MALTHUS, Francis

MALTHUS, Francis A Treatise of Artificial Fire-Works Both for Warres and Recreation

London , Printed [by W. Jones] for Richard Hawkins, 1629

£7,500.00

FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo, pp. (viii) 261 [pagination erratic], (ix). A-L⁸, M⁸, (M4+chi1), N-S⁸. A8 and S8 blank. Roman letter. Historiated woodcut initials and head pieces, engraved architectural title by t. Cecill with figures of Vulcan and Minerva in fiery landscape (Johnson 7), printed title with small woodcut ornament, 38 half page engraved illustrations, nine woodcuts of fortifications, “Henry White, Close Lichfield december 22 1810”, mss. on front paste-down, ‘From the Britwell Court library’ in pencil to side. Light age yellowing, occasional thumb mark or very minor stain. A very good copy, crisp and clean with excellant impressions of the plates, in contemporary English sheep, covers bordered with a double blind rule, a.e.r. head of spine chipped, corners worn, stains to lower cover

First edition in English of Malthus’ important and scarce treatise on all aspects of contemporary gunnery and pyrotechnics, including cannons, gunpowder, projectiles, rockets, grenades, fortifications, siege, and fireworks, translated himself from the French the same year. “I have translated the same into English, that others might not translating it, mistake my meaning.” In his preface Malthus pours scorn on previous attempts to describe fireworks in England as absurd misunderstandings, and also describes Norton as someone to be pitied for his ignorance “who hath erred onely in attributing another mans workes, and faultes to bee his owne”.

The work is divided in five sections: the first on war, with a particularly detailed description of the use of mortars, petards and hand grenades of various description. The second part is devoted to ‘recreation’ or the use of fireworks for pleasure, including many varieties of rocket, “serpants”, “golden rayne”, “Starres”, “fierie boxes and Lances”, “Girondelles or Fierie Wheeles”, “flying saucissons”, finishing with a description of an unguent for the treatment of burns. The next three chapters are devoted respectively to fortification, geometry and arithmetic and their application in the use of fireworks, artillery and projectiles in both attack and defence. Cockle states : “This work, though in advance of anything so far written on the subject in English, does not attain to the standard of Thibourel and Appier. Yet it is with foreign treatises it must be weighed, for Malthus received his training in pyrotechnics abroad. …. It was Malthus who about the year 1634 introduced the mortar into the French service.”

Francis Malthus, an engineer in the royal French army and a captain general of mines and sapping, was responsible for the early French use of mortar. Having received his education in pyrotechnics on the Continent, his work was considered more sophisticated than that of his contemporary English experts. This work was republished several times in the 17th century. A very good copy of a rare and interesting work, attractively illustrated, and one of the earliest treatises on rockets in English. From the great Britwell Court library.

STC 17217. ESTC S109781. Cockle 118 (long description). Gerrarre 143, ‘A bibliography of Guns and Shooting.’
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