Flying, 1902

Identifier: 1902 FLYING (Periodical) 2014028

1902flying1[click on picture to read contents]

Flying. The Record of Aerial Navigation. No.4. Quarterly. September 1902. Illiffe and Sons Ltd, London and Coventry. Pages 148-192. Size: 182 x 245mm.


This issue of Flying dates from the year before the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight. Of course, balloonists had been drifting through the skies for more than a century, and the new technique of gliding was starting to become practical. However, it seems that maintaining a journal on the subject of human flight was difficult. There had already been failures – the front cover of this issue of Flying states: “ … with which are incorporated The Flyer, The Flying Machine, The Aerostat, The Aeronaut.” The quarterly Flying wasn’t cheap at half-a-crown, and it ceased publishing the following year after just six issues and a total of 288 pages.



A wide mix of reports, speculations, and history – from the fanciful ‘The bicycle as an accessory to true flight’, to the second of three parts of the seminal report given to the Western Society of Engineers by Wilbur Wright. This journal is an example of that curious mixture of genuine professional technical progress, and the amateur optimistic fantasy which would largely disappear in mainstream aviation journals as powered heavier-than-air flight became widespread.

1902flying4[click to enlarge]


Flying isn’t in the British Library but the National Library of Scotland, and both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, have it – as do half a dozen other libraries found by WorldCat, all but one of which are in the USA. There don’t seem to be any copies of any issue for sale online. So it’s very scarce.

Condition: The pages have been re-sewn onto new guards, and are still bright but fragile in places. Some water stains, finger marks, and folded page corners. The fore-edge is ragged. Damage to the first three (blank) pages, several page corners, and the cover has been repaired with acid-free Japanese tissue. Writing in ink on front cover. The price reflects the fragile nature of this copy.

Price: £35.00 plus postage.

Scroll down for more pictures and further items.








Le Petit Inventeur – ‘The history of the future’

Le Petit Inventeur

Le Petit Inventeur. New Series nos. 1-25. Editions Albin Michel, Paris. 400 pages, Colour covers, b/w interiors. Hardback, bound in paper-covered boards, with coloured illustration on front. Size: 200 x 282 mm.

I would once have categorised the picture on the cover of this book as ‘Early television’, or ‘Videophone’, but of course it would now be best described as webcam skyping, or whatever the current phrase is for keeping up with family and friends online, both visually and sonically.

Le Petit Inventeur 2

This French magazine started in the early 20s, and this is a re-start from c.1930. Odd little pieces, with many b/w drawings, about all kinds of technological realities and promised future science-fiction gizmos that the boffins were just about to make real. In truth, the covers are the best part – and there are 25 of them, with most reproduced below. Great fun, and useful reference material for anyone writing about ‘the history of the future’. These magazines are not hard to find in their country of origin, but the bound volumes make collecting them much easier, and are rarely found outside of France.

Condition: Interior very good, with usual tanning of the pages. Some foxing to the covers (and minor marks to top margin), and a new webbing repair to the top of the spine. The old pasted-down endpapers are cracking at the spine joint, and there are a couple of small old paper repairs there, but the binding is still holding well so I’ve left those minor faults.

Price: £38.00 plus postage


Le Petit Inventeur3

Le Petit Inventeur4



















Some Aeronautical Experiments

identifier: 2014031 WRIGHT AND BADEN-POWELL

Some Aeronautical Experiments, by Wilbur Wright. Introduction by Octave Canute. 16 pages plus four (numbered) plates of the Wright Brothers’ gliders (one on each side of two leaves) featuring 8 photographs. Published Washington: Smithsonian 1903.


Recent Aeronautical Progress, an essay by Lord Baden-Powell. 12 printed pages. Published Washington: Smithsonian 1903.

Newly bound in hard covers, cover size: 157 x 235mm.

I find it difficult to write about the early experiments of the Wright Brothers without sounding overly portentous. It seems impossible to overestimate the achievements of these two methodical, determined and self-funded bicycle-makers, who swapped wheels for wings. And it seems ironic that this reprint appeared in the Report of the Smithsonian Institution (published in 1903), which at that time was behind the hugely expensive work (financed by the United States War Department) of Samuel Pierpont Langley, Secretary of the Institution, whose full-size Aerodrome would twice fail on launching, that same year.

It’s fascinating to read Wilbur’s account of the brothers’ initial gliding experiments, written some two years before their first historic powered flight, in a printing that also pre-dates their December 1903 triumph. Always calm and serious in public, we learn of the brothers’ private excitement in their attempts to record their achievements. Wilbur mentions one of the illustrations, commenting: ‘looking at this picture you will readily understand that the excitement of gliding experiments does not entirely cease with the breaking up of camp. In the photographic darkroom at home we pass moments of thrilling interest as any in the field, when the image begins to appear on the plate and it is yet an open question whether we have a picture of a flying machine or merely a path of open sky.’ He predicts: ‘It is probably that an engine of 6 horsepower, weighing 100 pounds, would answer the purpose. Such an engine is entirely practicable.’ In the event, their first engine weighed 170 lbs, giving 12 hp.

There are some basic equations that most readers will skip, and quite a lot about centers of pressure and angles of incidence, but the technical jargon – it seems that “rudder” refers to what we now call an elevator – is mostly accessible, and doesn’t limit this text to the specialist.

Baden-Powell’s article reviews current progress in both balloons and gliding, anticipating the potential of the powered aeroplane. ‘Primarily, it would form an incalculably valuable engine of war’ – with comments on how such a machine would have been used for reconnaissance in the recent Boer War. ‘If the dropping of explosives on the heads of an enemy is not now considered “fair play” … yet there are many more uses to which the aerial fighter might be put.’ Baden-Powell recognizes the sacrifices that have been made, and will be made, in this dangerous new activity: ‘Perils and dangers loom before us as a skeleton contaminating and haunting our castle in the air.’

