Boeddicker, The Milky Way

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By the late 19th century, constellation figures no longer graced the pages of scientific star atlases. Yet these artful lithographs of the Milky Way from a leading English observatory show how art and scientific astronomy were not disjoined but might remain associated in other ways. 

Boeddicker’s drawings of the Milky Way as it appears to the unaided eye were based on observations made over a five-year period. At Birr castle, near Dublin in Ireland, Lord Rosse devoted his considerable wealth to building better and better telescopes in an effort to continue the legacy of William Herschel. 

When Boeddicker’s drawings were displayed at the Royal Astronomical Society in London in 1889, they were highly praised for their careful delineation of the Milky Way’s intricate structure. 

This work consists of four lithograph reproductions of Boeddicker’s drawings. Plate II shows the Milky Way in the vicinity of the constellation Cassiopeia, and Plate IV gives a panoramic overview.