• von Littrow, Atlas des Gestirnten Himmels

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    Von Littrow, Director of the Vienna Observatory, adopted Bode’s constellation figures and star positions. In von Littrow’s atlas, the constellation figures appear faintly in the background. 

    After Bode’s monumental production, scientific star atlases became more specialized in scope, or dispensed altogether with the artistic depiction of constellation figures. No longer was there room for both artistic figures and scientific observation to contribute to the presentation on equal terms.

  • Whitwell, An Astronomical Catechism

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    This dialogue between a mother and her daughter offers a delightful introduction to the night sky. It contains 23 engraved plates drawn by Whitwell herself, including four hand-colored folding plates. One of the plates depicts the constellations of Corvus the Crow, Crater the Cup and Hydra the Water Snake. Another plate conveys a dramatic impression of the Full Moon at night, shown against a striking black background.

    Whitwell, who also wrote on economics and education, taught at Robert Owen’s school at New Lanarck, Scotland, in the 1820′s. Owen later came to America and founded a utopian socialist colony in Indiana called New Harmony.

  • Messier, “Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d’Étoiles”

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    This is the first edition of Messier’s catalog of cloudy spots or “nebulae,” numbered from M1 to M45. The Great Orion Nebula is M42. In 1781, Messier published a final catalog of 103 nebulae, which are now called “Messier objects.”

    Comet watching required an ever more complete mapping of the sky. In multiple articles, Messier traced the routes of comets through various constellations, mapping the nebulae along the way so as not to confuse them with the comets.

    Earlier in this same volume, Messier published an article, with a star map, describing the second comet of 1770-1771, which passed near Orion.

  • 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.

  • Hesiod, Opera

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    In Works and Days, the poet Hesiod, a rough contemporary of Homer, compiled guidelines for conducting life and forecasting the weather according to the stars. When Orion rises at sunset in autumn, sailors knew that the time had come to bring their ships to port:

    “...then the winds war aloud, ​
    And veil the ocean with a sable cloud:​
    Then round the bank, already haul’d on shore, ​
    Lay stones, to fix her when the tempests roar...”

    Since Orion’s belt of three bright stars lies upon the celestial equator, Orion is visible from every inhabited part of the globe.

  • Aratos, Phenomena

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    Aratos, a Greek scientist and poet of the 3rd century B.C.E., offered practical advice for predicting the weather by learning to recognize the seasonal appearances of constellations. Constellations introduced include Andromeda, Orion and Taurus, and others included in the later star catalog of Ptolemy. 

  • Hyginus, Poeticon astronomicon

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    Greek writers like Hesiod and Aratos compiled ancient stories of the constellations, often in poetic form, with memorable instructions for locating bright stars and zodiac constellations. Constellations of the zodiac contain the wandering courses of the planets and the annual path of the Sun. Familiarity with the stars enabled one to coordinate the affairs of life, including agricultural cycles, with the sky at night.

    Hyginus, a Roman poet, conveyed this body of practical knowledge into Latin. Hyginus followed the order and naming of the constellations as listed in the Almagest of Ptolemy (2d century C.E.). Charming constellation figures are hand-colored in this copy. It was printed by Erhard Ratdolt, a renowned early printer of works in astronomy and geometry.

  • Abu Ma’shar, Introductorium in astronomiam

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    Abu Ma’shar, an astronomer in 9th century Baghdad, was one of the most prolific writers on astrology during the Middle Ages. This work was cited by Albert the Great, Roger Bacon, Pierre d’Ailly, and Pico della Mirandola, among others.

    Constellation figures appear without stars.  Or, if stars are shown on the constellation figures, they appear in an impressionistic manner, not as a sky map but rather as an aid to memory. 

    This 1st edition was printed by Erhard Ratdolt, and the constellation figures appear similar to the ones in Ratdolt’s editions of Hyginus.

    The OU History of Science Collections holds three works by Abu Ma’shar printed by Ratdolt in 1489, all different.

  • Montanari, Sopra la Sparizione D'Alcune Stelle

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    This is the scarce first edition of writings by a leading learned society in Bologna, the Accademia dei Gelati. The volume includes striking woodcuts by the astronomer Geminiano Montanari of white stars against a black background. Montanari compares his observations of the Pleiades with those of Galileo from the Starry Messenger (1610). 

    This article also reports, for the first time in book form, Montanari’s work on the bright variable star Algol (”the demon star”) in the constellation Perseus. Algol is understood today as an eclipsing binary star, where two stars revolve around a common center of gravity and appear to Earth to dim as they alternately eclipse one another. In antiquity the star was linked to the Gorgon’s head, the eye of Medusa, whose gaze would turn the viewer into stone.

    Scientifically, in Galileo’s world, a variable star would seem to contradict the Aristotelian maxim of the immutability of the heavens.

  • Coronelli, Epitome Cosmografica

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    The tiny size of a volume by Coronelli belies its historical importance: in this Epitome, Coronelli explained how to use celestial and terrestrial globes, and his techniques for constructing them. The Epitome describes how Coronelli famously constructed a pair of terrestrial and celestial globes for Louis XIV, which measured more than 12 feet in diameter.

    Hand-colored prints for a 3-foot diameter Coronelli celestial globe are also part of the Galileo's World exhibition.

    Another work held by the History of Science Collections, Phillippe de la Hire, Description et explication des globes qui sont placés dans les pavillons du Château de Marly (Paris, 1704), describes Coronelli’s 12-foot globes and explains how to use them for astronomical calculations.