Lot 4: Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier handwritten signed letter
11th October 2017
ALS in French, signed “Montgolfier,” one page, 7.75 x 9, May 28, 1785. Letter to Jean-Jacques Froulle, in part (translated): “I have been instructed by Mr. Leclerc, knight of the Order of the King, to send you a few reams of large eagle. Enclosed is an order to take away a bundle from Orleans. Please pay the carriage and duties for it; Mr. Leclerc will credit you for the amount by subtracting it from the price. The remainder of the commission he charged me with will follow…I am eagerly awaiting this opportunity to offer you my services, sir.” Reverse of second integral page bears a partial address panel in another hand. In very good to fine condition, with intersecting folds, a couple passing through portions of signature, a few small spots, and a thin strip of moderate toning along right edge, not affecting the legibility. Born into a reputable family of paper manufacturers in Annonay, in Ardeche, France, brothers Jacques-Etienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier put their small town on the map in June of 1783 when they successfully carried out the first public unmanned hot air balloon flight there; five months later, before a distinguished crowd including King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Ben Franklin, they would demonstrate the first free flight by humans in their balloon. With their family elevated to the nobility, Etienne continued his work with the paper mill, whose business is displayed in this letter, as he sends “a few reams of large eagle” (a paper format) to printer and bookseller Jean-Jacques Froulle. A decade later during the French Revolution, Froulle would find himself on the chopping block—literally—after writing and printing an account of the death of Louis XVI. An incredibly rare letter regarding the early aviator’s family business.
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