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A Manual of Pyrotechny or, A Familiar System of Recreative Fire-works

A Manual of Pyrotechny
or, A Familiar System of Recreative Fire-works
Title: A Manual of Pyrotechny or, A Familiar System of Recreative Fire-works
Release Date: 2019-01-22
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 31
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Footnote anchors are denoted by [number], and the footnotes have beenplaced at the end of the book.

Some minor changes to the text are noted at the end of the book.

PLATE 1. (Figs. 1 to 16)





Recreative Fire-Works.


Admotam rapiunt vivacia sulfura flammam.




[Pg iii]


The Introduction prefixed to the followinglittle Manual supersedes the necessity ofan extended Preface, and leaves little moreto be mentioned than the design and occasionof the work.

The design of it is to be a useful assistantto those who are fond of a rational andscientific amusement, and the occasion of itarises from the great scarcity and generaldifficulty of procuring any work on thesubject; none having appeared worthy ofnotice since that published by LieutenantRobert Jones, in 1760, and those by theFrench Artists mentioned in our Introduction.

In didactic particulars the Author hasoccasionally availed himself of the languageof the best writers, where such has been corroboratedby subsequent experience.

Perspicuity has been a particular objectthrough the work, and when technical terms[iv]have been used they are generally followedby familiar explications, and the Author feelsassured that the whole will be found perfectlyintelligible to every reader. To experiencedPyrotechnists this little work cannot be expectedto afford much additional information,yet to them it may contain some little particularsnot known to them before, whichfrom their practical utility it is hoped will proveacceptable.

The Author publishes this little work,with the desire that it may prove a usefulassistant to those who are unacquainted withthe principles of the art on which it treats.If in any way it should contribute to thispurpose, an apology for obtruding it uponthe Public will certainly be unnecessary.

January 1st, 1824.



History and description of Gunpowder10
To purify Sulphur34
To prepare Iron-sand37
Second methodibid.
Oil of Camphor40
Grinding Machines43
Another method of Grinding44
Method of Mixing the Ingredients45
Description and Variety of Fire-works47
To make Touch-paperibid.
To make Quick-matches; and composition for ditto50
[vi] Port-Fires51
Compositions for ditto52
Port-fires for Illuminations53
Leaders, or Pipes of Communicationibid.
Application of ditto54
Of single Fire-works57
Pin wheels61
Strung Stars64
Tailed Stars65
Driven Starsibid.
Rolled Stars6
Another method of making ditto69
Batteries of Marroons, &c.71
Small Gerbes75
Roman Candles76
Chinese Fire79
Composition for ditto, Red and Whiteibid.
Sky Rockets83
Dimensions of Rockets88
Calibre and Weight of Rockets89
Calibre of Moulds90
Remarks on the foregoing Tables91
[vii] Preparing the Cartridges93
Filling and Ramming the Cases96
Directions for ditto97
Preparing and fixing the pots to the Heads of Rockets101
Table for the Length and Proportion of Rods105
Tables of Composition for Rockets106
To cause a Rocket to ascend in a Spiral form109
Towering Rockets110
Honorary Rockets111
Caduceus Rockets112
Signal Rockets113
Table Rockets115
Scrolls for Rockets116
Courantines, or Line Rockets117
Revolving Courantines121
To represent by Rockets various forms in the air122
To cause a Rocket to form an arc in rising128
To fire Rockets without Rods124
Theory of the flight of Rockets125
Tables of various compositions130
Compound Fire-Works139
Girandole chests of Serpentsibid.
Girandole chests of Rockets141
Pots des Brins142
Jets of Fire143
Chinese Fountain145
Pyramid of Flower Pots146
Ditto single Horizontal150
Ditto Plural152
[viii] Wheels Spiral152
Ditto Ditto Illuminated153
Ditto Balloon154
Ditto Ground155
Ditto Horizontal changed to a Vertical156
Ditto Vertical Scroll158
Ditto remarks onibid.
Fir tree, to represent159
Yew tree of Brilliant Fire160
Fixed Fire Globes161
Globes which leap or roll on the groundibid.
Moon and seven Stars164
Suns, fixed and moveable165
Composition for representing Animals and other devices in fire168
Aquatic fire-worksibid.
Fire fountain for the water170

(Figs. 17 to 29)

[Pg 1]


The term Pyrotechny is derived from pyrand techny, the two Greek words for Fireand Art; or it is the art of employing firefor purposes of utility or pleasure. The termhas been applied by some writers to the useand structure of fire-arms, and Artilleryemployed in the art of warfare; but in thepresent publication, we shall take a differentview of the subject; for we can see no amusementin the motion of a bullet, which decimatesso many of our fellow-creatures, norin the action of a bomb-shell, that carries withit more dreadful devastations.

