“Peugeot – Sous le Signe du Lion” by Pierre Dumont, 423 pp. 9 1/2″ x 7″. (Editions Pratiques Automobiles, 83 rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris. Available from Albion Scott Ltd., Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0GP. £19.95).
To the briel reference made to this book in May we now add a full review by E.K.H.K.:
No Peugeot enthusiast, it should be stressed at the outset, need be put off this French book about the cars “at the sign of the lion” by linguistic difficulties because, of its 423 pages, only about 10 per cent consists of text while the rest is made up of a truly astonishing collection of illustrations captioned in both French and English (although truth compels the admission that, in order to understand the latter, it is sometimes helpful if one can refer to the former). The pictures in any case unfold in a remarkably comprehensive manner the whole panorama of the Peugeot story, from the steam tricycle built for Serpollet in the 1880s, complete with four rather unhappy-looking gentlemen in top hats, to the 104 and 604 of today.
Fifty years ago, the list of private enterprises producing motor cars in France run comfortably into three figures. Today Peugeot is the only one left. Admittedly Renault was nationalised after the last war for political rather than economic reasons, and Citroen might still exist as an independent entity had it not been for the gambling propensities of its founder, not as a manufacturer but at the tables. Even so, Peugeot’s lone survival is a remarkable phenomenon, and one inevitably searches, in a comprehensive history such as this, for a clue as to why it proved to be the fittest.
I am not sure, after reading M. Dumont’s thesis, that I really know the answer. Like its rivals, Peugeot certainly put a foot wrong from time to time. Perhaps some instinct prevented its being left there too long and, on the other side of the balance sheet, Peugeot has undoubtedly come up, in the course of its history, with a series of economic winners. Perhaps, though, the most important factor of all is that a certain puritan ethic in the management has insisted that quality should never be wholly abandoned for the sake of quantity production.
The first wrong-footing occurred when Peugeot’s engineer, Rigoulot, was presented with the Daimler engine at the end of the 1880s and told to apply it to the Peugeot Type 2 (Type 1 having been the Serpollet steamer). Rigoulot, according to M. Dumont, built two Type 1 cars in 1889 with the engine at the front, three with the engine at the back in 1890, and then plumped for the latter arrangement. Levassor, meanwhile, having tried the engine at the back in his car, decided that he preferred it at the front, and thus won the first trick in the automobile game for Panhard et Levassor. This error was aggravated in 1896 when Peugeot abandoned the vertical, or near-vertical, engine as initiated by Daimler and continued by Levassor, in favour of a horizontal design. I had always imagined that this was because, as the engine got larger, its situation under the seat became increasingly inconvenient. According to M. Dumont, however, the real cause was a quarrel between Peugeot and Daimler in 1895. Peugeot had the right to use Daimler designs in France, and he claimed that Alsace was part of France. Daimler, on the other hand, pointed out that since 1871 it had been part of Germany. As they were unable to reconcile sentiment and legality, Peugeot decided to have no more to do with Daimler, all the more readily, presumably, because he had by him a design for a horizontal engine which had been prepared by his engineer, Gratien Michaux. M. Dumont gives a drawing of the prototype engine, together with a reproduction of a description of it in M. Michaux’s own hand, which is dated as early as 15 March 1894. Unfortunately, either M. Michaux wrote very small or else the document has been reduced in reproduction and, having tried to read it with a magnifying glass. I rather wish that M. Dumont had had it printed in ordinary type.
In 1895, when the first motor race was run from Paris to Bordeaux and back, there had been little to choose between the performances of the Peugeot and Panhard et Levassor cars. As the years went by, however. and engines became more powerful, the Peugeots, stuck with their rear location, became less and less competitive. At last, in 1902, they realised that they were on the wrong foot, and moved the engine to the front. At the same time they abandoned the horizontal design, and only returned to within 18 degrees of it when the 104 appeared in 1972. At first these front-engined cars had “coal-scuttle” bonnets with the radiator hung low down at the front, rather in the manner of de Dion Bouton. In 1901 however, Mercedes, with its honeycomb radiator at the front of the bonnet, had made all other motor cars look old-fashioned, and in 1903 Peugeot adopted the original design, with the header-tank as a separate unit, which Mercedes had abandoned in 1902. Fitted to the 652 c.c. single-cylinder model of 1905, the first Peugeot to bear the appellation “Bebe”, it gives it a more sophisticated air than that of its successor, the Bugatti-designed “Bebe” of 1913, although its performance was probably even more infantile. On the other hand it may have been more controllable. The later model, says M. Dumont, suffered from “uncertain stability at ‘high-speed’, that is to say at the 55-60 k.p.h. of which it was capable”. I can assure him that it was in fact apt to go off the road at 5 1/2 to 6 k.p.h., if one dared look at the drip-feeds.
