air travel

The Book About Aircraft

Published in Great Britain in 1936 for young readers, this amply illustrated book covers the latest in aircraft in the British Empire between the world war periods. There are chapters on different aircraft types and their functions, with an emphasis on aviation as an advance in civilization and progress. Principal air routes across the world and the British Imperial Airways routes are featured. The color plates make it an especially attractive book for the time period.

La Chine a Terre et en Ballon

This volume tells the story of three French Army officers' balloon expedition through the Peking (Beijing) and Tientsin (Tianjin) areas of China, in 1900 and 1901. Published in 1902, the book includes 41 photographic plates of aerial images of that region of Imperial China, as well as many extraordinary sights on the ground. This rare volume (only 25 copies were printed) is part of the William A. M. Burden aviation book collection donated to the Smithsonian, one of the foundations of the rare book collection in the National Air and Space Museum Library. 

Le Royaume de l'Air

Le Royaume de l'Air, or the “Kingdom of the Air,” was published in Paris in 1909, during the first decade of machine-powered aircraft flight. It was written for young readers and includes plentiful illustrations and photographs documenting the historical development of aeronautics and contemporary innovations in this new technology. There are very few copies in libraries, and the Smithsonian is fortunate to have two in its collection. This copy is in need of extensive preservation treatment.

The Spirit of St. Louis Commemorative Issue

This 1967 commemorative newspaper issue documented the 40th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis monoplane. It features photos of a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis and of pilot Frank Tallman, cofounder of Tallmantz Aviation, which built the replica. The replica was flown to Paris by the U.S. Air Force to be displayed during the 1967 Paris Air Show.

A Travers le Transvaal

Léo Dex was the pseudonym of the brillant and distinguished aeronautical engineer Edouard-Léopold-Joseph Deburaux, who was commander of a company of hot-air balloonists attached to the French Army’s First Corps of Engineers. Under his given name, he wrote many books and papers on the possible uses of hot-air balloons for exploration and warfare. His grand experiment in balloon exploration—sending hot-air balloons across the Sahara from Tunisia to the region of Timbuktu—ended in failure, and he died shortly thereafter.

Ryan Guidebook

This is an anniversary compendium of Ryan Airplanes (1925-1975), the company that built the Spirit of St. Louis—the airplane Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic—as well as many other commercial and military aircraft. The book details the many aircraft Ryan produced, and includes photos, advertisements, promotional brochures, and even a comic strip. It is an informative overview of an aircraft manufacturer that made a substantial contribution to aviation history and technology.

The Quest of the Golden Condor

Published in 1946, this adventure story is set in Peru in 1938. It is the tale of a father and his two sons’ pursuit of an Incan treasure known as the "golden condor." This copy has a bookplate identifying the book as a gift from the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, to the Aeronautical Archives. It is representative of the many works of popular aviation adventure stories in the National Air and Space Museum library collection that document how motorized flight captured young people's imaginations.

Wings of Yesteryear

What is an aircraft book doing at the national postal museum library? Airplanes have also carried the mail—and continue to do so. The golden age of private aircraft spanned the end of World War I to the start of World War II. During these years of temporary calm, aircraft engineers made significant technological advances, producing safer, stronger, and faster aircraft. Many of these innovations appeared in aircraft made for the private market.