First and only edition of this rare and intriguing little work on mechanical flight by Carl Friederich Meerwein (1737-1810), architect and engineer to the Prince of Baden. Meerwein was a very early aeronautical theorist and experimenter, and in this volume he discusses “how to fly in the manner of birds. First, he argues that humans cannot fly like birds because of issues such as their anatomy and gravity. However, he did believe that machines could be constructed, using rotors, which could fly and be steered” (Lynn, The Sublime Invention, p. 55).
Meerwein’s theoretical contribution to the study of flight was to derive the size of the wings needed to lift a human. The flying apparatus he designed, and which is illustrated in the two plates in this volume, consisted of “two light wooden frames (shaped, when outspread, like the longitudinal section of a spindle) covered with calico, hinged at the centre, and affording a slightly concave surface of 111 feet. Meerwein was probably the first to calculate the area of wing surface necessary to support a man, and taking as a basis the weight and wing area of a wild duck, he laid down that a man with his machine weighing 200lb. would require about 126 square feet - an estimate the approximate accuracy of which was verified by Lilienthal. But Meerwein’s attempt to experiment with his machine at Giessen was not successful - indeed it would have been impossible to work the wings with anything like sufficient rapidity to raise himself from the ground” (Hodgson, The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain, p. 44).
Meerwein’s book is rare - we can only locate copies in the British Library and the Bavarian State Library - and this copy is the only one that appears in auction records. It is very attractive in the original wrappers and with the plates in excellent, fresh condition.
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