mkng-a-p-kite-art - 4/2/15
"Constructing a Period Kite" by Lord Archer McRobert.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
Constructing a Period Kite
by Lord Archer McRobert
The section in Appendix A is from "The Chaos", the 20th book of Natural Magick, by Giambattista della Porta (1535-1615). It was written originally in Latin in 1558, and was translated to English in 1658. It is one of the oldest western kites. It is also a western kite with an oriental heritage.
Della Porta's description is confusing. He appears to be describing two different kites. The first descrip tion resembles the earlier windsock standard held aloft on a pole, like that which the Dacians and Romans used earlier [I]
Della Porta suggested placing a lantern or firecrackers in its mouth (Above, an Image from Konrad Keyeser's Bellefortis c. 1405):
"Some place a lantern in it, that it may show like a comet. Others put a cracker of paper, where in gunpowder is rolled, and when it is in the air, by the cord there is send a light match, by a ring or something that will abide. This presently flies to the sail, and gives fire to the mouth of it, and the engine with a thundering noise, flies into many parts, and falls to the ground."
The other description is far different. It's still somewhat confusing.1n modem English, it appears he's talking about making a vertically-oriented rectangular kite! In this form, it resembles - in shape - a manlifter described by Marco Polo in the Z manuscript in 1282, or a plane surface kite. See on page two2 (Della Porta shape and frame):
"Make a quadrangle of the small pieces of, that the length may be to the breadth, on and half in pro portion. Put in two diameters on the opposite parts or angles, where they cut on the other. Bind it with a small cord, and of the same bigness. Let it be joined with two others that proceed from the heads of the engine. Then, cover it with paper or thin linen, that there be no burden to weigh upon it."
This is the kite we are going to build today. In passing, I'll also note Della Porta mentions some likely uses for his kite, suggesting that by flying puppies or cats, that man might learn to fly. Please don't emulate him!
Modern interpretation of Della Porta's kite Circles with "X"s represent bridle points.
· Sharp knife or scissors (I often use both),
· straight edge such as a metal ruler or yardstick,
· small hobby saw,
· a needle,
· glue (stick glue or white glue works well).
· 3/16" diameter wooden dowels (two)
· string (to border the kite, make the bridle and fly the kite
· (crochet thread works great)
· paper for the cover(preferably light-weight paper. Tracing paper can be ideal depending on kite size)
· paper for a tail(s) - crepe paper is excellent for this. (Remember a tail creates wind resistance and that leads to kite stability.)
I. Measure (on what will be the kite cover's back), in about a quarter-inch (1/4") from the edge, marking it with the pencil. Mark the 1/4" several places along each side to allow for even folding of the edge.
2. Lay one of the sticks diagonally on the back of the cover. Have one end protrude about a 1/4" past the comer. Mark the other end about a 1/4" from the other corner. Cut off the excess. Repeat with the other stick.
3. Using the saw, cut notches in both ends of the shortened sticks. Make the cuts in the same plane (parallel), so string can be placed in the notches.
4. Lay the sticks in place on the paper, using the pencil, mark the sticks were they overlap. Tie the sticks together at that angle, several "turns" of string over the overlap spot. Glue the sticks in place on the back of the cover.
5. Cut a piece of string long enough to tuck in the folded edges, and wrap around the ends of the sticks. The string will strengthen the kite edge. I looped the string around the ends (and through the notches) and then fit it inside the folds. Glue the folds down with the string tucked inside.
6. Cut two pieces of string twice as long as the diagonal length of the kite. Cut a third piece of string four to six inches longer. These pieces will be your kite's three-line/three-point bridle. See the second Della Porta kite image. Bridle points are the X's on the picture. Tie the shorter pieces to the top ends of the sticks. Be careful to keep them the equal lengths when tied.
7. Using the needle, make two holes through the cover as close as possible to where the sticks are tied together in their centers. From the front, put the third string through one hole, bringing it around the sticks and back out through the second hole. Tie the string around the sticks tightly, and center the knot over the junction of the sticks.
8. Match the ends of the three strings together, over the center of the top edge of the kite, creating a "triangle." Trying not to twist the lines, tie a knot with all three lines about 1 1/2" from the end of the strings. Tie another knot at the end of the strings.
9. Roll out crepe paper at least six times as long as the diagonal length of the kite. and attach with string to the lower
We don't know what, if any decoration, was put on Della Porta's kite. In the modem Middle Ages we can either accept that it was blank, or using artistic license, decorate it with some period image. Earlier European kites were decorated.  Likewise, kites from China, Japan and other Far Eastern areas, were decorated in much earlier times. 
"Around the year 784, people began using cloth or coloured paper to cover the bamboo frames which were tied into the shape of a cylinder in which candles could be lighted as in a lantern.
"Very soon people were not satisfied with ordinary lanterns. The gauze or paper pasted on the frame of the kite was painted with splendid and unusually coloured drawings and decorated with golden flowers and tendrib of vines."