We shall confine ourselves in this Workto a more pleasing application of fire, and[2]endeavour to give plain and efficient rulesfor the safe management of that element, andfor the making, by means of gunpowder, andother inflammable substances, various compositions,agreeable to the eye, both by theirform and splendor, and to describe everyprincipal article and instrument made use ofin these pleasing operations.

On the other hand, our Work does notpretend to dictate an original set of rulesand receipts, for those who term themselvesArtists in Fire-works, whose exclusive businessit is to manufacture the different articleson which it treats; to those, it is expectedit will yield but little instruction; but, to thesciolistic Tyro in the Art, it is intended (asits title expresses) to be a Manual of Pyrotechny,and to treat of fire-works as objectsof rational amusement; to describe in a perspicuousmanner the materials and apparatusmade use of in their construction; and toselect such examples of their particular combinations,as are calculated rather for privatediversion than public exhibition. The directionsherein given (if strictly attended to) will[3]enable youth to gratify their taste for thisspecies of recreation at a comparatively smallexpense, and at the same time will guardthem against those accidents which often ariseto the ignorant, in firing the larger workspurchased from the makers; and throughoutthe whole it will strictly observe a principleof economy, the neglect of which has so frequentlyretarded the operations of genius.

In regard to the origin of Pyrotechny, ourknowledge is very limited. The Chinese aresaid to have been the first people who hadany practical knowledge of it, or broughtthe art to any degree of perfection; with themthe use of fire-works is said to have beenvery general, long before they were knownin European countries; and from accountsgiven of some recent exhibitions at Pekin, itshould seem that they have attained to a degreeof perfection not surpassed by any of ourmodern artists: Mr. Barrow, in his “Travelsin China” gives, from the Journal of LordMacartney, the following description of oneof their exhibitions: “The fire-works, insome particulars,” says he, “exceeded any[4]thing of the kind I had ever seen. In grandeur,magnificence, and variety, they were,I own, inferior to the Chinese fire-works wehad seen at Batavia, but infinitely superiorin point of novelty, neatness, and ingenuityof contrivance. One piece of machinery Igreatly admired: a green chest, five feetsquare, was hoisted up by a pulley fifty or sixtyfeet from the ground, the bottom of whichwas so contrived as then suddenly to fall out,and make way for twenty or thirty strings oflanterns, inclosed in a box, to descend fromit, unfolding themselves from one another bydegrees, so as at last, to form a collection offull five hundred, each having a light of abeautifully coloured flame burning brightlywithin it. This devolution and developmentof lanterns were several times repeated, andat every time exhibiting a difference of colourand figure. On each side was a correspondenceof smaller boxes, which opened in likemanner as the other, and let down an immensenet-work of fire, with divisions andcompartments of various forms and dimensions,round and square, hexagons, octagons,[5]&c. which shone like the brightest burnishedcopper, and flashed like prismatic lightnings,with every impulse of the wind. The wholeconcluded with a volcano, or general explosionand discharge of suns and stars, squibs,crackers, rockets, and grenadœs, which involvedthe gardens for an hour in a cloud ofintolerable smoke.” The diversity of colour,with which the Chinese have the secret ofclothing their fire, seems one of the chief meritsof their “Pyrotechny;” and which alonewould set them upon an equal footing withthe Europeans. It is to them, no doubt,that we are indebted for the discovery of thatbeautiful composition, which is still known bythe name of the “Chinese fire:” and to themwe are likewise indebted, for the method ofrepresenting with fire, that pleasing and perpetualvariety of figures, which (when judiciouslyarranged) seem to emulate in splendourthose endless beauties, which adorn our celestialhemisphere. In Europe, the Florentinesare said to have been the first people thatgained a knowledge of the invention, and,we have reason to think it was not long after[6]the discovery of the use of gunpowder andfire-arms, about the end of the thirteenth, orbeginning of the fourteenth century; we saythe use of gunpowder, or application of it tofire-arms, for we believe the discovery of itto be of much earlier date, than what is generallygiven to it: and, whether the inventionof the art of fire-works is not coeval withthat of gunpowder, is a question not over-burthenedwith improbability. The Frenchhave published several treatises on Pyrotechny,such as the “Traité des Feux d’Artificepour le spectacle et pour la Guerre,” by Perrinetd’Orval. The Manuel d’Artificier, byFather d’Incarville, and several others of the likenature: in some of which, they attach to theChinese a very early knowledge of the art, andconsequently the composition of gunpowder,or at least the effects of a similar combination,was not entirely unknown to them. But as theFrench gained their knowledge of the artfrom the Italians, they may probably be inan error respecting its invention: whetherthey are or not, it will have but a negativeeffect on the present Work. Tracing its[7]progress to England, we shall endeavour togive as good a delineation of

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