Art de se préserver de l'action de la flamme, appliqué aux pompiers et à la conservation des personnes exposées au feu; avec une série d'expériences faites en Italie, à Genève et à Paris. [Bound with:] Expériences faites a Londres pour perfectionner et faire connetre plus genéralement l'art de se preserver de l'action de la flamme.

Paris: Madame Huzard (née Vallat la Chapelle), 1830.

First editions, in a stunning contemporary red morocco binding, of these important and beautifully illustrated works on fire-fighting including, among other things, the invention of the first fire helmet which allowed respiration during fires and protected the fire-fighter from inhaling hot air and smoke. Both works are very rare, especially when complete with the fifth plate which is almost always missing. The ‘Apparatus Aldini’ was a thick mask of asbestos worn over the head; another mask made of woven iron wire was placed over the first. The device provided a measure of heat protection, provided the wearer was able to maintain the air space between the two masks and not allow the iron mask to touch the inner mask. The functionality of the mask left much to be desired, but the scientific testing by Aldini was ground breaking − he conducted tests of his apparatus under actual fire conditions. This was the start of serious efforts to protect fire-fighters from smoke as they operated at fires. The first work describes the equipment and tests carried out in Milan, Turin, Geneva and Paris; the second work describes tests carried out for the Royal Society in London.

A contemporary account of Aldini’s equipment, and the tests he carried out, was published in the Philosophical Magazine (vol. 7, January-June 1830, pp. 148-50), of which the following account is a paraphrase. The fire protection suit designed by Aldini had two layers: the inner was a thick tissue of asbestos, or of wool rendered fire-retardant by soaking in saline solution; the outer was made from an iron wire-gauze. Aldini found this gauze to be impervious to flame, a property whose discovery he ascribes to Sir Humpry Davy who made use of it in his construction of the safety-lamp. The head-piece consisted of an asbestos cap fitting close to the skull, and covering the throat, having holes made in it for the nose and mouth; a space left between the cap and the helmet allowed air to be trapped for breathing. The helmet had a mask in front and spectacles were also provided for the eyes, lined with fine brass wire-gauze. The fireman was also provided with a pair of boots, a shield to protect him from any strong jet of flame, and a basket covered with wire-gauze and strapped to his back for carrying a child through the flames. Ropes and gloves of asbestos allowed the fireman to carry red-hot iron bars.

 

In a first test, a fireman wearing Aldini’s suit subjected his face to the flame of a straw-fire in a chafing dish for 90 seconds without injury. In a second experiment, two parallel hedges of straw and brushwood were formed about 3 feet apart, piled on bars of iron. These were set alight causing flames to fill the space between the hedges and rise to a height of at least 9 feet. Six firemen wearing Aldini’s suits walked slowly between the hedges and five of them were able to remain in the fire for 2 minutes 22 seconds unharmed; the other was carrying an 8-year-old child in his basket, protected only with a mask of inflammable cloth, and retreated after one minute when both fireman and child were unharmed. It was surprising that the firemen in these tests were able to continue breathing for so long: the eminent French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac pointed out that when a furnace is heated to a high temperature the air within is almost entirely deprived of oxygen. Gay-Lussac suggested that the men were able to breathe thanks to a current of air from the space between the two garments. Aldini proposed to enhance this effect by supplying air to the suits from a portable reservoir connected to the suits by a cable.

 

The works also discuss the relative merits of asbestos and wool as fire-retardant materials. To be most effective, the wool must be steeped in a solution of sal-ammoniac and borax, or alum, but it is still cheaper than asbestos, even though not quite as effective.

 

Aldini (1762-1834) is best known for his work on animal electricity. He was born in Bologna and graduated in physics at the University of his native town in 1782. As nephew and assistant of Luigi Galvani (1737-98), he actively participated in a series of crucial experiments with frog's muscles that led to the idea that electricity was the long sought vital force coursing from brain to muscles. Aldini became professor of experimental physics at the University of Bologna in 1798, succeeding Sebastiano Canterzani (1734-1818). He traveled extensively throughout Europe, spending much time defending the concept of his discreet uncle against the incessant attacks of Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), who did not believe in animal electricity. Aldini used Volta’s bimetallic pile to apply electric current to dismembered bodies of animals and humans; these spectacular galvanic reanimation experiments made a strong and enduring impression on his contemporaries. In recognition of his merits, Aldini was made a knight of the Iron Crown and a councillor of state at Milan, where he died in 1834.

 

Poggendorff, I, 27; Bourquelot, I, 16; Hirsch, Biogr. Lex. Hervorragenden Ärtzte, I, p. 98.



Two works bound in one volume, 8vo (223 x141 mm), pp. [i-v] vi-vii [viii] [1] 2-142; [2] [1] 2-26 [2:adverts], with lithographed portrait of the author and five coloured lithographed plates by De Langlumé, after Lemoine Benoit. Contemporary red morocco, covers with elaborately gilt ornamental border, spine richly gilt, all edges gilt. lower capital chipped. Some light spotting throughout, else fine and fresh.

Item #4011

Price: $5,000.00

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