There are two stories by Jules Verne which I know about which captured the public imagination about Flying Machines in the 18th century. The first is the somewhat unknown A Trip Round the World in a Flying Machine (archive.org) and the more famous Around the World in 80 Days. By flying machine, I mean some sort of mechanical or semi-mechanical machine or construct. It doesn't and didn't need to be similar to the way aircraft are today. In fact, the wilder the shapes or ideas were and are. The better.

As I shared in the comments, in 1493 Leonardo Da Vinci did share lot of sketches about flying machines, wouldn't that have lead to a spate of stories in that time.

What was the first story which penned and shared about flying machines before Jules Verne, or was Jules Verne the first? And if somebody knows of any subsequent stories that would be a bonus too :)

  • 2
    Welcome to Literature Stack Exchange, take our tour! As of right now I think this question is off-topic as an open-ended list. Two ways to save it would be to ask instead for the first work of fiction about a flying machine (thus making it a [history-of-literature] question) or about Jules Verne's inspiration for his works about flying machines (thus making it an [inspiration] question). Would either work for you?
    – bobble
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:25
  • Have edited and put it the way you asked. You somehow got to the meat of my question. Anyways, thank you. Hope you have a fine day :)
    – shirish
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:35
  • Thanks for editing! Interesting question, I hope someone will be able to answer it :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:41
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    What are the requirements to be a "flying machine"? For example, do the wings made by Daedalus in Greek legend count? How about magic carpets? A mythological flying palace? (All examples pulled from Wikipedia's article on flying machines)
    – bobble
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:50
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    "Although wouldn't Daedalus count more as of mythology than fantasy." This is irrelevant; mythology counts as fiction. It would be more helpful if you edited your answer to clarify what you mean by "flying machine".
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 8:40

2 Answers 2


Cyrano de Bergerac (1619–1655) wrote the books L'Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune (Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon) and Les États et Empires du Soleil (The States and Empires of the Sun) both published after his death. These contain various flying machines that convey him to the Moon and the Sun.

In the first of these, he builds a flying machine with wings. It doesn't work, but when some soldiers find it and attach fireworks to it, it actually works and carries him aloft. From Project Gutenberg

I had made a Machine which I fancied might carry me up as high as I pleased, so that nothing seeming to be wanting to it, I placed my self within, and from the Top of a Rock threw my self in the Air: But because I had not taken my measures aright, I fell with a sosh in the Valley below.

Bruised as I was, however, I returned to my Chamber without loosing courage, and with Beef-Marrow I anointed my Body, for I was all over mortified from Head to Foot: Then having taken a dram of Cordial Waters to strengthen my Heart, I went back to look for my Machine; but I could not find it, for some Soldiers, that had been sent into the Forest to cut wood for a Bonnefire, meeting with it by chance, had carried it with them to the Fort: Where after a great deal of guessing what it might be, when they had discovered the invention of the Spring, some said, that a good many Fire-Works should be fastened to it, because their Force carrying them up on high, and the Machine playing its large Wings, no Body but would take it for a Fiery Dragon. In the mean time I was long in search of it, but found it at length in the Market-place of Kebeck (Quebec), just as they were setting Fire to it. I was so transported with Grief, to find the Work of my Hands in so great Peril, that I ran to the Souldier that was giving Fire to it, caught hold of his Arm, pluckt the Match out of his Hand, and in great rage threw my self into my Machine, that I might undo the Fire-Works that they had stuck about it; but I came too late, for hardly were both my Feet within, when whip, away went I up in a Cloud.

  • Also one of the first pieces of writing about spaceships (depending on exactly how one defines a spaceship).
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 17:04
  • I am curious to know whether the information about CYRANO DE BERGERAC given in Project Gutenberg is the one made by Cyrano or some other sources, as it seems to be quite funny.
    – shirish
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 18:51

I think there were several 19th century example that precede Jules Verne, but I'm not familiar with those, so I can't name them.

That said, Jules Verne was fascinated enough with flying that flying machines appear in multiple of his stories. L’Île mystérieuse (1875) contains a more realistic example: its protagonists travel on a kind of balloon that was already available at the time Jules Verne wrote the serial novel. Cinq Semaines en ballon (1873) has a more fantastic example: a hydrogen balloon improved with sci-fi elements. Hector Servadac (1877) also includes people traveling by balloon. Deux Ans de vacances (1888) features a giant kite lifting a human using the power of wind. Robur-le-Conquérant (1886) is perhaps the first of Jules Verne's novels that features not only balloons, but also heavier than air aircrafts. De la Terre à la Lune (1865) and its sequel features a four meter large spaceship shot with a giant cannon to space with enough speed to reach the Moon, the main fantastical element being how its payload humans survive the launch. Les Enfants du capitaine Grant (1868) and Les Indes noires (1877) don't feature flying machines per se, only giant birds, the former powerful enough to lift a human adolescent.

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