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Stock# 70736
Description

Second Edition in Early Vellum, Bound With the Extremely Rare Text.

First published in Augsburg in 1609, Bayer's Uranometria was one of the great celestial atlases of the 17th century, a veritable golden age for start chart production.

This is the second edition, published in Ulm in 1639. And bound with it is the extremely rare 1640 accompanying text also published in Ulm.

Of the 51 engraved plates in the atlas, 48 are Ptolemaic constellations, 1 is a chart of the 12 new constellations unknown to Ptolemy, and 2 are of planispheres showing the northern and southern hemispheres

Each plate has a carefully engraved grid, so that star positions can be read off to fractions of a degree. These positions were taken from the catalog of Tycho Brahe. Brahe's catalog had circulated in manuscript in the 1590s, but was not published until 1602.

Another important feature of Bayer's atlas was the introduction of a new system of stellar nomenclature. Bayer assigned Greek letters to the brighter stars, generally in the order of magnitude, so that the bright star in the Bull's eye became alpha Tauri (and the brightest star in the Centaur became our familiar Alpha Centauri.) These letters were placed on the charts themselves, and also in a table that accompanied each chart. Bayer's charts are rarely offered separately on the market.

Text

This volume includes the extremely rare 1640 text to accompany the 1639 plate volume. We record one example having come to auction in the last 50 years, at Sotheby's in 2004 (sold for £1,440): "We have traced only one other copy, in the Royal Library in Stockholm."

This is particularly desirable as Bayer's atlas almost always appears without accompanying text.

The text has early marginal ink annotations in Latin.

Provenance

Ex-libris of Philip M. Chancellor, with the coat of arms and motto of the Chancellor family.

Bayer's Uranomatria

Bayer's Uranometria is one of the most important celestial atlases of the 17th century and the first modern star atlas. The atlas contained fifty-one star-charts, including forty-eight charts of the Ptolemaic constellations and two charts of the hemispheres. Bayer's constellation figures are based on the work of Jacobo de Gheyn. 

The work was important for a number of reasons. Bayer introduced a new system of stellar nomenclature which used Greek and Roman letters to denote relative brightness in each constellation. In this system, the brightest stars were denoted with greek letters, and the dimmest stars given Roman lettering. The resulting names persist to the present day (replacing Piccolomini's 1540 naming convention) and were of great help in standardizing the practice of astronomy. These letters were placed on the charts themselves, and also in a table that accompanied each chart. To provide an example of the system at work, the name of the brightest star in the constellation Taurus is now known as Alpha Tauri, with the second brightest star being Beta Tauri, and so forth.  Further innovations in this work include each plate having a carefully engraved grid, so that star positions can be read off to fractions of a degree. These positions were taken from the catalog of Tycho Brahe's circulated manuscript prior to its 1602 publication. The Uranometria was also the first atlas to represent the stars of the southern latitudes as discovered to Europeans during Houtman's voyage to the East Indies in 1595.

Bayer's charts would be recognized as one of the four great celestial atlases. Almost all later atlases, including Bevis's, would be based heavily on his work. In addition, some scholars believe that the Uranometria influenced the works of scientists like Schiller and Kepler. In all, these are scientifically important and artistically stunning works, Bayer's charts are rarely offered separately on the market.

Condition Description
Large Octavo. Full 17th- or 18th-century vellum. Engraved title dated 1639, 51 engraved plates. Text collates as A4-I4, K4, L4-N4, O2.
Reference
See Norman 142; Deborah Warner, The sky explored: celestial cartography 1500-1800 pp. 18-19; Zinner 3951.