Description des expériences de la machine aérostatique de MM. de Montgolfier: et de celles auxquelles cette découverte a donné lieu: suivie de recherches sur la hauteur à laquelle est parvenu le ballon du Champ-de-Mars ... ouvrage orné de neuf planches en taille douce, représentant les diverses machines qui ont été construites jusqu’a ce jour. [vol. II:] Premiere suite de la description des expériences aerostatiques et de celles auxquelles cette découverte a donné lieu.

Paris: [Chardon for] Cuchet, 1783-1784.

First edition, second issue of the first volume (with the four-page supplement), of the first full-length account of the historic experiments with balloon flight conducted by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, and “the first serious treatise on aerostation as a practical possibility” (PMM). The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph (1740-1810) and Étienne (1745-99), had been intrigued by the experiments of Cavendish and Priestly with ‘inflammable air’ (hydrogen). “After some unsatisfactory experiments with hydrogen gas (which dissipated too quickly from their trial models), the Montgolfiers discovered that air heated to 100 degrees Celsius became sufficiently rarefied to lift a balloon and did not diffuse. On 5 June 1783 the brothers released their first full-sized balloon, a paper and linen globe thirty-five feet in diameter, which rose 6,000 feet and travelled a horizontal distance of 7,668 feet from the starting point. On 19 September, before Louis XVI and the French court, they launched the first flight with living beings aboard (a sheep, a cock and a duck); and on 20 November the first manned flight took place. The invention of the hot-air ‘Montgolfière,’ as well as its obvious limitations, stimulated renewed research into the possibility of using hydrogen as a lifting agent. Development of the hydrogen balloon proceeded simultaneously with that of the hot-air model, and on 2 December the first passenger-carrying hydrogen balloon, designed and manned by the physicist Jacques Charles (1746-1823), ascended for a two-hour voyage. Charles’s work was financed through the efforts of Faujas de Saint-Fond, whose account of it appears in the second volume of his work” (Norman). Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond was a successful lawyer and geologist, and one of the most ardent supporters of ballooning. He sponsored the first hydrogen balloon of the physicist J. A. C. Charles, who demonstrated balloon flight before the Montgolfiers, and invented the hydrogen balloon. A few copies of volume 1 were issued separately. When volume 2 was published the following year volume 1 was reissued with a 4-page supplement, describing the voyage of November 20, 1783 as in this set. Commissioner appointed by the Academy of Sciences to study the Montgolfier balloon, Lavoisier wrote a report dated December 23, 1783, which is published on pages 200-231 of volume 2. 

Joseph and Étienne were the twelfth and fifteenth children of Pierre Montgolfier (1700-93), a wealthy paper manufacturer whose factories were located near Lyon in southern France. Joseph was largely self-educated. He tried the paper manufacturing business but had little success. He was shy and extraordinarily absent-minded, two qualities that hampered his career. He was, however, very interested in technological advances. After the French Revolution (1787-99) he retired from business and moved to Paris, where he worked at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers and helped establish the Société d’Encouragement pour l’Industrie Nationale in 1801.

“Étienne was sent to Paris to study mathematics and became an architect. In 1772 his father decided that his older brothers were not capable of running the family business; Étienne was asked to give up architecture and become a paper manufacturer. He was a very successful businessman, especially after he and Joseph became famous. In 1784 King Louis XVI designated the firm as a manufacture royale. Paper manufacturing was Étienne's main pursuit for the rest of his life.

“Joseph was the first to tinker with the problem of human flight. By 1782 he had stimulated Étienne's interest as well and the two men began conducting experiments in their leisure time. They initially tried to use hydrogen, discovered in 1766, to raise balloons, since it was 14 times lighter than air. But hydrogen was very combustible, expensive to make, and seeped through cloth as if it were a sieve. The brothers’ experiments with silk and paper models led them to conclude that hydrogen could not be used to achieve flight.

“Joseph then discovered that heated air had lifting power. Étienne used his mathematical background to work out the size and shape of a balloon to hold this heated air. They sealed the cloth with strips of paper, a natural idea given their family business. They erroneously believed that it was smoke that caused the balloon to rise. After numerous experiments, they settled on a mixture of damp straw and wool as the fuel providing smoke with the greatest lifting power. In one of history’s fortunate accidents, these two scientific amateurs had inadvertently solved the problem of flight, because heated air becomes sufficiently rarefied (less dense) to lift a balloon.

