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Are there any free manuals that are roughly on the level of Lamport, Mittelbach & Goossens, Kopka & Daly, etc.; more in-depth than the Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX, but not as daunting as source2e.pdf?

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texdoc texbytopic may be the level you are looking for.

CTAN: TeX by Topic

Explanation texdoc: TUG TeXdoc

As @lockstep notes this isn't about latex but about tex primitives mostly, however reading that first would go a long way to making the LaTeX sources (source2e) more readable.

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From the OP's examples I infer that the question is about LaTeX documentation. – lockstep Apr 14 '12 at 12:10
Please provide a link to TeX By Topic instead of just writing "texdoc texbytopic", which should be written as texdoc texbytopic anyway. Some people reading this might not have any idea what texdoc is or do not have direct access to it (atm). – Martin Scharrer Apr 14 '12 at 12:16

I just remembered that Math mode is a comprehensive free guide to typesetting mathematics.

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