Authors: Eden Maxwell
Date Submitted: May 31, 2001
Article Type: Journal

Here is a meticulously produced large format volume that will be treasured by anyone interested in the magic of flight and the pioneer aeronauts who believed in their dreams. The aeronautical related items of art and artifacts——balloons, zeppelins, fanciful and practical airships, mainly—are drawn from more than 20,000 objects that reflect humanity’s vision of human flight as well as its fulfillment—from antiquity dating back 5,000 years to powered flight at the beginning of the 20th century.

Engravings, prints, portraits, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, coins, ancient seals, medallions, important letters, priceless volumes, and even advertisements that capitalized on heady flights of fancy, put together, portray an intriguing and unique pictorial history of aeronautics. In the book category, for instance, Robert Hooke’s Philosophical Collections (1682) is a serious scientific study of the possibility of flight. Other books are about imaginary voyages into space and other worlds, including Ludovico Aristo’s Orlando Furioso (1547), Cyrano de Bergerac’s account of a voyage to the moon (1650), and the 19th century fantastic classics of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, —forefathers of the genre we now call science fiction.

No comprehensive collection about humanity’s yearning to fly would be complete without kites, the oldest flying objects created by human beings. Among rare books in the collection, the Magiae naturalis libri viginti (1558) by Giovanni Battista della Porta describes how to make a draco volans, a flying dragon: the Latin term for paper kite. Della Porta’s kitebuilding description was influential in spreading knowledge in how to build and fly a diamond-shaped type kite that returning sailors had recently introduced into Europe from the East Indies. Another important book, Les Cerf-Volants by Joseph LeCornu (l902) discusses the theory of kite design, kite history, man-lifting kites, kite photography, meteorological kites and the use of kites for scientific research. Experimenters extensively used kites to perfect wing surfaces in the development of the airplane. Colorful l9th century woodcuts that involve kites by master Japanese printmakers Hiroshige and Hokusai are also featured.

PDF Link: Journal Issue