Indiana University Bloomington

Conquest of the Skies: A History of Ballooning

19th-Century France - Voyage Narratives

E. D’Arnoult. Voyage du Géant de Paris a Hanovre en ballon. Paris: E. Dentu, 1863.

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A. Nadar, the photographer, built a gas balloon in 1863 aptly named “Le Géant.” It was the largest gas balloon ever made up to that time and held 200,000 cubic feet of gas. The car was more like a small house, having two stories and such amenities as a photographic room, refreshment room, and lavatory.

The present work details the second ascent made with the Géant, which took place on 18 October 1863. There were nine passengers, including Madame Nadar. The voyage itself was uneventful, and after 17 hours the balloon began to descend while over Hanover, a distance of 400 miles. The descent, however, proved dangerous. A strong surface wind was blowing, and with the Géant providing such a large surface area to be acted upon by the wind, the balloon with its large car was dragged along the ground for seven or eight miles before finally coming to a stop. Fortunately no one was killed, though all were rather bruised.


Gaston Tissandier. Histoire de mes ascensions: recit de vingt-quatre voyage aériens (1868-1877). Paris: Maurice Dreyfous, 1878.

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Tissandier was a meteorologist who, like many in his profession, was also interested in aviation. He begins the present work with a history of the science up to his time and then speculates on what one can expect in the future, based on logic and scientific reasoning.

The voyages themselves are described in detail and include maps and diagrams of scientific observations. Most of the accounts include at least one engraving based on drawings done by Albert Tissandier, brother to the aeronaut. At the end of the work is a chart and map of all the balloons released during the siege of Paris and where they landed.

Tissandier’s most eventful and tragic ascent was on 15 April 1875 in the Zenith, with fellow-scientists Joseph Croce-Spinelli and Théodore Sivel. The three ascended up to 8600 meters, but his companions died of asphyxiation. Tissandier lived but was made deaf by the ascent.

In addition to the scientific matter, Tissandier gives an account of the ways in which ballooning seeped into the culture at large, for example in painted designs on plates and in the fashions of clothing.


Dupuis-Delcourt. Relation du voyage aérien fait à Paris, le 29 juillet 1831, lors des fêtes publiques destinées à célébrer l'anniversaire des trois jours. Paris: Delaunay, Libraire, Palais-Royal, 1832.

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He begins with a brief history of aerostation and then bemoans the fact that the enthusiasm for it has waned somewhat, especially with the wars in France in previous decades. He believes, however, that balloons have not been exhaustively studied, in particular the potential for navigating a balloon. The remainder of the work describes a balloon voyage he undertook in July 1831 and includes a map of the region he passed over in his voyage, along with the altitudes reached by the balloon at various points.


Delaville-Dedreux [pseud. for Jules Mareschal]. La Navigation Aerienne in Chine; Relation d'un Voyage Accompli en 1860 entre Fout-Cheou et Nant-Chang. Paris: Chez Desloges, 1863.

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A fictitious narrative about an air-ship in China.


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