Between 1902 and 1914, according to M. Dumont. Peugeot produced no less than 83 models (all duly listed) without counting “variants”, which should give the dating committee of the Veteran Car Club something to think about. They ranged from the single-cylinder “Hobo” to a 6-cylinder 11,500 c.c. but if I could have my choice of the cars illustrated, I would go for a splendid “sportive” of 1907/08, type 92C, with 4 cylinders, 105 x 105 mm., 3,635 c.c. The count, too, does not include the models made under the name Lion Peugeot, which from 1906 to 1915 constituted a separate marque, although from 1910 onward, both Peugeot and Lion Peugeot were owned by Automobiles et Cycles Peugeot. M. Dumont does not make it very clear how all this happened, but in 1896, of the “sons” who constituted “Les Fils de Peugeot Freres”, only Armand was keen to make cars, while the others preferred to stick to bicycles and the more traditional products of the firm, such as coffee grinders. Armand, accordingly, formed his own company, Automobiles Peugeot, with the exclusive right to make cars, and all went well until 1906, when the other sons decided that they had made a mistake, and that they too would like to make cars. Armand agreed, for a consideration, provided that their car was called a Lion Peugeot, and had only one cylinder. In 1909 he further agreed, again fior a consideration, first that it might have two cylinders, then four; and finally, in 1910, the fanatic decided to scrap the whole thing and reunite the two sides of the business as Automobiles et Cycles Peugeot.
What is peculiar about all this is that Armand Peugeot, the original motoring enthusiast, had dropped racing altogether after the ill-success of his front-engined cars in Paris-Vienna in 1902, and it was the anti-motoring “sons” who re-entered competition with their Lion Peugeot in 1906. As is well known, the latter scored a series of successes in the Coupe de L’Auto and other voiturette races during the limited bore regulation period, and what is ratherr curious is that in the case of some of them, the enemy was designed by Gratien Michaux, the author of the horizontal engine of 1894. He was evidently working at this time, therefore, for Les Fils de Peugeot Freres rather than for Armand Peugeot’s Automobiles Peugeot, and one wonders why he did not stay with the latter. Or was there a family arrangement under which he received a “transfer”? Others among these racing vottitrette engines under which, in certain cases, M. Dumont gives estimated power outputs, which are interesting and new to me, were designed by an engineer named Verdet, and in some quarters recently an attempt has been made to credit him or Paul Zuccarelli rather than Ernest Henry with the design of the double overhead camshaft engine with which, at the instigation of their drivers, Boillot, Joux and Zuccarelli, Peugeot made their successful onslaught on the Grand Prix in the period 1912-1914. This whole matter has been authoritatively discussed in Motor Sport and, with sliming degrees of authority, elsewhere. M. Dumont, for his part, is content to sit on the fence. “All the same”, he writes of the 1912 Grand Prix Peugeot, “I may add that some people question the importance of the part played by Henry in the conception of the car (and of those which followed) and try to present him as merely carrying out other people’s ideas, particularly Zuccarelli’s”. He states more definitely that desmodromic valve operation was used on the 1912 engine, which seems extremely improbable, without attempting to explain why, in view of the success of the engine, so little interest in this feature of it was evinced at the time, or why, on his own showing, it was abandoned on the similar Grand Prix engine in 1913.
