This book is a collection of cleverly conceived and often beautifully drawn "secret" weapons. The need for secrecy is immediately apparent when one imagines the embarassment that would have been suffered not only by the user and the inventor but also by the military agency that footed the bill as each new contraption was tested (usually in front of the enemy) and subsequently failed.

Included in the book are such ingenious devices as "The Hand Grenade" - a huge wooden hand capable of launching up to 15 dedicated Roman soldiers into the air simultaneously and more or less in the direction of the enemy - and "The Muzzle-loading Haversack Five Pounder" - a cannon barrel mounted securely on the back of an unsuspecting soldier who, along with the designer, is completely unaware of the "effects of recoil." Our gratitude for the secrecy surrounding these and the other 90-odd (very odd) proposals is heartfelt when we realize that any leakage of this information could easily have set back the development of our own highly sophiscated war machines and killing devices a thousand years.

The only significant flaw in the book lies in the unwillingness of either the author or the editor to rely more on each illustration to tell its own story. The captions are sometimes wordy and often bring undue attention to the occasionally less successful drawings which might otherwise have simply been passed over by the reader in the wave of strategically sound military silliness. (Seaver/Viking, $9.95) CAPTION: Illustration, "Hot Pantaloons," one of the secret weapons illustrated in the book