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16th century warfare manual shows rockets strapped to cats and doves


Textbooks on the art of war have been around for centuries in one form or another. One of the most interesting examples is Armamentarium Principale Oder Kriegsmunition und Artillerey=Buch by Frank Helm.

This 16th century book details the manufacture of bombs, canons and other types of artillery involving gunpowder.  Instructions include strapping rockets to the backs of  cats and doves with the intention of setting fire to a city or castle under siege.

The instructions began as a manuscript but were eventually printed in book form.

Danish rare bookseller Herman H.J. Lynge & Søn, located in  København, is offering a very rare first edition of this book for a little over £3,500.

Helm was an artillery master from Cologne, who was thought to have fought against the Turks just as gunpowder was coming to the fore in European warfare. His manual contains many scary images of shrapnel-filled devices.

But were animals really strapped to rockets? Probably not. It could be a tactic that would literally backfire if the animal got loose. Rockets at this time probably injured as many of the people firing them as the intended recipients.

The University of Pennsylvania has digitised a copy and it’s worth a look.

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