Digital Library of
The Invention of the Airplane


Material in the Digital Library indexed by the source of publication. Convenient for finding articles in magazines, journals, or books.


History as it happens! An index of material organized by the publication date, beginning in the 1500's with an article by Da Vinci, and closing in 1912 with Wilbur's last written article. I'm planning to add material in the public domain that appears after that date, but conversion is slow and time is short.


An easy way to access the major authors represented in the library, but many articles printed at the time were anonymous, so this area provides fewer links than do the other sections.

Gary's picks

Don't have time to read through several books and dozens of articles? Try my short list!

Library Notes

The digital library is a growing collection of articles, mostly drawn from the period 1799 to 1909, selected for their relevance to the invention of the airplane. This collection is not intended to be complete or comprehensive, but to feature articles that have historical import or were easy to get at. So far, all of the articles are in English, which precludes a large body of interesting and important European literature. Anyone who wishes to contribute French or German articles, especially if they have accompanying English translations, will receive my eternal gratitude.

Material in the library can be accessed in four different ways: By author, by source, by the date of publication, or from a short list of Gary's Picks. Currently our sources include material from books, such as The Aeronautical Annuals edited by James Means, and from periodicals, such as Scientific American. The source and publication date lists include more articles than the author list. This happens because many articles appeared without a named byline. If I don't know who the author is, I can't list it that way!

Contributers include Cory Kotowsky, Joanna Wozniak, Brandon Gant, and Gary Bradshaw. The process of converting a document to hypertext is more difficult than people realize: scanning old material is no trivial matter, especially when brittle and stained pages have been marked up by library users. Conversion to html represents its own challenge, as much, but not all, formatting must be eliminated. To the extent possible, we have been faithful to the original document. But HTML is a different medium than the printed page, with little control over page layout, so minor compromises have been made.

An example is the treatment of footnotes: Many articles had footnotes at the bottom of each page, with numbers starting anew for each page. One article might have three or four footnote number 1's, for example. In the conversion, footnotes are placed at the end of the article, with a link from the footnote number to the footnote itself. Numbers have been changed to be sequential over the article. A new trick is to link the footnotes back to their original reference. Now you can loop through hypertext space ad nauseum. Photos and plates have been placed close to their first reference in the text, usually at a natural paragraph boundary.

In spite of at least two separate proofing stages, some errors may remain. Please let us know if you find any problems with our articles. Photographs have to be added through a separate process, and often lag behind the article. We appreciate your patience.


Behind every great library stands a great Librarian. While we make no pretense that our library is great, we have enjoyed the assistance of a great Librarian: Jo Ann Heiser. For Ms. Heiser, no request is too obscure, no source too old, no partial information too incomplete. She finds it all. Her presence is felt not only in this section, but in our assemblage of photographs as well. Support your local librarian, they are worth their weight in books!

I thank my assistants at the front line: Brandon Gant, Cory Kotowsky, and Joanna Wozinak, who are all-too-familiar with the bleeding edge of technology. Their patience, perseverance, and skill in coaxing the best possible conversion of old and dusty tomes is wonderful. No simple acknowledgement can repay their generous assistance.