Edmund Halley's Model of Solar System Showing The Orbits of Comets & Planets
Important separately issued model of the solar system, first prepared by William Whiston in 1712.
The map illustrates the orbits of the comets known to Edmund Halley and Whiston at the beginning of the 18th Century, based upon Newton's model. Each comet is illustrated by its orbit with information about its modern appearances, distances from the sun, etc. A number of Newton's teachings are annotated within the printed image and additional information appears outside the solar hemisphere.
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician, who succeeded Isaac Newton as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. His A New Theory of the Earth from its Original to the Consummation of All Things (1696), articulated Whiston's belief that the global flood of Noah had been caused by a comet, a position which won him praise from Newton. Whiston and Halley were both advocates for the periodicity of comets, although Whiston also believed that comets were responsible for past catastrophes in earth's history.
The map was first prepared by Whiston in 1712, likely to illustrate his public lectures on Newton's astronomical teachings, and thereafter copied and modified for most of the 18th Century. As noted by Whiston in his Memoirs (p. 191);
About the same year, 1712, I published A Scheme of the Solar System, with the orbits of 21 comets 5 in a large meet of paper, engraved on copper, by Mr. Senex. Price 2 s. 6 d. Which Scheme has been of great reputation and advantage among the curious ever since.
The present edition was issued by Thomas Bowles, Robert Sayer and John Bowles.
John Senex (1678-1740) was one of the foremost mapmakers in England in the early eighteenth century. He was also a surveyor, globemaker, and geographer. As a young man, he was apprenticed to Robert Clavell, a bookseller. He worked with several mapmakers over the course of his career, including Jeremiah Seller and Charles Price. In 1728, Senex was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a rarity for mapmakers. The Fellowship reflects his career-long association as engraver to the Society and publisher of maps by Edmund Halley, among other luminaries. He is best known for his English Atlas (1714), which remained in print until the 1760s. After his death in 1740 his widow, Mary, carried on the business until 1755. Thereafter, his stock was acquired by William Herbert and Robert Sayer (maps) and James Ferguson (globes).
William Whiston (1667-1752) was a theologian, natural philosopher, mathematician, and lecturer who worked with Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, and other savants. The son of a rector, young William was educated at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a BA in 1689.
After a period as a chaplain, Whiston returned to Cambridge to study Newton’s theories, which had been published as the Principa mathematica in 1687. Whiston began to publish on Newton’s ideas, using them to prove that the Scriptures were compatible with the new natural philosophy. Whiston resigned his fellowship upon his marriage in 1699, but Newton invited him to Cambridge again to lecture as Newton’s deputy. Newton then oversaw Whiston’s election as the third Lucasian professor of mathematics in 1702.
Whiston published and taught widely on mathematics, physics, experimental philosophy, and astronomy. He was hailed as a popularizer of Newton’s theories, which were important and yet hard to grasp. He also, however, was interested in prophetic research and anti-trinitarianism. His outspokenness about the latter led him to be stripped of his professorship and expelled from the university for heresy in 1710.
Whiston then moved to London, where he served as a private teacher and lecturer. He also continued publishing; by his death, he had published over 120 books, pamphlets, and charts. Along with Humphrey Ditton, Whiston published a broadsheet urging for the creation of an award for solving the longitude problem, a project that led to the creation of the Board of Longitude. The duo also suggested an infamous solution to the problem, the stationing of ships at intervals which would fire shells in the air, allowing navigators to observe and calculate their location based on the flash and sound of the blast. Whiston also proposed a solution based on dipping needles.
In the 1710s, Whiston began to publish popular astronomical broadsides that included charts of eclipses and the solar system. He experimented with star shells for surveying, as an alternative to triangulation. With his dipping needle work, he produced a map of the English Channel in 1721 that was one of the earliest examples of isogonic lines on a map. In 1743, he published a new map of the Channel based on an original survey for the Board of Longitude. Even his biblical work contained maps. His translation of the Jewish historian Josephus (1737) remained popular until the twentieth century and its contained important maps of the Holy Land.