Page:Pyrotechnics the history and art of firework making (1922).djvu/52

This page needs to be proofread.



Pyrotechnic compositions and gunpowder are inextricably mixed together in early European records; for our inquiries it will serve no useful purpose to disentangle them, the latter being only a particular case of the former. We will therefore deal with them together, taking the evidence of the knowledge of one as that of both, as until gunpowder is specifically mentioned as being used as a propellant in a gun or similar weapon, there is nothing to distinguish it from any other pyrotechnic composition.

The earliest record of European pyrotechny is in Claudius' account of the public festivities during the consulate of Theodosius in the fourth century A.D., in which he describes fire "which ran about in different directions over the planks without burning or even charring them, and which formed by their twisting and turning globes of fire."

Leo VI, Emperor of the East, in a work written about A.D. 900, says: "We have divers ways of destroying the enemies' ships, as by means of fire prepared in tubes, from which they issue with a sound of thunder, and with a fiery smoke that burns the vessels on which they are hurled. A tube of tin must be put on the front of the ship to hurl this from."

The most interesting reference of an early date is supposed to have been written by Marcus Graecus in his "Liber ignium ad comburendos hostes" (Book of fires for burning up the enemy), in which he not only gives the exact proportions of the compositions, but describes what is virtually the modern cracker, and also a primitive form of rocket. The