A finely detailed early 18th Century chart of the Southern Sky by Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr and published by Johann Baptist Homann.
This beautiful celestial chart details the constellations visible from the Southern Hemisphere centered on the equatorial pole, with the major stars heightened in yellow and the outlines of the figures expressed en grisaille and identified by their Latin names. Amongst the numerous constellations showcased are the Zodiacal signs of Aquarius, Capricorn, Libra, Sagittarius and Virgo. Also depicted are Canis Major (The Great Dog), Cetus (Sea Monster), Hydra (A Great Serpent), Lepus (The Rabbit), Lupus (The Wolf), Argo Navis (The Ship), Pavo (The Peacock), amongst others. Declination tables frame the view, while elegant scenes featuring putti adorn the corners outside of the celestial sphere.
The chart is the work of Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr (1677-1750), a German astronomer, mathematician and cartographer and one of the leading makers of celestial charts of the Enlightenment Era. Born in Nuremburg, then Germany's leading center of sciences, Doppelmayr travelled widely throughout Europe and met many of the period's best astronomers and conducted experiments from a wide variety of observatories. Far from being an armchair academic, his work was based on rigorous research and fieldwork. Returning to Nuremburg, he formed a close personal and business relationship with Johann Baptist Homann and his heirs, proprietors of Germany's greatest printing house. This allowed Doppelmayr to disseminate his work to a level unrivalled by any other contemporary astronomer. Doppelmayr was honored by being named a fellow of the Berlin Academy, the Royal Society of London (1733) and the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1740).
In the early 18th Century, Doppelmayr prepared a number of astronomical plates for publication within Homann's various atlases, although some charts would also have been sold individually or in selected sets. The present chart is a prime example of Doppelmayr's work during this period.
Doppelmayr eventually collected his vast and diverse celestial work into his
Atlas Coelestis in quo Mundus Spectabilis... (Nuremburg, 1742). The work contained 30 plates, 20 of which related to astronomical themes and historical developments, including Copernicus's and Tycho Brahe's cosmological systems, illustration of planetary motion and the solar system and a detail of the moon's surface based on Doppelmayr's own telescopic discoveries. The remaining ten plates were actual star chats, including the hemispheres centered on the equatorial poles (such as the present chart). Two additional other plates were hemispheres centered on the ecliptic poles with an extraordinary external orientation.