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Mr. Lunardi’s Balloon at the Pantheon: Textual and Visual Description (BL L.R.301. H.3, 022r)

Mr. Lunardi’s Balloon at the Pantheon: Textual and Visual Description (BL L.R.301. H.3, 022r)

This page juxtaposes the handbill advertising the display of Lunardi’s balloon at the Pantheon with the captivating illustration of the balloon. Like the handwritten note following the illustration of the balloon burning in Lord Foley’s garden, the handbill emphasizes the material proportions of the balloon, its dimensions “much larger than any yet exhibited.” The handbill also points out the “safety boat” with its oars which had been tried on the river Thames. Clearly, this statement refers to the previous image of Lunardi’s experiment on the Thames of his machine to save persons from drowning.

Both the handbill and the illustration on this page highlight the public fascination with the balloon itself. Though the handbill notes that Lunardi will ascend in the balloon at some point during the exhibition, the balloon is the main spectacle on display. In the illustration, we see that Lunardi is not even present in the balloon. These two clippings, in revealing public fascination with the balloon, shed light on the function of the balloon as spectacle in the previous clippings. Whether the flight is a success or failure, the balloon as an object is one that captures the imaginations of the public.