Cat with bomb strapped to it, 16th C

A page from 16th C German manuscript ("Das Feuer Buch") from the University of Pennsylvania's collection, depicts a cat and a bird attacking a castle with bombs strapped to them. As if that wasn't enough, the illustrator chose to depict these bombs in a way that made the poor critters look jet-propelled. The caption is "To ignite a castle with a cat."

Beyond the novel inclusion of our rocket bird and turbo cat - up top - this 1584 treatise on explosive devices appears to illustrate weaponry seen in earlier manuscripts and offers no new technologies for the Renaissance commando types.

The sketches show various types of barrel bombs, hand grenades, nasty fragmentation/shrapnel explosives, cannons, caltrops (anti-personnel ground spikes), unsophisticated spear and staff-mounted 'rockets' or bombs, catherine or pin wheel fireworks and your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine fire vessels and defensive emplacement stakes. Good to know that our modern evil ways build on the twisted imaginations of artistic forebears.

Early Explosives (Thanks, Nicholas!)


    1. No, I think you’ll find that the natural instinct of both the Cat and the common Bird, when a bomb is attached to them, is to run quickly towards the nearest castle.

      1. I think that’s entirely true of cats. Suppose there’s a cat that comes out through the drain grate of a castle and hunts among the besiegers. They capture the cat and strap a bomb to it and then let it go. I guarantee that the cat will run like hell back to the castle and hole up in one of its safe places, where a fire will then mysteriously start.

        1. I hadn’t considered the idea of using their own cats against them – I’d pictured the attacking army lugging a barrel full of military-grade cats around with them.  The illustration is quite misleading because the cat seems to be sauntering down the road to the main entrance where it would have to scratch on the gate until somebody let it in.

  1. The drawing doesn’t look like 16th century drawings at all. The text inside may be original, but the drawing is quite certainly not.

    and this
    are typical illustrations from that period.

    The illustration with the cat and the bird looks like fairy tale illustrations from the 20th century; 70’s or 80’s mostly.


      Title: Feuer Buech [manuscript].

      Origin: [Germany], 1584.

      Physical description: 235 leaves : paper, col. ill. ; 307 x 200 (220 x 122) mm. bound to 313 x 209 mm.

      Summary: Treatise on munitions and explosive devices, with many illustrations of the various devices and their uses.

      The illustrations in this manuscript are similar to those in Berlin, Staatsb. ms. germ. qu. 1188. In his study of the text, W. Hassenstein gives no date for the Berlin manuscript, although it appears to be 15th century (cf. Hassenstein, Das Feuerwerkbuch von 1420 (Munich, 1941), p. 121). Compare Hassenstein, Bild 33 with f. 174r of the present manuscript, and Hassenstein, Bild 34 with f. 185v.

      Cite as: UPenn Ms. Codex 109(tl;dr: they drew in more than one way in that period)

      1.  Looked through it. It stands apart from all other drawings in the book.
        Take the flames, for example: The other flames are depicted as strains originating directly in the opening, while the flames on the cat’s back and on the bird don’t. Totally different way of depicting a flame.

        The other graphics have a lot more contrast as well.

        I wasn’t able to decipher much, but couldn’t find any support for the cat and bird scheme either.

        I suppose the drawings were added or altered later.

    2. Look at the Hunting Book of Maximillian sometime. It looks like Mary Blair’s concept art for “It’s a Small World.”

      The  linework, coloring  and almost-but-not-quite-perspective in the buildings in the background are similar to a number of manuscript illustrations I’ve seen in facsimiles, especially the engineering and military books.

  2. We were working on a similar cat device.  not for any strategic use, just for entertainment. 

  3. That would be the fuse of that era.  Makes a nice incentive to run at the same time.  Impractical with most cats I have known.  They would circle around just to get whoever lit the fuse….

    1. These are most probably not bombs, but incendiary devices that spew sparks. The poor dammed cat would make an excellent smart targeting system, as it runs from structure to structure trying to hide from the hell it was put into.

  4. But how does the cat unstrap the bomb and get away in time so that it doesn’t… oh.

    Now I haz a sad.

  5. Is it just me, or is the bird giving the cat a “where ya going” look? Before this, obviously, they had been in complete agreement . . . and so history took a turn . . .

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