Because if you strap something ON FIRE to a cat, he is obviously going to do what you anticipate…
Fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare seem to show jet packs strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German-language text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to “set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise.”
Digitized by the University of Pennsylvania, the unusual, full-color illustrations recently caught the attention of an Australian book blog and then found their way to Penn researcher Mitch Fraas, who set out to unravel the mystery.
“I really didn’t know what to make of it,” said Fraas, a historian and digital humanities expert at the Penn library. “It clearly looks like there’s some sort of jet of fire coming out of a device strapped to these animals.”
Frass looked into the idea that they were wearing jetpacks, a 20th century technology – and not a good one. He concludes that no, they were not. The manual was by Franz Helm of Cologne and was full of such imaginative devices such as bombs and missiles along with weaponized cats and birds. The idea behind this was as follows: “…bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”
More illustrations from the manual are available from BibliOdyssey.
Tip: Eve Siebert
Eve is going to do some addition investigating on this BIZARRE idea for next week’s Virtual Skeptics webcast. Tune in.