Book Review: The Devil’s Paintbrush

One of my favorite books to just flip through at random is Dolf Goldsmith’s The Devil’s Paintbrush: Sir Hiram Maxim’s Gun. Every time I open it, I find another detail of information that I had overlooked or under-appreciated before – it is a wealth of information on the Maxim gun in all its forms. Better yet, the heavily expanded 2002 edition is still available at the cover price (about $80). Among the 200 pages of material added are appendices focusing specifically on the British, German, and Russian Maxims, plus a section on Maxim’s early automatic pistol designs (with a bunch of photos from the Geoffrey Sturgess collection).

The Maxim was hugely influential in machine gun development and warfare in general, and you won’t find a better reference work on it. Copies are available on Amazon, so head over and grab one!


  1. “The Devil’s Paintbrush” is one of my all time favorite firearms books, and the first Collector Grade book I ever bought.

    From the text to the illustrations, it’s simply fabulous.

  2. I certainly have not read it but do recall a padre’s prayer from a late 19th century British colonial army: “Thank you Lord. We have the Maxim gun and they have not.” Now the story sounds apocryphal to me, but the Maxim had a profound effect on the British Empire in the Sudan. elsewhere in Africa; the Americans in the Philippines, Dutch in Indonesia, etc.
    For better or worse, it cemented the power of the colonial powers in the late 19th century because their local gunsmiths could not copy it. (Many of them were quite capable of producing bolt action rifles at the village level).

    • It was poet Hilaire Beloc who wrote:

      Whatever happens, we have got
      The Maxim gun, and they have not.

      This was in reference to the British army’s operations in Africa.

  3. At first glance, the near-eighty dollar price tag seems high, but when one considers the quality of the almost priceless information contained within ( which reflects an enormous effort on the part of the author to get everything as correct and accurate as humanly possible ) and the limited printing run, it suddenly becomes a great bargain. Thanks, Dolf, for writing this book to help educate the rest of us, and thanks, Ian, for reminding us about it!

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