The Peugeots, in any case, were brilliantly successful in 1912 and 1913 and their “glorious defeat” in the 1914 Grand Prix was largely due, in M. Dumont’s opinion, to the two spare wheels mounted longitudinally in the tail, which upset their weight distribution. That the hand of their engine designer had not lost its cunning seems to be proved by the success after the war, in the Targa Florio and at Boulogne, of the 2 1/2-litre built for the 1914 Coupe de L’Auto which never took place. But when in 1920 and 1921 Peugeot attempted to build new 3-litre racing engines, they were a dismal failure. Is it perhaps significant that by then Ernest Henry had been lost to Ballot? Was it perhaps on account of this failure that, in Peugeot’s case, the racing car of today was certainly not the touring car of tomorrow? Not until the 402 of 1935 did they risk overhead valves on a standard model, except for a brief flirtation with o.h.v. on the 181B of 1925/28, and then they were operated by push-rods and rockers.
In the meantime, to 1921, they had embarked on a new tack, when an engineer named Dufresne, who had previously worked in this medium for Panhard et Levassor, designed for them a range of sleeve-valve engines. These, with the contemporary Voisins (also designed by Dufresne) were, perhaps. the best sleeve-valve cars ever made, at any rate from the sporting motorist’s point of view. The Peugeots were brilliantly successful in touring car races during the 1920s, and, in a suitable chassis, the sleeve-valve engine could even hold its use in open races such as the Targa Florio of 1924 and the Coupe de la Commission Sportive at Montlhery in 1927. But this design of engine is scarcely suitable for the small, cheap cars which the next decade seemed to demand, and it was abandoned in 1929.
Of more significance for the future, therefore, was the Quadrilette with a 667 c.c. engine, developing 9.5 h.p. at 2,000 r.p.m which also appeared in 1921. In appearance, says M. Dumont, it was “fragile and rustic”, but its fragility was more apparent than real and, with a weight of only 350 kg., it not only had quite a reasonable performance but was in general a much better car than its predecessor, the Bugatti-Peugeot of before the war. Opinions differ as to how far it served as a prototype for the Austin Seven and M. Dumont, not surprisingly, is silent on the subject. In any case it was, I think even quicker than the Austin to put on weight, and by 1924 had become the 5 CV. The engine by now developed 11 h.p. but the weight had gone up from 350kg. to 520kg. and if in consequence it had grown less rustic, it had also become much duller.
The depressing characteristics of so many of the cars of the 1930s is usually ascribed to the American slump of 1929 and the depression of the next few years. In Peugeot’s case, however, the rot seems to have set in even earlier. In 1927, when the sleeve-valve models were seen to be on the way out, the “12-six” was introduced by way of a flagship and an answer to the smaller American sixes such as the Studebaker. With a 2-litre side-valve engine, giving originally 38 h.p., and a rather luxurious saloon body it can hardly have been a flyer; and with only three crankshaft bearings, it was not even reliable. “Running a big-end”, writes M. Dumont, “was at that time a frequent occurrence, even on quality cars. The ’12-six’, for its part, provided the luxury of running all six big-ends at once.” The 201, introduced in 1929, a 1,122 c.c. four-cylinder giving 23 h.p., must have been even more of a slouch, but it seems to have bevn mechanically sound enough until, in 1931, as the 201C, it was given independent front suspension, the first standard model, says M. Dumont, to exhibit this feature. As a matter of fact it was the heir to a long tradition of independent front suspension in French Automobile design, going back to the Amedee Bollee racing car of 1899 and continuing through the Adler cars which ran in Paris-Vienna in 1902 and Paris-Madrid in 1903, the Sizaire-Naudins of the Edwardian period and the Sizaire Freres of the 1920s. It is not quite clear what the earlier designers sought from it. Peugeot in 1931 undoubtedly sought comfort. To some extent they seem to have found it, but at a terrible cost. “Between ourselves”, says M. Dumont, “if independent front suspension improved comfort, it brought no advantage as far as road-holding was concerned.” Moreover, once the canker had set in, it seemed for years that it was incurable. “Its road-holding,” says M. Dumont of the 601 six-cylinder of 1934, “left much to be desired.” The 402 four-cylinder of the same date, which was supposed to be the answer to the Citroen “traction”, at least had overhead valves and produced 55 h.p. from two-litres, but it in no way challenged the Citroen’s handling, which appeared miraculous to the motorists of the time. “Better road-holding.” says M. Dumont, “would have made it a great road car, but one can’t have everything”. All the more credit, then, to the drivers of the Darl’mat 402s, which performed extremely well at Le Mans in 1937 and 1938. Finally the 202, four-cylinder, 1,133 c.c. of 1938 was, says M. Dumont, “somewhat vagabond”, a splendid word which I do not think I had ever come across before as a description of a car which will not steer.
