A Rocket Cat? Early Modern Explosives Treatises at Penn

Amazing images but think animals Wd be too terrified to act in this way.

Unique at Penn

I was puzzled when a friend asked me a few weeks ago if I’d seen the “rocket cat” illustrated in a Penn manuscript which had been featured on the book blog BibliOdyssey in November. The image, from what was described as a 1584 “Feuer Buech” manuscript, appeared to show a cat and a bird propelled by rockets towards a castle.

codex109catUPenn Ms. Codex 109, f137r.

I enthusiastically retweeted the image and began trying to figure out just what was going on in the manuscript [1]. Since then, the “rocket cat” has gone somewhat viral, appearing in the Atlantic, BoingBoing, and elsewhere. Given the illustration’s new-found fame I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a bit of context.

The illustration above comes from UPenn Ms. Codex 109 which came to the library as part of the Edgar Fahs Smith history of chemistry collection. This manuscript is…

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