Baldwin, 1786, Airopaidia

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Baldwin's "View from the Balloon" conveys the vantage point of a balloonist looking down on Chester.
Thomas Baldwin, Esq. A. M. Airopaidia: Containing the Narrative of a Balloon Excursion from Chester, the eighth of September, 1785, taken from minutes made during the Voyage: Hints on the Improvement of Balloons, and Mode of Inflation by Steam; Means to prevent their Descent over Water; occasional Enquiries into the State of the Atmosphere, favoring their Direction; with various philosophical Observations and Conjectures. To which is subjoined, Mensuration of Heights by the Barometer, Made Plain: with extensive Tables. The Whole serving as an Introduction to Aërial Navigation: with a copious Index. Chester: Printed for the Author by J. Fletcher; and sold by W. Lowndes, No.77, Fleet-street, London; J. Poole, Chester; and other Booksellers. 1776. Price, in Boards, 7s, 6d.

Online at Internet Archive.

In the view of a present-day reader:

With respect to the images, Baldwin makes every effort to situate the viewer in the “correct” viewpoint, using graphic means to funnel their vision, and suggesting a particular physical engagement with the page. Not only does he supply short captions for the images, he also places them among extensive passages of description of his mental and visual impressions. As an ensemble of text and image, Airopaidia is intended to give readers the most vivid impression possible of the experience of flight, so that they might imagine themselves up in the balloon.
Baldwin seems to me, and to other twenty-first-century historians, to have been unique, and outstanding, in attempting to convey the sensory and visual aspects of flight to his readers. It is striking that no other balloonist produced an image of the aerial view until the 1830s.[1]


  1. Lily Ford, "'For the Sake of the Prospect':Experiencing the World from Above in the Late 18th Century", The Public Domain Review, 20 July 2016.
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