M. Dumont treats the post-war history of Peugeot in the somewhat summary compass of little more than a couple of pages of text, which may be regarded as unfair, since in many ways this had been the marque’s finest hour. Soon after the appearance of the 203 in 1948, I met Col. Clive Gallop, who had been associated with Peugeot in general and Jules Crows in particular in his youth, and still retained a sentimental attachment to these old associates. “I think that this time they’ve got it right”, he said. As I was not familiar with Peugeots of the 1930s, the full significance of his remark was not apparent to me then, but of course he knew, as usual, what he was talking about. The 203, in marked contrast to its immediate predecessors, steered like an angel, and this is a characteristic that no subsequent Peugeot has lost, whether the drive has been to the back or the front wheels. It seems a shame, really, that the cars taking part in 1981 Grands Prix should be called Talbot, illustrious as that name may be, rather than after Georges Boillot’s immortal Peugeots. — Kent Karslake
“Cars and Coachbuilding — One Hundred Years of Road Vehicle Development” by George Oliver. 256 pp. 10 3/4″ x 7 3/4″ (Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., Russell Chambers, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8AA. £16.95)
Back in 1962 George Oliver tackled a similar book for Cassells, in the Montagu Motor Book series. This is a much larger, more comprehensive coverage of the evolution of coachwork (and bodywork) for road-vehicles in the last 100 years. It is beautifully presented, this difficult story, and the quality of the illustrations, 300 in all, 25 in colour, is absolutely first-class. Never an easy subject, the author tells of the cars themselves, as well as how they were clothed along the years, and it is interesting that references to motor-racing venues are found in a book primarily devoted to body building and styling.
I liked very much the contemporary scenes, of cars and commercial vehicles in their “natural habitats” — one day some publisher is going to give us a complete book in this theme, of the changing road and town scene, along the years — and many new photographs have been used, which is a refreshing change, although even Oliver has sometimes had to resort to quite recent pictures of the older (restored) cars. There are some pleasing shots of things like a Trojan van when it was a new vehicle belonging to George Strathdee, Automobile Engineers, of Aberdeen, and the Model-T van publicising Pratts Golden Pump Maintenance Service, and many more of this sort. Old advertising posters are reproduced in colour, and if this book seems to be rather more of a general survey of motor-car development than one expressly directed to coachbuilding as was George Oliver’s earlier work, it covers both as well as can be expected when compressing 100 years of history into a few hundred pages.
I would have liked to have seen a summary of motor-body nomenclature included, as in the Appendix to the Cassells book, and perhaps a list of famous coachbuilders and their methods, for which we have to turn to an old book by Scott-Moncrieff. But as a nice study of motor vehicles of all kinds, well-illustrated, this book which Oliver has completed in association with the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturers merits mention. — W.B.
“World Cars – 1981” 440pp. 10 1/2″ x 9″ (Herald Books, 109 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3ND. £16.75)
Published in English by Herald Books for the Automobile Club of Italy, this annual work of reference is an essential for any serious student of current trends in motoring.
A treatise by Filippo Crispolti on Formula One Racing and its problems, with full colour illustrations, takes up the first few pages, followed by a large colour section featuring cars with special bodywork. An introductory piece entitled “World Prospects and European Problems” by L. J. K. Setright then leads into the main body of the book where all the latest models from all over the world are listed under national headings, with details of mechanical specification, bodywork, performance data, maintenance information and price. Over 1,000 cars from the obscurest to the most famous are described and illustrated by a similar number of good quality black and white photographs.
