GUNPOWDER: ALCHEMY, BOMBARDS, & PYROTECHNICS: THE HISTORY OF THE EXPLOSIVE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD
Author: Jack Kelly
Publisher: PERSEUS / RUNNING PRESS, May 2005
A tour through the turbulent history of one of mankind's most critical inventions - the fiery substance that transformed everything from fireworks in China to warfare in Renaissance Europe & beyond. 36 B&W illus; 6x8 inches, 272 pgs.
From the mystery of alchemy to the inventors of the modern world, as told by a formidable storyteller.
When Chinese alchemists fashioned the first manmade explosion sometimes during the 10th century, no one could have foreseen its full revolutionary potential. Invented to frighten evil spirits rather than fuel guns or bombs--neither of which had been thought of yet--their simple mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal went on to made the modern world possible. As word of its explosive properties spread from Asia to Europe, from pyrotechnics to battleships, it paved the way for Western exploration, hastened the end of feudalism and the rise of the nation state, and greased the wheels of the Industrial Revolution.
With dramatic immediacy, novelist and journalist Jack Kelly conveys both the distant time in which the "devil's distillate" rose to conquer the world, and brings to rousing life the eclectic cast of characters who played a role in its epic story, including Michelangelo, Edward III, Vasco da Gama, Cortez, Guy Fawkes, Alfred Nobel, and E.I. DuPont. A must-read for history fans and military buffs alike, Gunpower brings together a rich terrain of cultures and technological innovations with authoritative research and swashbuckling style.
Gunpowder first emerged from the ancient Chinese alchemical experiments to usurp the sword, spear and arrow in war, the pick and shovel in working the earth. Francis Bacon ranked its importance with the printing press and the magnet as substances that "have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world."
From the intrepid Vasco da Gama, to the brilliant Antoice Lavoisier, known as the father of modern chemistry, from the glory of Cortes to the genius of I.E. DuPont, the history of gunpowder is filled with notable figures--as well as ordinary soldiers, sailors, gunners, miners, and powdermen who also played a role in this epic story.
With thrilling immediacy, Jack Kelly takes readers to look over the alchemist's shoulder and descent into the coal pit with the miner who fills hand-drilled holes with explosive powder; tread the deck of the heaving man-of-war as sailors haul gunpowder from the hold; stand with soldiers as cannons turn the battlefield into a roaring nightmare; and go behind the scenes with pyrotechnicians who use centuries-old methods to light up the skies with fire.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
"A fast-paced book that is historical reporting at its very best, with surprises on almost every page. Kelly's writing style is crisp and edgy, perfect for his subject matter." --Tucson Citizen
"His writing is crisp, straight out of film noir...adrenaline in words."
--New York Times Book Review
"Jack Kelly writes like a man ready for a rumble."
--New York Daily News
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jack Kelly is both an accomplished novelist and an experienced author of popular history. He writes regularly for American Heritage and has also written features about the DuPont family's involvement in the gunpowder industry and the history of fireworks in America. He lives in Milan, New York.