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On The Block

Up, Up, and Away

Blanchard’s Philadelphia First

A page from Pierre Blanchard’s Journal of My Forty-Fifth Ascension, being the first performed in America….

Pierre Blanchard’s Journal, Doyle New York, $8,000-12,000

It was on January 9th, 1793, that the French aeronaut and ballooning showman Jean Pierre Blanchard made the first manned balloon ascent in America. Among the disappointingly few spectators who paid $5 for a seat in the yard of Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Prison were George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe. Blanchard, who spoke no English, was given a sort of passport by Washington to safeguard him wherever the prevailing winds might take him. Accompanied by a small black dog, Blanchard’s 45 minute flight ended not too far distant near Woodbury, New Jersey.

A copy of Blanchard’s Journal of My Forty-Fifth Ascension, being the first performed in America... in a later binding, is the 27pp original bulked out with blanks to make it a more substantial item. It is complete with title and the folding plate. A French text edition was published around the same time, but it is unclear which has precedence. Will be offered as part of an aeronautical book and print collection by Doyle New York on October 28.

Beneath us the Clouds

A plate showing the view from above the clouds from Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia….

Airopaidia…, Dominic Winter, $815-1,300

This extraordinary colored plate comes from the 1786 first and only edition of Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia…. It includes a rapturous account of his solo ascent in a balloon, belonging to the pioneering aeronaut Vincent Lunardi, from the city of Chester in September of the previous year. Also included are his suggestions on the improvements that could be made to balloons and a wealth of scientific detail and measurement. A stickler for detail, Baldwin lists all the items he carried with him, including “An Asses Skin Patent Pocket-Book, as Wet spoils paper; Two red lead pencils, each Pencil ready pointed at both Ends, to save Time and Trouble….” Of the four folding plates, this almost surreal view from above the clouds—probably the first of its kind—is the certainly most memorable.

Showing a few faults and repairs but generally a well preserved, wide margined copy in contemporary calf, this copy is to be sold by Dominic Winter on November 5.

Curious and Curiouser – Blackwell gets Bigger and Better

Herbarium Blackwellianum…, Ketterer Kunst (Hamburg), $14,220

In 1747, the great German botanist Christoph Jacob Trew instigated the compilation of an expanded, amended and artistically improved version of Elizabeth Blackwell’s famous Curious Herbal of 1737-39. Trew and a succession of eminent botanists provided considerably more text, and Nikolaus Eisenberger not only reworked Blackwell’s original plates, adding details of flower and fruit parts, but produced over 100 entirely new plates based on his own paintings.

This much enlarged Herbarium Blackwellianum…. was completed in six volumes over the years 1750-1773, running to a total of 615 plates in all. This one to be offered by Ketterer Kunst of Hamburg in their November 16-17 sale is not perfect. One plate is missing, and in a few others the coloring has smudged. There is also some staining and browning, and its contemporary binding has been rubbed and bumped, but this remains scarce.

The World from a Polar Point of View

A Concent of Scripture, Reiss & Sohn, $42,600

On the face of it, Hugh Broughton’s A Concent of Scripture of 1588 seems an unlikely candidate as a highlight of a sale focusing on books containing early world maps, but it offers two rare and early maps believed to have been engraved by Jodocus Hondius.

One is a reduced, double-page version of the famous Ortelius oval world map of 1570. The other, a folding circular map on a North polar projection extending to the equator, is derived from a much more elaborate woodcut map produced in 1581 by the French cosmographer and cartographer Guillaume Postel. As only one copy of that original is known, the version in Broughton’s book is the earliest obtainable example of this unusual map.

These two maps are very often lacking from copies of Broughton’s book, but this one to be sold by Reiss & Sohn of Königsberg-im-Taunus as part their October 26-31 series of sales retains both. In a later, dark brown morocco gilt binding by Rivière, and formerly in two distinguished libraries—those of Henry Huth and Theodore Besterman.

Derek HayesIan McKay’s weekly column in Antiques Trade Gazette has been running for more than 30 years.