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“the most valuable work of its kind in existence” inscribed by Charles Rolls to Henri Farman, two aviation giants

(FLIGHT.) CHANUTE, OCTAVE. Progress in Flying Machines

New York: American Engineer & Railroad Journal, 1894

Original gray-blue cloth. Extensive annotations in pencil by Farman. Light wear, joints tender.

FIRST EDITION of the first published systematic collection of aviation research. A spectacular presentation copy inscribed by Charles Rolls to Henri Farman, two giants of early aviation. Farman has heavily annotated the book.

Henri Farman was a pioneering Anglo-French aviator and aircraft designer. In 1907 he bought a Voisin biplane and set numerous records for distance and duration. He established numerous firsts including the first cross-country flight and the first circuit flight in which an aviator returned to his starting place. He made substantial improvements in aircraft design, with the result that Farman planes became a standard for pre-Great War European aircraft. Farman has extensively annotated this volume with marginal notes, comments, clarifications, and underlining, amounting to hundreds of words and countless markings. A number of these have to do with Farman’s plane design innovations, which included the first use of modern-style ailerons for lateral stability.

Farman received this book from Charles S. Rolls, the co-founder of the Rolls-Royce Motor Company and a significant figure in British aviation. In February 1910 Rolls told Wilbur Wright that he had resigned his position at his company in order “to devote myself to flight.” He told Wright that the licensed Wright flyer that he had bought in Europe was of poor quality compared to the sturdy machines built in Dayton. Five months later Rolls was killed when the tail of his French-built Wright machine snapped off before a grandstand filled with horrified spectators at Bournemouth. Rolls, the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel and back, was the first British aviator to be killed in a flying accident. His firm went on to become major manufacturers of airplane engines.

Octave Chanute has been called the “father of aviation.” His classic Progress in Flying Machines profoundly influenced the work of the Wright Brothers and many others. Chanute, a railroad engineer, collected data from flight researchers around the world and published them in this volume, the first systematic published collection of aviation research. It was hailed as “the most comprehensive and authoritative treatise on the evolution of mechanical flight in all counties” (Aero, 1909) and “without question the most valuable work of its kind in existence” (Flight, 1910).

Chanute conducted his own research, in collaboration with others, determining that the best way to add lift efficiently was to stack wings on top of one another. This led to the Chanute biplane, on which the Wrights based their first glider.  Chanute and the Wrights became acquainted in 1900 when Wilbur wrote to Chanute after reading his Progress in Flying Machines. Chanute spent years encouraging the Wrights and publicizing their work.

This book, a founding work of aviation science, inscribed by a titan of the British aviation industry to a giant of flight and airplane design, is a centerpiece for any collection.

on consignment