Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flying Dragons...!

I couldn't put the idea of kites away.  My last post was very sparse of anything resembling documentation and that bothered me to no end.  I did a little digging and found some information that is not rumor or innuendo.

In the Monthly Weather Review, Jan 1897, Pg 59, 2nd Column under "Brandes on the Kite", there are references to two individuals.   The first gentleman was a bit outside of my time frame, namely Daniel Schwenter author of Mathematische Erquickstunden, Nurnberg, 1651, Part I, Pg 472.  In his work, he referenced the 'flying dragon', as well as the other referenced gentleman by the name of Jacob Wecker (1528-1586, Switzerland) physician and author of De Secretis Libri XVII, 1582.  Finding Wecker's original work would at present be next to impossible and according to the Mineralogical Record, his work was reprinted and translated many many many times.  I found a copy that was printed in English entitled Secrets of Art and Nature, 1661, where there is a reference on page 265 (Book XIV, Chap 13) to the following:
To make a flying Dragon.
There is also an Artificial Invention, which some call a flying Dragon, or a Comet; the way to make it is this.  Make a square of the thinnest Reeds, or let the length to the breadth be one and a half in proportion, and let there be two Diameters, and let them be set at the opposite parts of Angles, and bind a Cord where they cut one the other, and the like Cord must be tyed with two, others proceeding from the ends of the Engine: and so cover this over with Paper or fine Linnen cloath, that there may be nothing heavy in it, then it must be entrusted to the Wind from high [266] Towers,  Mountains, or tops of high places, when the Winds are equall and uniforme, not too strong least the Engine break; nor too weak, least the Ayr be too calme, for that will not bear it up, and the winds being still, will but make you loose your labour.  It must not flye right forward, but obliquely, which is performed by a Cord drawn from one end, and at the other end a long tail, which you shall make of Withs set at equall distance, and Papers every where tied to them, so it must be let go, gently pulling it, by the Artists hands that holds it, who must not be idle and careless in casting it forth, but he must do it forcibly; and so will this bottome mount up into the Ayr, when it is once a little raised, (for here the wind is broken by reason of the turning of the houses,) that you cannot easily governe it with your hands.  Some place a Lanthorn above it, to make it shew like a Comet.  Others place a Squib wrapt up with Gunpouder, and when it rests in the Ayr, by the string a burning Match is sent up, by a Ring or some slippery thing, and this presently runing up to the Sail, gives fire to the mouth of it, and with a great Thunder, the Engine breaks into many parts, and fals down upon the ground.  Some bind a Cat or Puppy to it, and they hear them cry in the Ayr.  Hence an Ingenious Man may begin some Principles, how a Man may learn to flye, with huge wings bound to his Arms and Brest, but he must learn from his Childhood to move them by degrees, alwayes from some higher place.  If any one think this to be strange, let him consider what Archytas the Pythagorist invented, as the tradition is, for many of the noble Greeks, and Eavorinus the Phylosopher, the most exquisite for ancient memorable things, have written affirmatively, that Archytas made the forme of a Pigeon of Wood, by his Art and Mechanical Industry, that Flew up and down, for it was so balanced with weights, and moved with wind that was secretly shut up within it.  The Same.
Using the term 'flying dragon', I ran across a marvelous illustration called Knight Flying a Dragon as a Kite (c1405) in Gottingen, Germany.  I am unable to determine which manuscript this may have derived.  Whether it was a fanciful representation of what they thought a 'flying dragon' was supposed to look like from the, as yet unverified, stories of Marco Polo[1] from the 13th century or it was a style of kite that was brought back from the Oriental countries is up for speculation.

And we can't neglect Leonardo da Vinci's various flying contraptions from 1485-1500, but these were more for flying men, not kites.

This has become a fascinating research road regardless of all the rumors and hearsay and the research hasn't been completed by any means, but this is simply enough for me for now.  At some point, I want to make a flying dragon as Wecker describes and fly it high at an event.  My daughter should enjoy that.  

The Fighter Kite Book, if you want to learn about a type of construction.

1. Unfortunately, information on the travels of Marco Polo are sketchy at best and I have yet to verify that any stories about 'flying dragons' came from him.

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