This invaluable book concludes with further tables listing car manufacturers and coachbuilders (together with an outline ot their histories and current activities), an alphabetical list of the names of cars, lists of their maximum speeds (does a Morgan +8 really do 150 m.p.h.?) and finally an index of makes, models and prices. Our copy, less than a month old at the time of writing, is already well thumb-marked. – P.H.J.W.
“de Havilland – the golden years, 1919-1939” Edited by Richard Riding. 224 pp. 11 1/2″ x 8 1/4″ (IPC Transport Press Ltd., Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5AS. £4.25)
This book covering 40 different DH aeroplanes of many kinds, military and civil, is great fun and highly informative. It consists of reproductions of the original descriptions of the between-wars DH types, from the DH11 to the DH95, as published in the pages of the two leading aviation weeklies, The Aeroplane and Flight. Coverage by the latter journal greatly predominates but there is a delightful piece from The Aeroplane about Farnborough and the DH pilotless “Queen Bee”, etc., many pages are devoted to the famous DH60 “Moth” but, unless I misread it, one Aeroplane caption is unfortunate: a car is shown towing a DH “Moth”, the photograph captioned “Old Ford and New”, although the car is quite obviously a Hampton! The soft-cover book is obviously of the same big page-size as the journals whose articles have been copied to produce it, and it abounds in plans, pictures, drawings and data-tables, and some old DH advertisements have been thrown in to capture the commercial atmosphere of those days. Note the very competitive price of this large book!
Aviation buffs in general and de Havilland enthusiasts in particular will love it and it is good news that Richard Riding foresees similar books about other great makes of aeroplanes of this period, if this one succeeds. The four-colour plates would look well in frames and the book’s end-papers include an aerial shot of Stag Lane aerodrome. The snag with this kind of “quicky” publication is that unwanted material cannot always be eradicated. Thus this one ends on the now-remarkable statement that “Next week’s Flight will be an Empire Air Forces number!” — W.B.
“Very Advanced Driving” by A. Tom Topper. 192 pp. 7″ x 4 1/4″. (Elliot Right Way Books, Kingswood, Surrey. £0.75.).
When this paperback book arrived for me to review, I groaned thinking that here was another holier-than-thou, dogmatic treatise on how to pass another advanced driving test, thus qualifying for one of the so-called proficient driver organisations . . . I could not have been more wrong: my mind was put at rest on page one. ” . . . Various courses . . . give ‘passes’ for ‘Special ability’ . To obtain such ‘Qualifications’ can cost a lot of money and in my view they are hardly worth the paper on which they are written . . . one motive of many in getting these ‘passes’ is the hope that others – including the insurance companies, some employers and the courts – will think because they have the pass they are expert drivers . . . I fear than many who obtain these ‘passes’ imagine themselves to be ‘road-Gods’, superior to all the other, silly drivers . . . “
Although I find some of Mr. Topper’s descriptive expressions irritating, such as “buppy” for the unthinking motorist, others such as “fastard” and “skidiot” are both self-explanatory and amusing. The book as a whole is a breath of fresh air. Topper views the Highway Code critically, emphasising its good points and pointing out its bad, and good, common sense flows from each page. The book advocates the policy of considerate driving, helping the other driver to have a smooth journey at the same time as minimising frustration and journey time by careful and continual thought about what can be seen on the road ahead. A well reasoned book written in a light and humorous style and well worth every penny of 75p for even the most experienced driver.
It is sad to think that the majority of readers will be those who alrealiy follow the basic principles Mr. Topper describes, and not all those know-it-all, main-beam-headlamped, high-intensity-fog-Iamped, 65 m.p.h. fast lane hogs for whom it ought to be compulsary reading.
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Two further offerings from the prolific AA Publications Division which the travelling reader might find of benefit are “Camping and Caravanning in Europe” and the “Big Road Atlas of Britain”. The former costs £3.25, contains 432 pages and lists around 4,000 sites throughout mainland Europe, the entries being in Gazetteer style. As usual with such publications, there are pages devoted to hints and tips for those contemplating a touring holiday abroad.
