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All on Fire or the Doctors disappointed, A View taken from Lord Foley’s Garden (037r)

All on Fire or the Doctors disappointed, A View taken from Lord Foley’s Garden (BL L.R.301. H.3, 037r)

The Juxtaposition on this page of the spectacle of the burning balloon in Lord Foley’s garden and the meticulous measurements of the balloon handwritten at the bottom of the page is striking. The emphasis in the note on the size and weight of the balloon, followed by the statement that “The Balloon burns” emphasizes not only the balloon’s materiality but its vulnerability to such disasters. Within the image itself, this clipping seems to emphasize the nature of the ballooning spectacle: the crowd came to see the spectacle of the balloon in flight but was met, instead, with an equally enthralling spectacle of the balloon, “3500 yards of canvas,” on fire.

de Rozier’s Disaster and a Piece of his Balloon (139413, 15r)

The juxtapositions on this page reflect those of the previous page: narrative, illustration, and collected material. The story that unfolds as a result of these juxtapositions, however, is much more dire. The illustration on the top left corner is of the balloon piloted by de Rozier and his companion, Romain, and the clipping just beneath it is an account that claims to set right previous erroneous statements about the disaster that befell their aerial excursion. The clipping folded over beside the “Balloon Intelligence” speaks of Blanchard yet again, but, in this circumstance, I think that section is actually the reverse side of the section the compiler intended to include; it seems to have been folded over and has stuck to the old glue, hiding the continuation of the “Balloon Intelligence” clipping. The note beside the scrap of balloon, however, tells us what happened to de Rozier and Romain: this is part of the balloon in which they were, in 1785, attempting to cross the English Channel and which was “burnt,” leaving both companions “destroyed.” Like the previous scrap collected in this book, this souvenir also harkens to the balloon’s destruction. In this case, the balloon was beyond repair and the pilots did not enjoy the ultimate success of Blanchard.

When considering both of these pages alongside the pages from Sarah Sophia’s scrapbook, we can see a shared interest between the compilers in the fragility of the balloon, the potential for disaster, and the value of that disaster as spectacle. Both compilers also demonstrate a vested interest in the balloon as a material object. Where Sarah Sophia’s scrapbook stands apart is in her particular attention to depictions of female aeronauts and in her commitment to including varying accounts of single events. In this way, in particular, Sarah Sophia’s scrapbooking method reveals an organizational strategy that is attempting to navigate the explosion of printed material at the end of the eighteenth century. Based on the evidence we have been able to accumulate, it seems Sarah Sophia’s scrapbook was also compiled in the midst of balloonomania, while the Huntington scrapbook reaches much farther into the nineteenth century and serves as a record of the history of ballooning. This difference in time also places Sarah Sophia in a position to use her scrapbook as an interface to sort and catalogue the overwhelming amount of information.