Romantic Circles Gallery
The Explanatory Print
This image corresponded to the scene depicted in “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” which was to be inserted on the facing page. The intention was that this print could be used to provide a more specific indication of the geographical features included (but not labelled) in the other print.As Thomas Baldwin made his journey in a hot air balloon over Cheshire, he had carefully tracked the movement of the balloon. The lines in this image map the course the balloon took. Viewing the two together would have enabled readers to appreciate Baldwin’s double emphasis on his own scientific rigour and the wonder of flight.
Copyright 2009, Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Printing ContextThe “Explanatory Print,” from Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia or Aerial Recreation (Chester, 1786). It was intended to open facing another engraving in the book entitled “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” and to serve as a key to the names of the places included in that print.
Associated EventsBalloon flights quickly became so frequent an occurrence in the years after Lunardi first ascended from London that the leading periodicals and newspapers carried columns on ballooning news which did little more than list many of them.
Associated PlacesChester, Cheshire, England (North West England, on the River Dee)
Associated TextsBaldwin’s Airpopaidia: Containing the narrative of a Balloon Excursion from Chester, the Eighth of September, 1785 contained three illustrations (engravings “by the best Masters”): “A View from the Balloon at its Greatest Elevation,” “The Balloon Over Hellsbye Hill in Cheshire,” and “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” as well this “Explantory Print which eludicdates the former by giving the names of principal Places mentioned in the Excursion.”
SubjectAn aerial map of rural Chester identifying the specific geographic details of Baldwin’s route during his flight.
ThemeThis image is not only a map, but a visual description of the flight the balloon took. Its inclusion of the names of local places, including rivers, was intended to provide a geographically specific complement to the image titled “Balloon Prospect from Above the Clouds,” which was to be inserted on the preceeding page so that “when unfolded” the Explanatory Print would “be seen along with the Balloon-Prospect” (on pages 154 and 155, according to the “Direction for placing Them” in the book’s prefatory pages).
SignificanceViewed together, this “Explanatory Print” and the print titled of “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” were intended to reinforce Baldwin’s emphasis on his published account’s descriptive precision and scientific rigour, in sharp contrast with what he dismissed as the “vague and unsatisfactory” nature of other published accounts of balloon excursions. The “Explanatory Print” depicted the same landscape that was shown in “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” but where the latter aimed at conveying an impression of this aerial view, the “Explanatory Print” offered a highly specific indication of the “names of Principal Places mentioned in the Excursion.”
FunctionThe image served as a complement to the print titled of “A Balloon Prospect from above the Clouds,” providing the names of geographical features and indicating the balloon’s route.
BibliographyBaldwin, Thomas. Airpopaidia: Containing the narrative of a Balloon Excursion from Chester, the Eighth of September, 1785. Chester, 1786.
Long Title"A Balloon Prospect from Above the Clouds," in Airopaida: containing the narrative of a balloon excursion from Chester, the eighth of September 1785...To which is subjoined, mensuration of heights by the barometer made plain: with extensive tables. The whole serving as an introduction to aerial navigation: with a copious index. By Thomas Baldwin."
5 January 1786