It’s that time of year when leaves cover the ground, there’s a chill in the air, and household pets look distinctly nervous.
Hallowe’en has just passed and this weekend will see fireworks displays throughout Britain as the bonfires are lit for Guy Fawkes Night. But even the most spectacular pyrotechnics would be hard-pressed to beat these 17th-century creations.
This engraving is from the Science Museum Library‘s copy of Pyrotechnia or, A discourse of artificial fire-works, written by John Babington and published in 1635. A musical device ‘with anticks dancing’ is followed by a dragon spewing flame from its eyes, mouth, and … ahem … anus.
There were also firework devices designed to float on water – this illustration shows a sailing ship, a mermaid, and another dragon about to do battle with a trident-waving Neptune. We’ve digitized more pages from Pyrotechnia on our Ingenious website.
It wasn’t all fun and games – Babington, a gunner, was also aware of the applications of gunpowder in warfare, and experimentation with devices such as these was a good way to try out about different powder ingredients. You can find out more in this book by Simon Werrett.
In the meantime, have fun at the fireworks if you’re off to a bonfire this weekend – hope you enjoy them as much as this young man!