The latest translations are:
l. Pionier Fibel, for the instruction of the German engineers.
2. Instruction on the light Mortar 36, from 1939.
3. Unteroffizerthemen - Non-commissioned officer subjects, from 1943.
4. The Heavy Machinegun in Combat - the jobs of each crew member on the MG08.
5. Camouflage Compilation of Experiences, about camouflaging the troops, vehicles, etc.
Here's a real oddball - the German operating manual for the Italian Breda 30 is now in English.
Soldier and Family Guide is now finished. See the manuals page for details.
PDV 15 - An MP18/1 instruction manual is finished, Camouflage of All Weapons from 1944 is now translated, and HDv 240, the primary shooting instruction manual for the German Wehrmacht is now in English.
The Walther Police Pistols PP and PPK manual and Moutain Carbine G33/40 manual are now ready to sell on the Rifles/Pistols page.
pages for details.
It's Not Easy
These manuals have been translated the hard way, one word at a time by manual labor. There is no computer program I've found which produces an accurate, or even understandable translation for the old German. The results from a $400 translator program are OK (sometimes) for modern German, but are incoherent when translating 70+ year old military books. I have 22 German/English military dictionaries, 1 German-only military dictionary, 3 standard German/English dictionaries, all dated from 1925 to 1945, as well as a standard modern German/English general dictionary, two German/English Technical and Engineering dictionaries, one modern, one from 1884, and two sets of English dictionaries (one old, one modern) to help determine the correct translation of the text. I have used everyone of them, at one time or another.
I often have the actual gun or equipment sitting next to me for examination in order to be sure that I choose the correct meaning from among the several different English possibilities for translating the German word (It's good to have friends who lend me such things). The manuals were written for people who had the gun at hand, so a lack of clear, concise text is understandable for the originals. I do my best to make it fully understandable for readers who don't have a $30,000 gun in front of them to see how it works.
The guns and equipment which I don't have are either loaned to me by other collectors, or I'm allowed access to them for examination and disassembly. I have had several people help me through emails with explanations and descriptions. This allows me to provide concise wording in my translations. Sometimes I've had to translate the German to English, then look up the English definition in a World War II era English dictionary because the English word is not in common use anymore and I want to be sure I get it right. It all takes a ridiculous amount of time.
This is not a "type it in and hit the Translate button" job. I've tried computer translation programs, both online and on disk. They may be adequate (at best) for modern German, but of course were not designed to properly work with text from a 80 year old manual with special vocabulary and uncommon meanings. The results are useless, so the hard way is the only way for this job to be done right. A barrel used to be a "lauf", but modern German uses the word "rohr". "Lauf" in modern German can mean "run". The bullet is propelled "through the run" rather than the correct "through the barrel". It is much worse sometimes.
The words used for different parts of the gun, and even the meanings of some of the words, have changed in the 60 to 100 years since these manuals were first published. Each word of the original manual has been translated and typed in, and each illustration has been scanned and usually enhanced, touched up, or cleaned of the old "freckles" and crease-line flaws that have appeared through the decades.
I do not speak German, nor do I write it. I have learned to read it, and can read the old German font so that I can translate these manuals. Speaking and reading/writing any language are actually two separate things. Children learn to speak years before they learn to read and write. I learned to read German, and then the old German. Maybe some day I'll learn to speak the language too, but at this time, I have no need.
Every effort has been made to keep the picture and diagram quality as high as possible, but most of these fragile old manuals were printed on low quality, rough surface paper which wasn't intended to last for decades and certainly didn't preserve well. Some pictures were poor quality to start with, and have steadily deteriorated since being published. The pictures in the translated manuals in many cases have been improved from the originals, but there is only so much that can be done with an original, poor quality picture. If a picture isn't what it ought to be, the original was likely a lot worse. On some manuals, I've spent more time working on the pictures than doing the actual translation, and I even have a few manuals that I won't translate because the pictures are so bad they can't be restored. Producing a quality product is important to me, so I make every effort to reach that goal. You're not going to find a 3rd generation copy of a bad photocopy in the manuals I produce.
All manuals are printed on acid-free paper directly from the computer files by a high resolution printer. Bulk printing from photographic plates or using a photocopier is cheaper, but degrades the quality (I tried), especially when the graphics were marginal to begin with. Those methods are just copies of an original print, and can't be as good as the actual original. Printing each page directly from the computer ensures that each page is the best it can be, but the limiting factor is the original manual. Some manuals for sale will have better quality graphics than others because of the source material.
