The Enterprizing Lunardi’s Grand Air Balloon.

Cartographer(s): S.F. Fores, Vincent Lunardi
Date: 1784
Place: London
Dimensions: 23.5 x 37 cm (9.25 x 14.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG

Out of stock

SKU: NL-01954 Category:

An important historical broadsheet celebrating the first successful balloon ascent in England in 1784.


This rare print, titled The enterprizing Lunardi’s Grand Air Balloon, commemorates the first balloon ascent in England in the fall of 1784. The man behind the accomplishment, Vincent Lunardi, was secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador in London. The print was published by S.F. Fores in London on September 23, 1784, only eight days after the astounding lift-off.

The print is a visual testament to Lunardi’s pioneering aerial journey, which took place on September 15, 1784, from the parade ground of the Honourable Artillery Company at Moorfields. According to the print, as many as 300,000 spectators witnessed this grand aeronautical event. After achieving an elevation of three miles, Lunardi floated for more than three hours before landing safely near Ware in Hertfordshire. Realizing the event’s historic nature, the print captures the essence of Lunardi’s daring feat and the subsequent public response.

Vincent Lunardi’s contribution to the history of aviation is noteworthy. He pioneered filling balloons with hydrogen, improving the Montgolfier brothers’ hot air method. The print encapsulates Lunardi’s significant role in the development of balloon technology during this period. The print includes a detailed description of the ascent, which adds depth to the historical context. The decision to ascend with a dog, a cat, and a pigeon highlights the cautious approach to the maiden voyage. The unexpected escape of the pigeon and the dropped oar adds drama to the narrative.

Additional context to the flight can be found in Lunardi’s account: An Account of the First Aerial Voyage in London by Vincent Lunardi (London, 1784), which provides a firsthand perspective on the exhilarating experience of the ascent and the challenges faced during descent. The vivid scenes Lunardi describes – from the calm delight of the stillness to the magnificence of the landscape once aloft- add further significance to this print. It stands as a tangible link to a transformative moment in the history of aviation, preserving the memory of Lunardi’s daring exploits for generations to come.


Context is Everything

Lunardi’s endeavors to ascend in a balloon were not without challenges. One such event occurred in Newcastle on September 19, 1786. Setting up, the balloon was accidentally released, and a young man named Ralph Heron was caught in the rope as the balloon ascended empty into the air. When the rope shortly after snapped, Heron fell to his death. This tragic accident profoundly impacted Lunardi, who made no further ascents in England after that.


S.F. Fores Vincent Lunardi

Vincent Lunardi (1759-1806) was the secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador in London in the 1780s and a pioneer in balloon aviation.

Condition Description

Good to very good. Some loss at bottom-left corner. A couple areas of discoloration. Watermark evident.