[I]. Kites, an historical sutvey. Clive Hart, 101967, 1982; pp 62-67·
. Penguin Book of Kites. David Pelham© 1976; p 170.
. Hart, plates 20a-fand 21, showing versions of the draco with and without wings, and the pennon kite from Vienna Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, codex 3064, ca. 1430.
. Traditional Chinese Arts and Culture, Chinese Kites. Wang Hongxun. 01989. p3·
Kites, an historical survey. Clive Hart, ©1967, 1982 LC 81-1252
Penguin Book of Kites. David Pelham © 1976
Traditional Chinese Arts and Culture, Chinese Kites. Wang Hongxun. ©1989
(Della Porta Natural Magick homepage)
Some suggested reading
"KiteLines" magazine. Out of print, but available online at http://www.kitelife.com/library/kitelines/ "China Kites" Liu Zhen, ISBN 1-55521-376-6 first edition.
"Kite Craft" Lee Scott Newman & Jay Hartley Newman 1974 LC73-9ll54.
"The Art of the Japanese Kite" Tal Streeter, ISBN 0-8348-0157-4.
"A kite journey through India" Tal Streeter 1996 ISBN 0-8348-0301.
"Survey of Korean Kites" Sang-su Choe, Korean Information Service, 1958
"Chinese Artistic Kites" by Ha Kuiming and Ha Yiqi, photos by Wang Xu, translated by Ralph Kiggell, LCN 89-60883
"Japanese Kites, Concepts and Construction" by Dan Kurahashi, self-published
"De nobilitatibus, sapientiis, et prudentiis regum," Walter de Milemete. (Dates from 1326) Ed. M.R. James, London, 1913, pp. 154-155.
"Bellifortis" by Konrad Kyeser, ca. 1405. Niedersachsische Staats und Universitatsbibliothek, Gottingen, Codes 63, ff. l04v., l05r. Manuscript at Austrian National Library, dated ca. 1430 is description of a 'pennon-kite' or serpent (dragon)
Fireworks manual by Johann Schmidlap, 1560, mentions use of kites.
"Natural Magick," Chapter X, 'Of some mechanical experiments, the flying dragon, or the comet' by Giovanni della Porta, pub. 1558, translated to English 1658.
"Rust und Feuerwerksbuch" ca. 1490, Stadt un Universitatsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main, f.104r. "Kunstliche und rechtschaffene feuerwerck zum schimpft" Numberg, 1608, p. 4 (written 1560)
"De secretis libri xvii" by Johann Wecker, Basel, 1582 pp. 690-692, 936-938. (Quotes della Porta verbatim)
"The Mysteryes of Nature and Art" by J. Bates. London, 1634, pp. 80-82. "Pryrotechnia" by J. Babington, London, 1635, pp. 44-46.
"Deliciae physico-mathematicae" by D. Schwenter, Numberg, 1636, Pt 12, pp. 472-475.
"Ars magna lucis et umbrae," by A. Kircher, Rome, 1646 Pt. 2, pp. 826-827.
"Of some mechanical Experiments."
"The Flying Dragon,"
Or the comet. ft is made thus; Make a quadrangle of the small pieces of reeds, that the length may be to the breadth, on and half in proportion. Put in two diameters on the opposite parts or angles, where they cut on the other. Bind it with a small cord, and of the same bigness. Let it be joined with two others that proceed from the heads of the engine. Then, cover it with paper or thin linen, that there be no burden to weigh upon it. Then from the top of a tower, or some high place, send it out where the wind is equal and uniform, not in to great winds, lest they break the workmanship, nor yet to small, for if the wind be still, it will not carry it up, and the weak wind makes it less labor. Let it not fly right forth, but obliquely, which is effected by a cord that comes from one end to the other, and by the long tail which you shall make of cords of equal distance, and papers tied unto them. So being gently let forth, it is to be guided by the artificers hand, who must not move it idly or sluggishly, but forcibly. So this flying sail flies into the air. When it is raised a little (for here the wind is broken by the windings of the houses) you can hardly guide it, or hold it in your hands.
Some place a lantern in it, that it may show like a comet. Others put a cracker of paper, wherein gun powder is rolled, and when it is in the air, by the cord there is send a light match, by a ring or something that will abide. This presently flies to the sail, and
gives fire to the mouth of it, and the engine with a thundering noise, flies into many parts, and falls to the ground. Others bind a cat or whelp, and so they hear cries in the air. Hence may an ingenious man take occasion, to consider how to make a man fly, by huge wings bound to his elbows and breast. But he must from his childhood, by degrees, use to move them, always in a higher place. If any man think this a wonder, let him consider what is reported, that the Pythagorean did. For many of the noble Greeks, and Favorinus the philosopher, the greatest searcher out of antiquities, have written affirmatively, that the frame of a pigeon made of wood, was formed by Archytas, by some art, and made to fly. It was so balanced in the air by weights, and moved by an aerial spirit within it.
Soli Deo Gloria
Copyright 2011 by Mike Wilson, 124 N. Second, Osborne, KS 67473. <kitearcher at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.