(Paris: Cuchet, 1783-1784; 1784; Amsterdam and Paris: Gueffier, 1785). 223 x 127 mm. (8 x 5"). Three separately published works bound as a three-volume set (the first work occupying the first two volumes). FIRST EDITIONS. Second Issue of the first work, with the four-page "Supplément" at the end.
Uniform contemporary orange paste-paper boards backed with marbled sheepskin, corners tipped with vellum, raised bands flanked by decorative gilt rolls, one red and one green morocco label. First work with a folding table and 14 ENGRAVED PLATES (nine numbered plates in first volume, five in second, two of the latter folding); second with three engraved plates; third work with one folding plate. First work: Darmon 51; PMM 229; Norman I, 769; Maggs Bros., "The History of Flight" 65. A hint of rubbing to extremities, intermittent minor browning, small rust spots, or offsetting in the text bed (largely due to inferior paper stock), four leaves with one-inch brown stain to text (nothing obscured), a couple of short marginal tears (from rough opening), but QUITE A FINE SET--the text clean, fresh, and well-margined, the plates with excellent impressions, and the binding remarkably well preserved, with few signs of wear.
This is the second issue, with the rare "Supplément" (in the second volume), of the earliest account of the first public experiments with hot air balloons, and it is considered to be the first authoritative technical and historical work on aerostation as well as the first serious discussion of balloon travel as a practical possibility. The experiments were conducted by the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph (1740-1810) and Etienne (1745-99), who had been intrigued by the experiments of Cavendish and Priestly with "inflammable air." The eminent scientist Faujas (1741-1823), who was the promoter, financier, and chronicler of the Montgolfiers, quickly published this account after the brothers had launched a balloon at Annonay in June of 1783, then a balloon carrying some farm animals in September, and finally a balloon carrying Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes in November. This last flight--the first manned aerial voyage in history--covered five-and-one-half miles across Paris and lasted 25 minutes. Plate 8 here shows the two original aeronauts viewed from the terrace of Franklin's home in Passy.
The third volume begins with a discussion of the inflammable gas used to lift the balloons, and gives a summary of Montgolfier's history of balloon flights. The final work sets forth another scientific innovation, an electrostatic machine that employed sheets of taffeta to create friction that produced static electricity. The Royal Academy of Sciences tested the machine and found it a great improvement--less expensive and less liable to accidents--than earlier machines that had used plates of glass. The work seems to be very rare: we could find no copy sold at auction in either RBH or ABPC. This is a most appealing set, its combination of works on inventions offering a glimpse of the popular fascination with emerging technologies, especially those related to flight, in the late 18th century. (ST15350)