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Lana Terzi, Francesco (1631 - 1687)

La nave volante dissertazione del P. Francesco Lana da Brescia. [dopo il 1760]. VENDUTO/SOLD

Un precursore dei principi aerostatici dei Montgolfier
Lana Terzi, Francesco (1631 - 1687). La nave volante dissertazione del P. Francesco Lana da Brescia.. [dopo il 1760]. VENDUTO/SOLD

8° (mm 185x120). xxxii pagine, [1] tavola calcografica ripiegata. Fregio silografico al frontespizio. Iniziale decorata e testatina incise in legno alla carta A4r. Cartonato d'attesa coevo. Esemplare in buono stato di conservazione. Piccola mancanza al margine superiore delle carte, inclusa la tavola, qualche fioritura.

Rara edizione separata del sesto capitolo de Il prodromo, ovvero Saggio di alcune invenzione nuove dello scienziato gesuita Lana Terzi, opera ritenuta di fondamentale importanza nella storia della moderna aeronautica.

L'edizione completa era stata per la prima volta data alle stampe a Brescia nel 1670, e tra le tante invenzioni tecnologiche che vi erano presentate quella della ‘nave volante' fu destinata a particolare successo, tanto da meritare – come nel caso di questa edizione settecentesca – una circolazione autonoma. Pur non realizzabile nella pratica, la macchina ideata da Lana Terzi si fonda infatti su principi areostatici rigorosi, che saranno utilizzati – a più di un secolo di distanza – anche dai fratelli Montgolfier.

L'edizione è particolarmente apprezzata per la celebre tavola che illustra, appunto, la ‘nave volante', una delle prime raffigurazione del genere, straordinaria invenzione che ‘rimase il fondamento dell'aeronautica moderna' (Riccardi II, 13).

Riccardi II, 13; M. R. Lynn, The Sublime Invention. Ballooning in Europe, 1783-1820, London 2010.


Lana Terzi, Francesco (1631-1687). La nave volante dissertazione del P. Francesco Lana da Brescia. [Italy 1784].

8° (185x120 mm). XXXII pages. Woodcut ornament on the title-page. Woodcut decorated initial and headpiece on fol. A4r. One folding engraved plate. Contemporary boards. A good copy, small loss to the upper margins of a few leaves, including the plate; light foxing in places.

Rare separate edition of the sixth chapter from Il prodromo, ovvero Saggio di alcune invenzione nuove by the Jesuit scientist Lana Terzi, a groundbreaking work in the history of modern aviation.

The complete edition of the Lana Terzi's Prodromo was first issued in Brescia in 1670. Among the numerous technological inventions displayed in that work, the ‘flying ship' – which was lifted by four copper foil spheres – enjoyed especial success. While not practically feasible, the machine relied upon the same rigorous mathematical calculations and principles of physics that were used over a century later by the brothers Joseph and E?tienne Montgolfier in the development of their hot-air balloon.

The Montgolfier brothers' invention was also the impetus for the publication of this separate edition of the chapter describing the flying ship, which may have appeared in the first months of 1784.

The interesting background details are revealed in the brief preliminary text, addressed by the anonymous printer to his ‘learned readers', which contains a reference to the “flying balloons now introduced in France” (fol. A2v, our transl.). The first public launch of the Montgolfiers' globe volant occurred on 5 June 1783, and the clamor was enormous. News of their achievement soon reached Italy, with enthusiastic articles appearing in numerous gazettes. Ballooning became the topic of the day, and the atmosphere is impressively captured in the aforementioned preface, which reports a conversation amongst a circle of amateurs, most probably in Naples, including a statement made by one of the participants that “the invention was however not entirely new, because our compatriot” – i.e., Francesco Lana Terzi – “had already invented it” (ibid.). The speaker also indicated where to find a copy of the 1670 Prodromo by Lana Terzi, in the private library of the lawyer and politician Francesco Vargas Machuca (1699-1785), who resided in Naples. From this conversation arose the idea to publish, from the original edition, only the chapter describing the flying ship, and thus to create a pamphlet affirming a certain level of Italian primacy in the new fashion for ballooning.

The publishing initiative was evidently met with success, and different issues – all of the greatest rarity - of the individually printed La nave volante are recorded, all of which include – in keeping with the original edition of 1670 – the engraving depicting the ingenious invention. These publications may have been printed in various Italian cities and differ from each other in terms of the woodcut ornament printed on the title-pages, as well as in their fonts and layout.

Riccardi II, 13; M. R. Lynn, The Sublime Invention. Ballooning in Europe, 1783-1820, London 2010.

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