A Very Limited Market
These manuals fill a need in an extremely small market. If a fortune was waiting to be made by translating and selling these manuals, someone else would have done it 50 years ago. The expense to acquire the original manuals for translation is high because the manuals are very collectible and more rare than some of the guns themselves. My most expensive purchase of an original manual so far is $300, but recently I saw an original HDv241 for the MG42 sell for over $700. Fortunately, that excellent manual was scanned and emailed to me a few years ago by a collector in Oklahoma (thanks Brad). The manuals are very time consuming to scan, translate, type in, reword, restore the graphics and insert them in the text, and then set up for printing. When learning to read the old style German script, just to determine the spelling was quite a task in itself. I have 7 months of (part time) work in the 1940 Battalion Tactics manual alone, with several others taking 3 months, and the Reibert taking 11 months. As my experience has progressed in translating German, these manuals are finished much faster than they used to be, but they are still very time consuming to complete. My real job and family obligations limit the time I have for this hobby, so results take far longer than they should if this were a real job.
Printing a few thousand (or even several hundred) copies of each manual would certainly lower the price per manual, but that's only if the copies would sell. The limited number of buyers for a particular manual would mean a garage full of unsold copies, and each new manual completed would result in a further investment that would take years or decades to recover. For example, the question of how many MG26(t) (ZB-26) automatic rifles are out there, and how many people will be interested in buying a manual for one, has an effect on the price of the manual. If I work for 3 weeks and only sell 30 copies in 4 years, the price for the manual has to reflect that. The ZB-26 is a fine gun, and I have completed a 1940-dated 48 page manual, but I know that I can't afford to sell 60 hours of work (plus printing costs) for $5 a copy. The cost for printing 20 manuals at a time is much higher per manual compared to the cost per manual for printing a thousand or more. Buy a few hundred manuals and we can make a deal!
You may notice I've reduced prices on some of the manuals. If I sell enough copies of a particular manual, I can reduce the price as I recover some profit for my time and expenses. The more I sell, the cheaper the cost to produce these manuals. Any business has to make money to survive, but I'll try to keep the prices as reasonable as I can. The more manuals I translate, the faster I become, which means I can sell the more recently translated manuals cheaper. The initial cost of the original manual, weeks or months spent translating it (the older it is, the harder it is to translate), the number of pages, and if color printing is involved, all determine the selling price. U.S. first class or priority mail postage is included in the price and I don't add "handling" charges to pad the cost. I always hated buying something priced at $15 and having it cost $25 by the time I paid for it, so I don't run my business that way. Let me know if you want several manuals. When I save time, postage, and gas going to the post office, I can pass the savings on to you. It may not be more than a few dollars, but it is only fair. The larger the order, the bigger the savings. This especially applies to foreign orders, as I can send several manuals for only a bit more cost than just one or two.
Please keep in mind that I'm not doing this because I have too much money and nothing to do when I come home from my real job. By not copying the manuals for your buddies, you enable me to sell more, which means I can afford to buy and translate other manuals.
Members of the collector community have been very encouraging and supportive by lending their manuals and allowing me to disassemble and examine some very expensive hardware (such as the MKb and FG42). Their help is greatly appreciated, and keeps these translations from being awkward and inaccurate. Some of the manuals have the names of those who have allowed access to their collections or have loaned me their original manuals, some from the U.S, and some from other countries. These guys should be commended for their contributions to the gun collecting community. If you recognize any of the names, be sure to tell them thanks for all of us when you see them. Without their help, these manuals couldn't be as accurate as they are, some wouldn't have been translated, and some I wouldn't even know about. I certainly appreciate their help, and letting them know that others do too is good manners to say the least. They share their collections in this way to advance the sport for the benefit of us all. That's first class behavior. A life-long collector who gave me a great deal of support and full access to his collection in the years before he died, once told me that he didn't feel that his collection was his personal property; it belonged to History. He just got to enjoy it for a while. Very nice.
As I've been translating non-gun and training manuals that are of special interest to military historians and reenactors, I'm finding the same support I've had with the gun community. I can only wish I had started doing these types of manuals a few years earlier.
Your Support is Appreciated
When I started translating these manuals, I wondered why nobody in the last 100 years had translated any of them. Certainly there was a need and interest for it. Now I know why: it's hard, takes a ridiculous amount of time, and will never make enough profit to be a full time job, or even pay a decent hourly wage like a real job. It is, however, a great hobby.
There are no other sources for the information contained in these aging manuals. These are the original training, operating, and maintenance manuals for these guns and accessories, and military instruction manuals that were the primary sources of information for the German armed forces. This work needs done before the old books start to crumble and are lost forever, or are hidden in collections where they will never be seen by people who have an interest in the arms and training of the German military.
Your support is appreciated and allows me to continue the work.
To see how to place an order, click on the "Orders" link.
Contents of this page © 2017 by John Baum