Manuscript, Firework book showing the manufacture and use of gunpowder

Object Title

Manuscript, Firework book showing the manufacture and use of gunpowder

Manuscript, Firework book showing the manufacture and use of gunpowder


mid 15th century





Scope and Content

South German. Illustrations comprise:#

Plate 84r. : An attack on a castle: the besiegers are using scaling ladders and are armed with a crossbow being spanned by a cranequin, with handguns and with swords and staff weapons: the defenders are replying with barrels containing incendiary material. Armour includes kettle-hats and scull caps with circular ear protection, complete plate armour, breastplate and padded jack. The crossbowmen are unarmoured,
Plate 84v. : A long cart, the sides of base of which are fitted with short spikes at regular intervals, Plate 85r. : An attack on a fortress. In addition to the weapons shown on 84r., the besiegers and using a cannon on a two-wheeled adjustable carriage and the defenders have lowered an external portcullis over the main gate,
Plate 85v. : The Master Gunner directing the weighing of ingredients and the preparation of fire-pots, which are apparently fitted with fuses and ? carrying ropes,
Plate 86r. : An attack directed by the Master Gunner, using a cannon on a four-wheeled carriage and fire-arrows propelled by crossbows. One crossbowman has a belt-hook. The defenders are removing the flaming arrows from the roof with hooked staves and are defending their walls with crossbows and small cannon or wall guns,
Plate 86v. : The Master Gunner again directing the weighing and the preparation of the ingredients for making ? gunpowder,
Plate 87r. : The Master Gunner supervising the pounding of the powder. An hourglass regulates the length of time taken for the operation,
Plate 87v. : The Master Gunner supervising the cutting out by a tailor and the sewing by women of canvas casings for fire-arrows,
Plate 88r. : and the assembling of the completed arrows,
Plates 88v., 89r. and 89v. : The preparation of similar incendiary devices, including tubes and balls, and the distilling or heating of ingredients,
Plate 90r. : An attack on a fortress, using a rope scaling ladder and protective basket-work shields. In the foreground a man loading a handgun,
Plate 90v. : The preparation of a siege battery with gabions. A cannon behind a wooden shelter being loaded from a ladle by the Master Gunner,
Plates 91r., 91v. and 92r. : Movable shelters for men and cannons,
Plate 92v. : A gun-boring machine. The gun is held in a frame and rotated over a drill, even pressure being ensured by the gun's own weight,
Plate 93r. : Another gun-boring machine in which the drill is forced down into the gun [cf Munich ms. 734, Gill, Renaissance engineers, p. 76] Both 92v. and 93r. appear in Nuremberg Germanisches Museum ms. 719 (Essenwein, Axxxviii), also Berlin 94 and Weimar ms. Q342 (Hassenstein, pp. 158-9),
Plate 93v. : Scaling ladders with spiked feet and wheels at the top, one in two parts. A spiked hook, perhaps for pulling down burning roofs, etc. [cf 86r.] Similar ladders exist in Geneva, Musee d'art et d'Historie,
Plate 94r. : A rope scaling ladder, with the grappling hooks in separate parts. Incendiary devices, including fire pots with throwing ropes attached and arrows portruding from them,
Plate 94v. : More incendiary devices including ? Greek fire throwing tubes. Hassenstein describes objects like these as 'projectiles containing a mixture of fire and poison (vitriol, etc.) and gunpowder',
Plates 95r. and 95v. : Patterns for the canvas covers for fire-pots, fire-arrows and fire-balls,
Plate 96r. : Gun on a carriage with four wheels and provision for at least four draught animals, trunnions and one lifting ring, narrow chamber and flared muzzle,
Plates 96v : Two gun carriages, one for 1 gun, and the other for 3 guns to be drawn by animals in a single train. All guns facetted at breech and with a semi-circular block at the breech,
Plates 97r., 97v., 98r. and 98v. : Missing,
Plate 99r. : A mortar and gun on fixed beds, with a curved adjustment device. Both with trunnions,
Plate 99v. : Lifting gear,
Plate 100r. : Gun on a carriage ? showing capsquares and forelocks and trunnions,
Plate 100v. : A bed for a large gun,
Plate 101r. : A large gun on a block bed with a structure of logs to absorb the recoil,
Plate 101v. : Fire-barrels and rings,
Plate 102r. : A device for forcing a door out of its frame or ? forcibly lowering a drawbridge,
Plate 102v. : Ladders with protective sides and top,
Plate 103r. : Cart with a removable section in the base,
Plate 103v. : Double cart with protective basket-work screen,
Plate 104r. : Wooden platform with removable centre section, ? protective screen for gunner, without support,
Plate 104v. : Four-legged lifting tackle,
Plate 105r. : gun on a two-wheeled carriage. ? ammunition boxes parrallel to the gun,
Plate 105v. : Two guns on carriages, showing two types of elevating gear, one adjusted by a wedge, the other by an elevating screw. The guns are sunk into the carriage beds and held in place by capsquares and forelocks,
Plate 106r. : Gun on carriage with protection hut over the gun; an exploded drawing of the carriage, including ? ammunition boxes,
Plate 106v. : Gun on carriage with an angled trail; drawing of the separate parts,
Plates 107r. and 107v. : Missing,
Plate 108r. : Organ gun on carriage and carriage in parts,
Plate 108v. : Guns in a furnace; the exact process being carried out is not clear, not casting, ? annealing, ? breech-sheathing,
Plate 109r. : A pile driver or ? ram [cf Mittelalterliches Hasbuch pl. 44],
Plate 109v. : Attackers approaching a fortress under basket-work shields; one is treading on a caltrop,
Plate 110r. : Blank,
Plates 110v. to 112r. : Four views of a wooden construnction on four wheels with two sets of doors. All marked 'f' ? 'Hussite Wagon'. [cf Wagenburg in Wagenburg, Mittelalterliches Hausbuch, pl. 61],
Plate 112v. : Gunshield, on ? two wheels, with serpentine gun-muzzle protruding forom an upright rectangular post. ? 'Hussite Wagon' All marked 'f',
Plate 113r. : A water-raising wheel with a continuous chain of round pots,
Plate 113v. : A suction pump, with pictures of pump parts,
Plate 114r. : A water-raising wheel with a chain of pear-shaped pots



Physical Characteristics / Technical Requirements

11.9 inches x 8.5 inches (300mm x 220mm).

140 leaves, in twelve gatherings each of six sheets folded in half, numbered straight through at the top of each page from f.i to f.cxliii, the front flyleaf being un-numbered.

4 leaves, which should have been numbered lxxxxvij, lxxxxviij, cvj and cxlj were torn out after the foliation was inserted.

fflxjv. - lxxxiijv. blank. All leaves are pricked and ruled as if it had been intended to show an illustration opposite a page of text throughout.

fflxxxiiij - cxiiij illustrated atlas of military stratagems and devices, some showing the firemaster in action, none captioned.

ff.cxiiijv. - cxliijv. blank. Some water damage to last few pages.

Limp parchment binding, reinforced down the back, with two decorative studs, possibly for a loop fastening, inserted.

Centres of each gathering reinforced with narrow strip of re-used parchment.

Pencilled notes in German, on contents and comparanda, and bookplate, Ex Libris Liechtensteinianis, inside front cover.

Water marks: Gatherings 1-7 and 12: a triple-crenellated tower. ? Piccard II 307. Gatherings 8-11: Oxhead with flower between its horns. ? Piccard XII 486. 1 sheet (5/12 of gathering 7) has a mark of a Greek cross patee. ? Piccard XI 314

Access Conditions

Open access