Guy Fawkes - Special Collections Find of the Week?

04 November 2014

At this time of year have you ever wondered about what puts the boom in your 'Boom Box'? Well due to an interloan request from a PhD student in the Department of Historical, Philosophical and International Studies at Monash University we had a chance to find out. What we have found is an 84 page Treatise detailing the ingredients and the many varieties of fireworks used in displays in 1840.
"A new guide to pyrotechny, or, The noble art in miniature of making and letting off fireworks of every kind…"was a rare find in the UC Library Special Collections. The work comes from a crucial time in the history of fireworks, when coloured flame compositions based on chemicals discovered in the last decades of the 18th century were coming into general use. From Cracker Heads to The Peacock's Tail, containing ingredients such as Nitrate of Strontia, Arsenic and Fulminating Mercury, this book details many aspects in the art of pyrotechny.
Not only is it thought to be the earliest English book that addresses this subject, it also appears that this is the only copy held in the world outside of private collections. How it came to Canterbury is a mystery, needless to say it will be transferred to the Rare Books Collection held at the Macmillan Brown Library.