In his historical review of tornadoes in Italy Peterson (1998, p. 125) mentioned that "the first published drawing of  a waterspout was an observation by de Monconys 31 December 1648 near Sardinia, published in 1665". Unfortunately,  Peterson (1998) does not contain the drawing or the reference to the original publication. Since I was curious to see this drawing, I have tried to find  the original publication.  Soon enough  I have discovered that the drawing  appeared in Journal de voyages de Monsieur de Monconys, Conseiller du Roy en ses conseils d'estat & privé, & Lieutenant Criminel au Siege Presidial de Lyon (The travel journal of Monsieur de Monconys, King's Advisor in State and Private Councils, and Magistrate in the Judicial tribunal of Lyon)*.  

Balthasar de Monconys (16111665) was a French diplomat, physicist and magistrate born in Lyon who, throughout his life, travelled widely across Europe and Middle East in an attempt to rediscover the sources of teachings of Pythagoras,  Zoroaster and Greek and Arabic alchemists. De Monconys left a diary, which was published in three volumes between 16651666  by his son Gaspard de Monconys de Liergues.  In his diary, de Monconys included a vast range of topics from medical recipes, chemistry experiments and discussions on esoteric sciences to mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, zoology,  medicine and meteorology.

The first volume of Monconys's diary contains descriptions of his travels between 16451649 to Portugal, Provence, Italy, Syria, Anatolia and Constantinople.  On 31 December 1648 de Monconys noted in his diary

We have arrived close to Tolara, an island joined to Sardinia. There I drew the figure of a siphon**
— (du Monconys, 1665, p.486)
 Waterspouts off the coast of Sardinia on 31 December 1648 (de Moncoys 1665, p. 464).

Waterspouts off the coast of Sardinia on 31 December 1648 (de Moncoys 1665, p. 464).

Unfortunately, de Monconys is not providing other details about these waterspouts and it does not seams to be threatened or impressed by their sight. This may suggest that de Monconys had observed waterspouts (or tornadoes) before, or at least was aware of their existence.

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* The complete reference is: de Monconys, B., 1665: Journal de voyages de Monsieur Monconys, Conseiller du Roy en ses conseils d'estat & priué, & Lieutenant Criminel au Siege Presidial de Lyon. Où les Sçavants trouveront un nombre infini de nouveautez, en Machines de Mathematique,  Experiences Physiques, Raisonnemens de la belle Philosophie, curiositez de Chymie, & conversations des Illustres de ce Siecle; Outre la description de diuers Animaux & Plantes rares, plusieurs Secrets inconnus pour le Plaisir & la Santé, les Ouvrages des Peintres fameux, les Coûtumes & Moeurs des Nations, & ce qu'il y a de plus digne de la connoissance d'un honeste Homme dans les trois Parties du Monde. Enrichi de quantité de Figures en Taille-douce des lieux & des choses principales, avec des Indices tres-exacts & tres commodes pour l'usage. Lyon, p. 491.

** From Ancient Greek: σίφων "pipe, tube", also called syphon.

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AuthorBogdan Antonescu