The “Big Road Atlas” is just that – the 67 15″ x 11″ pages of maps covering England, Wales, Scotland, (including the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland) and the Isle of Man are extremely clear and to a scale of four miles to the inch. The pages allow for plenty of overlap and important features for the leisure minded motorist are shown in addition to the basic essential information for all travellers. Nine pages of town plans, laid out in a particularly clear fashion, separate the map pages from the first class index: it is, however, strange that Norwich should be included in the town plans when such important centres as Leeds or Nottingham are omitted, but this is small criticism of what is a truly outstanding road atlas. At £2.95, from W.H. Smiths and other booksellers, it must be the best value-for-money available. – P.H.J.W.
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If you travel around Britain a great deal and care about what you eat, any guide which points you at establishments providing good food at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundirigs will be of immense help. One such is the Dunlop backed “Guide to the British Relais Routiers”. This Collins card-back publication gives brief and useful descriptions of over 600 restaurants, pubs and hotels where good, nourishing meals can be had for about £6.00 a head. It is available from leading booksellers at £ 1.95.
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Osprey have added a companion book, in their “Collector’s Library” series to “BSA Twins and Triples” by Roy Bacon with the same author’s “Triumph Twins & Triples”, both books full of absorbing data, pictures and technical history for two-wheeler folk. The cost of these books is £6.95 and £7.95 respectively and they carry long tables of statistics.
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The Transport Publishing Company of Glossop has come up with two more very detailed omnibus histories, full of fine pictures, including more of those fascinating road and town scenes. Under the collective title of “Best of British Buses”, Volume one is about the 1927 -1942 Leyland Titans and Volume three covers the Leyland Tigers from 1927 to 1981. Later this summer Volumes two, four and five are expected. These magazine format, soft cover books cost £6 each from booksellers or £7 direct from 128, Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire.
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Another very good motorcycling book is “Matchless – Once the largest British motorcycle manufacturer”, by the acknowledged authority Peter Hartley. He endears himself to me by using many full-page pictures of Matchless riders at Brooklands, surely from Dr. Bayley’s memorable book about BMCRC machines at the Track? Other Matchlesses get this treatment and there are many other good Illustrations in the 208 9″ x 9″ pages. I had expected rather more pictures devoted to those famous Matchless touring sidecar outfits, whereas the author seems more interested in racing and trials, although he does include a picture and a few lines about the Model-K Matchless car of 1923. But, especially pictorially, this book will please Matchless fans. It is another Osprey offering, costing £9.95, and the illustrations number 120, including two of cars (the other is of the Matchless Duocar of 1911) and one of the Matchless aeroplane of 1910. Bicycle and forecar are also depicted, as are shots of racing at White City Stadium and Canning Town, as well as the copious ones of Brooklands. Interesting that George Reynolds is seen opening -the Brooklands Test Hill on his 7 h.p. Matchless-JAP solo on Thursday, March 25th, 1909. Some of the captions could have been a trifle more informative – for instance, that of Charlie Collier’s 998 c.c. Matchless duelling with a racing car at Brooklands in 1911 fails to say that the car is a Mercedes from the Gordon Watney stable and the pace car the BARC’s single-cylinder Sizaire-Naudin. And surely Jack Woodhouse is wearing RAF, not RFC, uniform in 1920?
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I have expressed the view that a book of racing drivers is overdue. Now there has arrived “Great Drivers” by Akira Mase, available from Albion Scott Ltd. of Brentford for £29.50. It consists mostly of huge pictures in technicolour, vividly depicting such “greats” as Stewart (who has done the Preface), Lauda, Hill, Brabham, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Hunt, Peterson, Reutemann, Scheckter, Jones, Hulme, Ickx, Rindt, Surtees, Regazzoni, McLaren, Villeneuve, Laffite and Piquet. The picture-size is an impressive 10 1/4″ x 13″ but there is very little text and what there is, is in Japanese and English. But you get 206 pages for your money.
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A little booklet outlining the history of wheels and tyres from c 4000-3500 BC to 1980 is available from Ki-Plan, priced at £1.20 through the post, from F.C. Kippax, 57, Pentland Close, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG22 5BG. It is rather superficial in places, listing cars using disc wheels, for example, in a manner which surely cannot be comprehensive, but it does provide a grounding in the subject for students. – W.B.