Romantic Circles Gallery
Cavallo's Plate II


Carefully annotated sketches such as this one, which served as a basis for explanations of how hot air balloons were filled, were included in books such as Tiberius Cavallo’s 1785 The History and Practice of Aerostation, which promised to “record everty particular that deserved to be remembered, or that appeared likely to open the way for farther discoveries.” The alphabetical letters on the sketch served as references in a chapter entitled “Manner of Filling Large Aerostatic Machines Exemplified,” which offered a detailed account of the process.

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The fascination with ballooning had been triggered by the efforts of the Montgolfier brothers in France. In June 1783, they bhad launched the first ever flight, carrying a sheep, a cock, and a duck, in front of 60,000 spectators and the Royal Family. On October 15, 1783, they launched the first ever human flight, this time in front of 100, 000 spectators and the Royal family. Numerous flights soon followed, both in France, England, and elsewhere.
Cavallo was a member of the Royal Society for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, a very prestigious organization founded in London in 1660, made up of accomplished scientists.
There was a predictable surge of books and pamphlets designed to meet the public’s demand for news about ballooning. Of these, Vincento Lunardi’s account of his initial flight, An Account of the First Aërial Voyage in England, in a series of Letters to his Guardian, Chevalier Gherardo Compagni (1784), offered a similar description of the apparatus which made ballooning possible.
The image offered readers a chance to understand the technical side of balloon flights by providing a detailed account of how they were inflated.
This image highlights the preoccupation of many people working in the field of ballooning with the various technological challenges involved, but also their determined effort to make the news of these efforts available to the broader public in accessible ways.

As an author, Cavallo had succeeded in positioning himself as a scientific popularizer. His previous book, which explored another wildly popular scientific discovery -- A Complete Treatise Of Electricity In Theory And Practice; With Original Experiments (1777) – was published in several increasingly lengthy editions throughout the last decades of the century.

Ironically, balloning’s very popularity often seemed to undermine the scientific claims of its practitioners. Faced with the tendency of some critics to dismiss ballooning as nothing more than the latest fad and the people involved in it as nothing more than showmen, investigatiors such as Cavallo used these sorts of detailed technological images and descriptions as a way of implicitly insisting on their scientific integrity. Ultimately, however, ballooning may best be viewed as an important element of the broader struggle of many eighteenth-century thinkers to promote science as the basis of an enlightened but accessible form of public culture. Below is an example of an advertisement for a series of “Instructive and Entertaining” lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy, the ticket price including “a View of the Balloon Floating.”

MR. J. WEAVOR, has the Honour to announce to the LADIES and GENTLEMEN of

LEEDS, and its Environs, his having finished his Course of Lectures at the City of York and Town of Tadcaster, to a numerous and polite Audience ; and with great Submission informs them of his Arrival in this Town, with an extensive and elegant Apparatus. He proposes to deliver his Instructive and Entertaining COURSE of LECTURES on NATURAL and EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY, as soon as Forty or more Subscribers are obtained ; at the large and commodious ASSEMBLY-ROOM, the Rose and-Crown, LEEDS.

The Course to contain Twelve Lectures on the following Subjects:

I. Compendious Exordium, or Introduction to the Course, in which will be shewn the superlative Excellence of Science ; the Estimation it has ever been held in by the most respectable Characters of all Ages for its Usefulness, both in a moral and commercial Capacity.

II. A Definition of Matter and its Properties, viz. Its In-activity, Mobility, Divisibility, Attraction, Cohesion, Repulsion, Gravitation, Expansion, Contraction, Magnetism, Electricity, Elementary Parts, &c.

PNEUMATICS, or the Doctrine of the Atmosphere ; its Weight, Elasticity, vivifying Spirit, and the peculiar Properties of inflammable Gas, or Air, in the Construction of Air-Balloons (where one will be kept floating during the Lecture); its Use in the Vegetable, Animal, and Fossil Kingdoms, when in a proper State; and its noxious Qualities and dire Effects when contaminated.-Exemplified by analyzing certain Bodies, and the blowing up Mines and artificial Earthquakes on a small and harmless scale.....

The Solar System explained and made evident to every Capacity, on an Orrery, Planetarium, Celestial and Terrestrial Globe, and other expensive and necessary Apparatus. The Theory of Tides and Harvest Moon, will also be explained on the Globes and central Machine.

In the Course of these Lectures will be introduced that de-lightful Science of Optics; also Electricity....

Subscribers Tickets to this Course Lectures, and a View of the Balloon floating, will admit Two Ladies or One Gentlemen, at One Guinea each.-Non-subscribers 28. 6d. any particular Lecture, and is in view the Balloon.

The Use of the Globes, Maps, Planesphere, &c. taught at vacant Hours, 10s. 6d. each Pupil. An Hour best calculated to suit the Convenience of the Subscribers will be fixed on, of which timely Notice will be given.

An Analysis of the Course may be had of Mr. WEAVOR, at the Rose-and Crown, 1s. 6d. each.

Subscriptions taken in at Mr. Binns's; the Rest of the Booksellers; the Circulating-Library; and of Mr. WEAVOR, at the Rose-and-Crown.

(The Leeds Mercury, Tuesday 13 April, 1784, Issue 896), printed by James Bowling.

This book and this image are part of Cavallo's work on the study of air and it properties.
Baldwin, Thomas. Airopaida. London: J. Fletcher, 1786.

Burke, Edmund. “Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful,” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, Ed. Leitch, Vincent, B. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.

Cavallo, Tiberius. The History and Practice of Aerostation. London : printed for the author, and sold by C. Dilly; P. Elmsly; and J. Stockdale, 1785.

Cosgrove, Denis. Apollo’s Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination. JHU Press, 2001

Cruikshank, George. George Cruikshank’s Table Book, Abbot Beckett, Editor. London: Punch Office, 1845.

De Bolla, Peter. The Education of the Eye: Painting, Landscape, and Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Harley, J.B. The New Nature of Maps: Essays in the History of Cartography. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Holmes, Richard. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. UK: Harper Collins, 2008.

Illustrations of Natural Philosophy. London: Reynolds. 1850.

Keats, John. Complete Poems. Stillinger, Jack, Ed. Cambridge, MA and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982.

Keen, Paul. “The ‘Balloonomania’: Science and Spectacle in 1780s England,” Eighteenth-Century Studies - Volume 39, Number 4, Summer 2006, pp. 507- 535

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004-9. (

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. 2004-9.


Stewart, Susan. On Longing. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993.

The Juvenile Library, Vol. 2. London, 1800-01. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Wisconsin - Madison. 12 May 2009 

The Juvenile Library, Vol. 3. London 1800-01. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. University of Wisconsin - Madison. 12 May 2009 

The London Packet ; Or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Issue 2310. London, 1785.

The New Spectator with the Sage Opinions of John Bull, No. 1 (3 February 1784) - No. 25 (17 January 1786) London: T. Rickaby.

Wakefield, Priscilla. Mental improvement: or, the beauties and wonders of nature and art. In a series of instructive conversations. Dublin: 1800.

Wolf, Norbert. Romanticism. Koln: Tanshen, 2007.

The Busy Body; A Collection of Periodical Essays, No. 15 (3 February 1787) - No. 25. London: C. Stalker, 1787.

"Plate II" from The History and Practice of Aerostation by Tiberus Cavallo, F.R.S.