Posted by: whipplelib | November 5, 2012

Fireworks – 17th century style

In an attempt to make the blog fit in with seasonal celebrations, I’ve managed to find something on fireworks (sadly I don’t think we have anything that is directly linked to Halloween, and Christmas may be a challenge). The mysteryes of natvre and art by John Bate, published in 1634, contains 4 treatise one of which is on “fyerworks”. It details the main instruments and ingredients needed to make various types of fireworks:

1. Such as operate in the ayre, as Rockets, Serpents, Raining fire, Stars, Petards, Dragons, Fire-drakes, Feinds, Gyronels, or Fire-wheeles, Balloons.

2. Such as operate upon the earth, as Crackers, Trunks, Lanterns, Lights, Tumbling bals, Saucissons, Towers, Castles, Pyramids, Clubs, Lances, Targets.

3. Such as burn in or on the water, as Rockets. Dolphins, Ships, Tumbling bals.

The treatise has a number of diagrams showing how the fireworks should be made and what they look like when completed. My favourite 3 fireworks described are the more showy ones: the Dragon, Fire-Drake and the Dolphin. The Dragon is made from dry and light wood, or thin whale bones which is filled with rockets and is propelled along a rope by 2 fireworks attached to it. According to the treatise the Fire-drake looks “strangely and fearefully” in the sky. As you can see from the photo it looks like a kite so would be simpler to make than the Dragon or the Dolphin. The Dolphin looks more like a fish than the mammal we know today but would have look very impressive reflected in the water. The slide show below also feature a man carrying a fire-club which is from the title page of the treatise.


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  1. […] Guy Fawkes Day, we learned how to make fireworks seventeenth-century style at the Whipple Library Books Blog and how to remove ear worms using milk […]

  2. […] Rupert Baker showcases the Royal Society’s copy of John Babington’s Pyrotechnia and the Whipple Library Books blog explores John Bate’s The Mysteries of Nature and Art. Here’s another illustration from the Science Museum Library’s […]

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