Water-borne firework devices, 1635.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving of a sailing ship; a wheeled siren, or mermaid, holding a firework; and a dragon leaving a castle and encountering Neptune riding an aquatic horse. Firework displays have been widely used for celebrations in Europe since the 16th century. Elaborate pyrotechnic effects were often created and used in a theatrical setting. In 1635, the master pyrotechnician John Babington published a book from which this illustration comes, and which describes many effects available at the time, some of which he had devised. This work, 'Pyrotechnia or, A discourse of artificiall fire-works', dealt with geometry and the use of fireworks for military purposes.