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Collection Tissandier Collection

About this Collection

The Tissandier Collection contains approximately 975 items documenting the early history of aeronautics with an emphasis on balloon flight in France and other European countries. Subjects include general and technical images of balloons, airships, and flying machines; portraits of famous balloonists; views of numerous ascensions, accidents, and world's fairs; cartoons featuring balloon themes; pictorial and textual broadsides; and colorful ephemera and poster advertisements. There are also several hundred illustrations clipped from books and newspapers. The pictures, created by many different artists, span the years 1773 to 1910, with the bulk dating 1780-1890.

The online portion of the collection consists of about 420 items, including all drawings and prints and selected photographs. Variant views and clippings from books and newspapers (generally non-pictorial) are not comprehensively represented online.

Background and Scope

The Tissandier Collection contains approximately 975 items documenting the early history of aeronautics with an emphasis on balloon flight in France and other European countries. Subjects include general and technical images of balloons, airships, and flying machines; portraits of famous balloonists; views of numerous ascensions, accidents, and world's fairs; cartoons featuring balloon themes; pictorial and textual broadsides; and colorful ephemera and poster advertisements. There are also several hundred illustrations clipped from books and newspapers. The pictures, created by many different artists, span the years 1773 to 1910, with the bulk dating 1780-1890.

The Tissandier brothers, Gaston and Albert, assembled the pictures from various sources. Gaston Tissandier (1843-1899) was a balloonist and science writer. Albert (1839-1906) was a balloonist and illustrator. The Library of Congress purchased their collection of books, manuscripts, and other items in 1930 from Maggs Brothers of London. The Prints & Photographs Division received the visual materials in 1954.

The online portion of the collection consists of about 420 items, including all drawings and prints and selected photographs. Variant views and clippings from books and newspapers (generally non-pictorial) are not comprehensively represented online.

Collection Strengths

The Tissandier Brothers' Aeronautical Work

[Gaston Tissandier, French balloonis...] Drawing, 1886.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02272
Voyages ariens de M.M. Albert et Gaston Tissandier. Drawing by Albert Tissandier, 1870-1880
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02307

The collection is rich in images of flights the Tissandier brothers participated in as well as flights they observed between 1865 and 1885. For example, Gaston Tissandier flew over enemy lines during the Siege of Paris in 1870, and Albert made drawings of several balloons that were used to carry passengers and supplies over enemy lines. While Gaston tested the limits of balloon ascension, Albert made drawings of natural phenomena in the upper atmosphere. As a team, the brothers developed a design for an electric powered airship in 1885.

History of Balloon Flight and Early Balloonists

Exp[é]rience a[ë]rostatique faite Versailles le 19 sept. 1783. Etching, 1783.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02472
M.S. Blanchard, celebre aeronauta,… Lithograph, 1811.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02180

Historical prints document the first balloon ascensions in 1783, which demonstrated the feasability of lighter-than-air craft. Approximately 87 portrait prints depict aeronauts who promoted ballooning through public events (Vincent Lunardi, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and Marie-Madeleine-Sophie Armand Blanchard) or scientists and inventors who developed the technology (Joseph-Michel Montgolfier, Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Nicholas Conte).

Balloon Ascensions for the Public

Grand ballon captif a vapeur de Mr. Henry Giffard... Wood engraving, 1879
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02551
Panorama de Paris… Lithograph, 1878.
LC-USZC4-1387

By the late 1870s, captive balloons enabled the public to share the experience of flight by riding in the basket of a balloon tethered to the ground. In addition to posters and text broadsides announcing these events, the actual tickets used to board are included in the pictorial ephemera.

Airship Designs

Flugmaschine. Erfunden von Jacob Degen ... Engraving, ca. 1810.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02517
Navire aérien, le poisson volant ... Lithograph by Camille Vert, 1859?
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02524

The challenge of powering a balloon led to the development of the airship, a generic term used for dirigibles, blimps and zeppelins. The collection contains approximately 30 design drawings for balloons with navigation devices such as sails and oars. A number of these drawings were submitted for patents. Also included are designs for flying machines and other examples of heavier-than-air craft.

Humorous Images with Balloons

I volatori. Les messieurs qui volent. Lithograph, 1880.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02356
Voyage a la lune. Lithograph, 1865-1870.
LC-DIG-ppmsca-02337

The collection includes numerous cartoons, caricatures, comic stories, and humorous drawings that illustrate the incorporation of balloon imagery into a wide variety of situations.

Arrangement and Access

The Tissandier Collection is organized into groups (called LOTs) according to format or genre and subject. A catalog record summarizes the scope of each LOT. All drawings and prints as well as selected photographs have been digitized and cataloged individually. Variant views and clippings from books and newspapers (generally non-pictorial) are not comprehensively represented online.

A brief listing for each LOT appears below, with an indication of what has been digitized. Items that have not been digitized may be viewed by requesting the LOT in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.

All items digitized

LOT 13399 Large prints and drawings documenting early balloon design and flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13400 Portrait prints of balloonists from the 18th and 19th century [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13401 Drawings of early balloon flight and aircraft design [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13402 Cartoons and humorous pictures about early balloon flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13403 Prints documenting the development of balloon flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13404 Prints of early balloon, parachute and aircraft designs [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]
LOT 13405 European prints of historic events and early balloon flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve digitized items]

Selected items digitized

LOT 6000 Grand ballon captif a vapeur de Mr. Henry Giffard, 1878 (photo album) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 6001 Views of the Paris Exposition, 1889 (photos) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 7569 Le ballon captif, Panoramas de Paris (print) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
LOT 7581 Ballon dirigeable genre orthoptere de M. Le Compagnon ... (photos) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
LOT 7582 Aerial views of Rouen, France, and vicinity taken from a free balloon... 1880 (photos) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
LOT 7583 Aerial views of Paris, France, taken from a captive balloon ...1886 (photos) [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
LOT 7586 Photographs of balloon ascensions and memorabilia [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 8174 Portfolio of watercolors documenting an early Russian voyage to Japan [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
LOT 13416 Pictorial Ephemera Related to Early Balloon Flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 13442 Illustrated Broadside Announcements for Historic Balloon Ascensions [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 13517 Text Broadsides for Historic Balloon Ascensions [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
LOT 13518 Ephemera Related to Early Balloon and Airplane Flight [ Retrieve LOT (summary) record]
[ Retrieve any digitized items]
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