Taking Flight with the Tissandier Collection: Exploring Early Aviation in Pictures

The value of providing online access to collection material has never been more apparent than during this challenging time. Opportunities for remote learning and vicarious experience are in high demand, and while we are doubling down on our efforts to digitize more materials all the time, we also want to take the opportunity to highlight – and perhaps to remind you of — some materials that have been accessible to online researchers for years. Today we would like to feature the Tissandier Collection, which includes images related to the history of human experimentation with flight, particularly in Europe from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth century.

Some images from the Tissandier Collection show how the natural world provided inspiration for some inventors.

<em>Aviation, études, essais et inventions qui, sans résourdre le problème de l'aviation, ont pourtant donné des résultats intéresssants et encourageants à l'auteur / dédié par l'auteur aux chercheurs, expérimentateurs, inventeurs et amis de l'aviation, aoùt 1866.</em> Designed by Jean Jacques Bourcart, 1866. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02525

Aviation, études, essais et inventions qui, sans résourdre le problème de l’aviation, ont pourtant donné des résultats intéresssants et encourageants à l’auteur / dédié par l’auteur aux chercheurs, expérimentateurs, inventeurs et amis de l’aviation, aoùt 1866. Designed by Jean Jacques Bourcart, 1866. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02525

<em>Flugmaschine. Erfunden von Jacob Degen in Wien, 1807</em>. Engraving, circa 1810. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02517

Flugmaschine. Erfunden von Jacob Degen in Wien, 1807. Engraving, circa 1810. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02517

Others highlight dramatic moments in the development of aviation technology. As the scenes shown in the collecting cards below make clear, some moments were triumphant, such as the one at top left depicting the successful ascent of Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean-Baptiste Biot in a hot air balloon, which led to new discoveries about the properties of gases at higher altitudes. Other less successful events shown in the scenes below may make some viewers grateful to have two feet on the ground.

Collecting cards with pictures of events in ballooning history from 1795 to 1846. Chromolithographic prints by Romanet & cie., imp., between 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02561

Collecting cards with pictures of events in ballooning history from 1795 to 1846. Chromolithographic prints by Romanet & cie., imp., between 1890 and 1900. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02561

The development of the air balloon is a particular strength of the Tissandier Collection, which includes not only technical diagrams related to balloon flight, but also portraits of inventors involved in the development of the technology and many images designed to make balloon flight look attractive. In some cases, balloon ascents provided a spectacle that drew crowds, as evident in the images below.

<em>Experience aërostatique faite à Lyon; d'un ballon de cent pieds de diamètre le 10 [i.e. 19] janvier 1784, à midi 48 min[u]tes </em>. Etching by Chés Enaut et Rapilly, 1784. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02449

Experience aërostatique faite à Lyon; d’un ballon de cent pieds de diamètre le 10 [i.e. 19] janvier 1784, à midi 48 min[u]tes . Etching by Chés Enaut et Rapilly, 1784. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02449

A view of the balloon of Mr. Sadler's ascending with him and Captain Paget of the Royal Navy from the gardens of the Mermaid Tavern at Hackney on Monday, August 12, 1811 . Lithograph, 1811. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02457

A view of the balloon of Mr. Sadler’s ascending with him and Captain Paget of the Royal Navy from the gardens of the Mermaid Tavern at Hackney on Monday, August 12, 1811 . Lithograph, 1811. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02457

Whether you are a teacher looking for an opportunity to develop a lesson plan, an aviation enthusiast, or simply curious to explore the early visual history of this fascinating technology, the digitized images from the Tissandier Collection may be just what you need to get you through an afternoon.

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5 Comments

  1. Cheryl
    September 4, 2020 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for the great post, Melissa! I’ve long been a fan of this collection, and have used it in teaching and writing, and I’m excited to explore the items that you highlighted.

  2. hp
    September 4, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    I love browsing through this collection! Thank you, Melissa!

  3. Nancy
    September 5, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    These are great – interesting and beautiful to look at. I’ve shared them with 2 engineers and a college student who will enjoy them.

  4. Elisabeth Parker
    September 6, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Thanks for the reminder. There is this and so much more aeronautical material in P&P!

  5. Thomas Holbrook
    September 7, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks–I always find these LC literal “in sights” to its collections.
    I’m also an LC retiree trying patiently to wait until I can again check out LC books (and return a few I had checked out before the Covid sky fell.

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