Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Celestial engravings by Bayer and Cellarius
Arader Galleries has a wonderful selection of historically significant Celestial prints. Two prominent artists that we have in our collection are Johann Bayer (1572-1625) and Andreas Cellarius (1595-1665). We are pleased to present original hand-colored copperplate engravings from Johann Bayer’s Uranometria. This first edition was published in Augsburg, Germany in 1603 by Christopher Mangus and only 200 were printed. It contained 51 star charts and was the first atlas to map the entire celestial sphere. The Uranometria charted 12 new constellations in the Southern sky in addition to the existing 48 that were charted by Ptolemy. It was one of the most memorable 17th century guides and was named in honor of Urania, the muse of astronomy. The Uranometria was first atlas to identify astral magnitude (the brightness of stars) with a lettering system. We still use this system today for visible stars. (Greek characters represented brighter stars, Roman characters represented fainter stars).
Bayer was a lawyer by trade and only an amateur astronomer. By publishing his atlas Bayer may have had an ulterior motive; he dedicated the atlas to the city council and prominent citizens of Augsburg who rewarded him with an honorarium and a seat on the city council as legal adviser. This atlas was created about 50 years after the "Peace of Augsburg," a treaty signed between Charles V, the holy roman emperor, and an alliance of Lutheran princes to end the struggle between the two groups. Bayer died near the beginning of the 30 years war in Germany .
Andreas Cellarius, first released the Harmonia Macrocosmica in 1660 in Amsterdam , with a reprint in 1661. A post-humus edition was also produced in 1708 by Schenk and Valk (but without the Latin commentary). In general, the plates of the 1660/61 editions are coloured in bright tones – those of the 1708 reprint tend to be more plain in coloring. There were 29 color plates and the atlas was published by Johannas Janssonius as a cosmographical supplement to his Atlas Novis. Cellarius was a Dutch-German mathematician and cosmographer born in Neuhausen, Germany. At the time Harmonia was published he was also working as the rector (headmaster) of a Latin school. Cellarius started working on Harmonia shortly before 1647, and originally intended it to be a historical introduction for a two-volume treatise on cosmology but the second part was never published. In addition to their aesthetic appeal the plates represent the most sweeping and ambitious project in the history of celestial cartography. Harmonia illustrates the historical tensions of the times. It was first published in the same year that Freidrich Wilhelm “The Great Elector” gained sovernity over the Prussia, thus ending the Polish fiefdom.
The plates present the evolution of the field of astronomy from ancient times to hypotheses contemporary to Cellarius. They are executed in a distinctive visual language and portrayed the often-conflicting theories that prevailed. In addition to the relatively obscure notions of Tycho Brahe and Schiller, they also track the theories of Ptolemy and Copernicus. During the 17th and 18th century Dutch cartographers such as Cellarius reigned supreme in their field.
Images: Bayer: Cepheus. Eridanus (river) Cellarius: Typus Tuum, Opposi Ptolemaica Planetarum Eccentricos Demonstrans