A Tuscan pioneer of Ballooning

Henrion, Francesco (fl. 18th century).

Arte Di scorrere a piacere negli Spazi aerei con le Macchine Aereostatiche, di Francesco Henrion Architetto Pittore Consistente nella Copia del Progetto da esso spedito all’Accademia di Scienze, Arti, e Belle Lettere di Lione in Francia In soluzione del Quesito da essa proposto richiedendo con il medesimo La Maniera la più sicura, La meno dispendiosa, e La più Efficace p[er] dirigere a Piacere le Macchine Aereostatiche. Autograph manuscript on paper, in Italian. Florence, 1785.

Henrion, Francesco (fl. 18th century) Arte Di scorrere a piacere negli Spazi aerei con le Macchine Aereostatiche, di Francesco Henrion Architetto Pittore Consistente nella Copia del Progetto da esso spedito all’Accademia di Scienze, Arti, e Belle Lettere di Lione in Francia In soluzione del Quesito da essa proposto richiedendo con il medesimo La Maniera la più sicura, La meno dispendiosa, e La più Efficace p[er] dirigere a Piacere le Macchine Aereostatiche. Autograph manuscript on paper, in Italian. Florence, 1785.

233x177 mm. I + 38 + I leaves. Complete. Five quires. Collation: 18, 210, 36, 410, 54. Blank: fol. 5/4. Contemporary foliation in the upper outer corner (with errors). Text written in brown ink. Twelve numbered drawings in ink (ten in the text, two as folding plates, 421x291 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf, over pasteboards. Covers within blind-ruled fillet. Smooth spine, with title vertically lettered in gilt on morocco label. Marbled pastedowns and flyleaves, green silk bookmark, red edges. A well-preserved manuscript.

An important autograph manuscript by the engineer, architect and mineralogist from Pistoia Francesco Henrion, the most important Italian balloonist of his time.

At the beginning of 1784, only seven months after Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier's first public launch of their ‘globe volant' on 5 June 1783, Henrion launched an 'aerostatic globe' from the Ponte alla Carraia in Florence by releasing a skin-covered frame held over iron filings in a solution of sulphuric acid. Henrion's launch “initiated a frenzy of ascensions in Tuscany including one on 1 February 1784 that 'rose to a great height' but 'caught fire and came down immediately'. This, along with other accidents, led the Grand Duke of Tuscan to issue an edict on 13 April 1784 forbidding such activities in his territory” (M. L. Lynn, The Sublime Invention: Ballooning in Europe, 1783-1820, p. 16).

The present manuscript contains a detailed description, in twelve articoli (or chapters), of this 'macchina areostatica', which Henrion wrote in 1785 in an attempt to win the 1,200-livres prize offered by the Académie des Sciences, Arts et Belles Lettres in Lyon for an essay illustrating the most efficacious and least expensive manner of steering balloons.

The Bibliotèque municipale de Lyon owns the manuscript that Henrion sent to the Lyon Academy (Ms PA 231; cf. Delandine, Manuscripts de la Bibliothèque de Lyon, no. 1233, “Ce manuscrit d'une belle écriture [...] fut adressé à l'Académie de Lyon qui avoit proposé, en 1785, un prix sur ce sujet, et il forma le n. 99 du concours”). The Lyon manuscript is also divided into twelve chapters but contains only ten drawings, while the one offered here includes two additional ones.

Furthermore, on fol. 9r of the present manuscript Henrion left a blank space for inserting a portrait of 'Signor de Mongolfier', which was never realised by the author. Instead, he added a pencilled note 'In questo spazio deve esservi il ritratto di Mongolfier da me tralasciato p[er] non averlo'.

The manuscript described here – and presented by Henrion as a copy of the 'project' sent to the Lyon Academy – is therefore of the greatest importance and value for its inclusion of two additional drawings. It is quite possible that Henrion made a copy of the text sent to the 'Signori Componenti della rispettabile Accademia' (fol. 37v) for his patron, Pietro Leopoldo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Gazzetta Toscana, vol. 19, Firenze 1784, p. 35; A.-F. Delandine, Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque de Lyon, Lyon 1812, III, no. 1233; E. Crochane, Tradition and Enlightenment in the Tuscan Academies 1690-1800, Chicago 1961, p. 149; L.T.C. Rolt, The Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning, 1783-1903, New York 1966; R. Abate, Storia della areonautica italiana, Milano 1974; C. G. Gillespie, The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation: 1783-1184, Princeton, NJ 1983; J. Christopher, Riding the Jetstream: The Story of Ballooning from Montgolfier to Breitling, London 2001; D. Arecco, Mongolfiere, scienze e lumi nel tardo Settecento, Bari 2003 (esp. pp. 179-183); M. R. Lynn, The Sublime Invention: Ballooning in Europe, 1783-1820, London 2010; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 248.

$ 14.500
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