[Chicago]: , 1901. Item #03752
The Wright Brothers' First Publication on Aeronautics
WRIGHT, Wilbur. Some Aeronautical Experiments. By Wilbur Wright Dayton, O. Reprint from Journal of the Western Society of Engineers December 1901.
First edition, offprint issue, of the Wright Brothers’ First Published Report of their Trial Flights with Motorless Gliders at Kitty Hawk.
One of about thirty presentation copies from Octave Chanute. Black stamp on front wrapper “With respects of O. Chanute. / Consulting Engineer”.
Octavo (9 1/16 x 6 inches; 230 x 152 mm.). 12 leaves, 1-22, [2, blank] pp. Ten halftone illustrations reproducing photographs, and 2-line block illustrations in the text.
Publisher’s printed gray wrappers, expertly rebacked. Chemised in felt-lined half navy blue morocco over blue cloth boards clamshell case.
When we purchased this little book it had been bound into a blue buckram casing with the spine lettered in gilt "W. Wright - Some Aeronautical Experiments - 1901". We sent it to our binder who removed the book from the later casing and restored the spine with matching gray paper. The paper spine is the only area that has been touched in any way.
Very scarce with only seven copies listed in institutions worldwide:
US,NY. Cornell University; US,AL. Auburn University; US,CO. Denver Public Library
US,DC. Smithsonian Institution; US,MI. Detroit Public Library; US,OH. Dayton Metro Library
CA,ON. Canada Science & Technology Museums
Just four copies have appeared at auction over the past sixty-five years:
1. Swann galleries New York, January 10, 1991, lot 8 (wraps - spine repaired with cellotape, loose - $5,000)
2. Christie's New York, October 29, 1998, lot 1339 (The Norman copy, original wrappers rebacked in cloth,
repaired tear to lower wrapper - $42,000)
3. Christie's New York, November 16, 2005, lot 148 (original printed wrappers, outer edges browned, paperclip mark on upper wrapper, spine partially split - pencil translations of captions into French below 6 illustrations - $29,492)
4. Christie's New York, June 21, 2013, lot 34 (original printed wrappers with 10 halftones - $38,000)
The Wright brothers' first publication on aeronautics, and the work that made their experiments with motorless gliders known to the world. Wilbur Wright's paper describes the brothers' progress over three seasons of glider flight, during which they mastered the art of flight control and solved the problem of wing warp drag by the addition of a vertical rear rudder. Wright made this address to the Western Society of Engineers at the urging of Octave Chanute, who was to a large degree responsible for encouraging the Wright brother's early work; the paper is prefaced by some remarks by Chanute discussing the possibility of motorized flight using a new lightweight steam or gas engine. Chanute was so certain of this paper's significance that he ordered 300 copies of the offprint, 150 of which he sent to colleagues in the United States and abroad, and 150 of which he sent to the Wright brothers for their own use." (The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine, volume II, pp. 825-826).
"Speaking of printing reminds me to tell you that I have ordered 300 reprints of your paper which comes out in the December transactions of the Western Soc. Eng. One half is to be sent to you, and I will distribute the remainder among my my foreign and domestic correspondents." (Letter from Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright. Chicago, December 19, 1901).
This important paper was written and read to the Society at the urging of its president Octave Chanute, a French-born civil engineer whose passion for aeronautics made him "an international clearing house for information on aviation" (The Wright Brothers: Heirs of Prometheus, Smithsonian Institution 1978, p. 15), and whose own carefully tabulated gliding experiments in 1896 and 1897 paved the way for the Wrights' later successes.
Octave Chanute (February 18, 1832, Paris – November 23, 1910, Chicago, Illinois) was an American civil engineer and aviation pioneer, born in France. He provided many budding enthusiasts, including the Wright brothers, with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine.
Dibner Heralds of Science 185; Norman 2266; Davy, pp. 132-133;.