The Wright paper first appeared in print in: Journal of the Western Society of Engineers. Chicago.

Octave Chanute ordered 300 offprints of Wilbur Wright’s paper, which he sent to interested parties. (An example of this offprint was estimated at US$30,000-50,000 at a Bonhams sale. Lot 106, The Story of the 20th Century, New York 4 Jun 2014, Auction 21652. )

Wright’s 1901 paper was reprinted in the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1902. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1903. It seems that there were also offprints of this version of the Wright paper. Also in the Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution was the essay by Baden-Powell, Recent Aeronautical Progress. (A lot comprising both articles, extracted from the Annual report (not offprints), was estimated at US$500-700, also at Bonhams. The Space History Sale, New York, 26 Apr 2012, Auction 19632, Lot 1004).

I think I’ve got all that right, but don’t quote me.

So…..What’s being offered here is another example of the same printing as the Bonhams Auction 19632, Lot 1004 – i.e. extracted pages from the Annual Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution … For the Year Ending June 30, 1902. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903., Wilbur Wright—Some Aeronautical Experiments, together with The Baden Powell essay Recent Aeronautical Progress – here without the Report’s general title page, but also without library stamps on the plates, which were present on the Bonhams Lot 1004 example. The leaves of both articles have had centre guard strips pasted on, and the signatures sewn into boards covered with black bookcloth.

Good examples of these two early papers – one by Wilbur Wright and one by Baden-Powell – bound together (in the order of the original pagination, Baden-Powell first), providing an opportunity to own a 1903 printing of Wilbur’s hugely important report at a very affordable price.

£48.00 plus postage.Contact:


Wonderful Balloon Ascents

ITEM 2014/022

Wonderful Balloon Ascents: OR, The Conquest of the Skies.

A history of balloons and balloon voyages. From the French of F. Marion.

Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.; London, Paris & New York. n.d. [c.1888]

[Originally published as Les Ballons et les Voyages aériens … Ouvrage illustré … par P. Sellier. Paris, 1867.]

Cover size 130 x 190mm. [iiix] 224p. + 4p. of advertisements.

Book plate in this copy: Ex libris C. J. Peacock
who folds a leafe downe ye divel toaste browne
who makes marke or blotte ye divel roaste hot
who stealeth thisse boke ye divel shall cooke

Fulgence Marion was a pseudonym of the French astronomer and psychical researcher Camille Flammarion (1842-1925) who held unconventional ideas about life, the universe, and everything. Best known for the best-selling work Popular Astronomy (Astronomie populaire) published under his real name, his output included La planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitabilité, 1892, and La Fin du Monde (The End of the World), 1893, a science fiction novel about a comet colliding with the Earth, which was adapted into a film in 1931 by Abel Gance. L’inconnu et les problèmes psychiques (L’inconnu: The Unknown), was a collection of psychic experiences. I’m more familiar with his Wonders of Optics (published in English in 1868, originally L’Optique, 1867), and only recently read this aviation work for the first time.

Fulfilling the promise of its title, the book covers the history of ballooning to c.1870, with 30 delightful illustrations. A few non-balloon aerial attempts or suggestions are also included. The final chapter, The Necrology of Aeronautics, documents the high price paid by many pioneers with graphic accounts of many ‘aerial shipwrecks’. The first English edition appeared in 1870; this one is from c.1888. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about ballooning to comment on the book’s accuracy, but a contemporary reviewer had some reservations: ‘If a Frenchman first rose into the air, it was an Englishman who accomplished the longest journey hitherto known. Mr. Green started from London at midday on November 7th, 1836, and landed not far from Wiberg, in the Duchy of Nassau, at 7 a.m. on the following day. M. Marion says the distance was “1,200 miles,” but from London to Nassau is nothing like that ; the rate of 63 miles per hour is a manifest impossibility.’ (The Spectator, 13 October 1888.)

This beautifully decorated copy of Fulgence Marion’s very collectable work on ballooning is physically contradictory. On the one hand it shows a lavish treatment; the case has been covered using the art book technique of two pieces of book cloth of different colours cut together at an angle to give a striking colour change. No doubt there’s a technical term for the result. The front cover is attractively set off by the gilt image of a balloon, and gilt edges. However, the original binding technique is pants. The folded sheets were stapled into sections, and then glued onto a strip of material which was in turn glued straight onto the inside of the spine area of the cover. Online research reveals that this is a simplified version of a machine-binding technique using steel wire that was developed in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century.

Unsurprisingly, the sections of this volume eventually fell out and the book became unusable. I have removed the staples and sewn the sections onto tapes, glued mull onto the back, and then glued the block into the covers. The remains of the old free end papers have been used to paste down onto the cover, the front one being just a tab so that the book plate is preserved.

I failed to match the paper colour for the new free endpapers – my new cream stock turns to blazing lemon when placed next to the original mellowed pages – so I took the radical decision to use black paper for these. This rebinding should give the book a new lease of life, and I hope my intrusions don’t upset the spirits who were protecting it for Mr. Peacock.

Although earlier editions are quite common, this edition does seem hard to find (none on Bookfinder, ABE or Amazon as I write). Perhaps the dodgy binding technique is part of the reason for its scarcity. Minor wear to the back cover and spine, pages in good condition, with minor rust stains where the old staples were, and occasional light foxing. Note: page 134 (unnumbered) is followed by page 137. There is nothing missing – this is an original pagination error. See online version:

Price: £95.00 plus postage. Contact: