. Mr. Stair's latest renderings are ostensibly revisions of his earlier work in light of new information. Yet the source note accompanying these "revisions" acknowledges a redrafting of the Fokker D-VII factory drawings that frequent Albatros contributor J.M. Bruce made in 1951! Is this the "new" information that the anthologies are promising us?
While many of the photographs in this volume are familiar to long-time readers of Albatros publications, the book includes a number of lesser-known, previously unpublished photographs from the A.E. Ferko collection of the University of Texas-Dallas library. These are a welcome contribution. Photos of the RAF Museum's recently restored D-VII provide construction details of the uncovered airframe and clear close-ups of various finished components. Juanita Franzi's computer-generated illustrations of the instrument layout, seat construction, and cockpit flying controls round out the illustrations.
The Fokker D-VII Anthology 1 provides a number of detailed photos and illustrations that will be invaluable to modelers of Fokker's famous late war fighter. However, the cost may deter all but the most ardent WW1 aviation enthusiaast. This first installment in the projected 3-volume series retails for about US$30.00 range. Yet it is little more than a 64-page magazine. Should the other projected volumes run to similar page counts, the modeler or aviation enthusiast should expect to shell out nearly US$100.00 for less than 200 pages on a familiar treatment of a familiar subject. While production values are admittedly high, the page per dollar ratio must be one of the highest in aviation-related publishing. There are a few new photographs and some well-rendered scale drawings. But much of the material has seen print in other, less expensive publications.
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Text © 1998 by Charles Hart.