“On June 4, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers publicly demonstrated their discovery when they launched a 35 ft. (10.67 m) balloon from a small town near Lyon. It ascended about 6,000 ft. (1,829 m) and floated over a mile (1.61 km) away. Although it was unmanned, this was a giant step toward human flight. Joseph went to Lyon and Étienne to Paris to publicize their success. Étienne's mission was more significant because he succeeded in gaining the attention of Louis XVI, who loved dabbling with mechanical devices. In September, Étienne launched another montgolfière (the name given to hot-air balloons) for the royal court at Versailles. It carried several animals, all of which survived the ascent. Human flight was the next logical step.

“Étienne, however, had competition. A popular Parisian science lecturer, Jacques Charles (1746-1823), had succeeded in constructing a hydrogen balloon, which he had flown unmanned. He and Étienne were now in a race to see who would get the first human aloft. Étienne constructed his balloon faster and won the race. On November 21, 1783, a montgolfière carrying two men floated over Paris for about 20 minutes. The two passengers were Jean François Pilâtre de Rozier (1757-85) and François Laurent, marquis d'Arlandes (1742-1809). They were the first men in history to fly. Ironically, two years later de Rozier was the first human killed in an aerial accident.

“Although the family received government grants and was ennobled in December 1783 (hence the ‘de’ in their name), the brothers soon lost interest in aeronautics. Joseph made only one ascent, Étienne none at all (both men were middle-aged). Étienne returned to his paper manufacturing, while Joseph turned his attention to other inventions, the most important of which was a hydraulic device for raising the level of water. They had proven, however, that human flight was possible. Their success stimulated the development of the hydrogen balloon, which was far superior to their montgolfières in terms of range (both distance and height) and which soon supplanted their hot-air balloons” (Science and its Times).

Barthélemy Faujas-de-Saint-Fond (1741-1819), French geologist, paleontologist, and scientific traveler, wrote a large folio on the extinct volcanoes of central France, and an equally large folio about a fossil found in Maastricht, Holland, which Faujas thought was a crocodile, but was later shown to be an extinct mosasaur.

The first volume of Faujas-de-Saint-Fond’s account described the first ascent of a Montgolfier brothers’ balloon on September 19, 1783, in which the passengers were a rooster, a sheep, and a duck. Faujas also gave us a close-up view of the wallpaper skin of a balloon that was used for an October 19 ascent, and illustrated the filling of a hydrogen balloon for Jacques-Alexandre Charles. The hydrogen gas was generated by a large circle of oak barrels filled with iron nails, into each of which was poured, in succession, concentrated sulphuric acid. The iron replaced the hydrogen in the H2SO4, and the released gas gushed furiously to the surface and was conveyed by tubes to a central vat, where it was bubbled through water (to wash out any remaining acid) and was then piped to the balloon. Since the reaction releases heat, the barrels were close to igniting, and the iron tubing grew too hot to touch.

The second volume describes and illustrates the first manned ascent of November 21, 1783, with Pilâtre de Rozier and Francois d’Arlandes on board; the first manned ascent of a hydrogen balloon on December 1; and a Montgolfier ascent of January 19, 1784. Faujas also showed a new and improved way of filling a hydrogen balloon, using 10 double-barrels instead of one, and moving the red-hot, acid-filled barrels away from the vicinity of the balloon fabric.

Brockett 302; Davy, Interpretive History of Flight 37-41; Dibner, Heralds of Science 179; Duveen & Klickstein, p. 261-262;En français dans le texte 75; PMM 229; Norman 769; Sparrow, Milestones of Science 179; Tissandier 21.

Two vols., 8vo (188 x 116 mm), [vol. 1:] pp. xl, 299, [7] with 9 engraved plates numbered I-IX (plate V bound as frontispiece); [vol. 2:] [ii], 366, [2] with 5 engraved plates numbered I-V. Contemporary quarter-calf and marbled boards, re-backed, spines decorated and lettered in gilt.

Item #5411

Price: $16,500.00