Johann Elert Bode, Pl. 17 Cetus or Monstrum Marinum (Sea Monster) Uranographia sive astrorum descriptivo..., 1797–1801, uncolored engraving

$4,500 this week only (list price $8,500). Offer expires 2-5-2017

Laura Oppenheimer


Johann Elert Bode, Pl. 17 Cetus or Monstrum Marinum (Sea Monster), Uranographia sive astrorum descritivo..., 1797–1801, uncolored engraving

Enjoy significant savings on Plate 17 Cetus or Monstrum Marinum (Sea Monster), a remarkable 1801 celestial map from Johann Elert Bode’s, Uranographia, sive astrorum descriptio viginti tabulis aenis incisa ex ex recentimmis et absolotissimis astronomorum observationibus. (Uranographia, or the stellar description of the twenty panels with brass engravings from recent astronomers observations), published in Berlin, 1797–1801.

This fascinating and beautiful work is both a romantic and scientific rendering of the constellations. Bode’s celestial charts encompass the knowledge of astronomers from the time of Ptolemy to the dawn of the nineteenth century. The engraved plates are accompanied by a catalogue, Allgemeine Beschreibung und Nachweisung der Gestirne nebst Verzeichnis der geraden Aufsteigung und der Abweichung von 17240 Sternen. (The constellations of the stars as well as the list of straight ascension and the deviation of 17,240 stars), also published in Berlin, which lists 17,240 stars, more than any other star atlas.

In the catalog’s preface, Bode provides an overview of his celestial maps and their use, and presents the subject in the larger context of a sacred contemplation of wonders, (translated below from German).

“This work, which contains principally a complete catalog of the place occupied by all the fixed stars; double, nebulae, and clusters, which are indicated in my Uranography or Atlas of the Celestial Maps in 20 sheets of the greatest form, is of an indispensable necessity for every astronomer, and may become very useful to lovers of high astronomy. It appears here, working with the greatest economy, on 24 sheets, after having cost me five years, and a lot of time and trouble. The whole reflection of the work is sacred to the friends of heaven, who consecrate their leisure to the contemplation of its wonders. I suppose that besides the possession of Uranography, they desire to be instructed in several points relating to the explanation and use of celestial maps, and to learn to know from these maps the stars In the order of their different constellations.”

In the accompanying catalog, Bode also provides descriptions for the main constellations found in the plates. Here is a translation of his entry for the primary constellation in Plate 17, Cetus, one of the largest constellations, and one of the 48 classical constellations cited by Ptolemy.  

The Whale (Cetus).

This marine monster occupies a large space beneath the fishes (Pisces) and the ram (Aries), towards the south and to the east of the constellation Aquarius. The poets say that Neptune sent this monster to the shore to punish Cassiopee by devouring his daughter Andromeda. Percee killed the sea monster and fled the princess, Neptune placed the monster among the constellations. Immediately below the glistening Menkar belt, of the second size, placed on the mouth of the whale, two other stars of the third magnitude form a triangle with the latter, and towards the south-west is the star Mira placed at the neck, and so remarkable for its various phases. Farther to the south-east is a star of the second size at the tail of the whale, it is Deneb-Kaltos. Between this and the preceding are stars of the third and fourth magnitude situated on the belly of the whale. Between these we distinguish principally towards Southeast of the stars of the fourth and fifth magnitude, arranged in four, and placed on the anterior legs.

The constellation Eridan, is also described (here translated from Bode’s text in the accompanying catalog).

“...It is also called the river of Orion. According to some Poets, this was placed among the constellations in memory of the catastrophe of Phaeton, the son of Apollo, who was precipitated there. According to others this river represents the Nile, which the Egyptians had placed in the firmament in recognition of the second that their country owes to its annual floods.Others claim that this river represents the modern Po in Italy. The Eridian occupies a considerable place in Orion, the hare and the broom. We distinguish this constellation by a star of the second magnitude, and by several others of the third and fourth. To the south-east and south of the whale, it descends below our horizon, and presents its extremity, the Acharnar star of the first magnitude.”

Bode introduced some constellations, named to honor recent scientific achievements, that did not stand the test of time, including Machina Electrica (The Electric Generator), figured in this plate. Bode intended Uranographia to be as complete as possible and his celestial charts are a magnificent tribute to science and art on the eve of the nineteenth century.

Bode celestial maps are double-elephant size: 38.75 x 26.25  inches.

 $4,500 this week only (list price $8,500). Offer expires 2-5-17.

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Published in Berlin by Berolini  in five parts from 1797 to 1801, Bode’s monumental work, Uranographia site Astrorum Descriptio… is the largest celestial star map ever produced and the last of the great star atlases of the Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas. The work of thirty astronomers of the preceding 200 years, including Lacaille, Lalande, Messier, and William Herschel is synthesized in this atlas, and over 100 constellations and asterisms are depicted, many added by Bode. In addition, it includes all stars visible to the naked eye. Some 2,500 nebulae catalogued by William Herschel late in 1700s also are shown. Bode’s accompanying catalogue,  Allgemeine Beschreibung und Nachweisung der Gestirne nebst Verzeichnis der geraden Aufsteigung und der Abweichung von 17240 Sternen. (Berlin), lists 17,240 stars, more than any other atlas. In the preface to the catalogue, here translated from the German, Bode offers this introduction to his work,

The German mathematician and astronomer Johann Elert Bode (1747– 1826), was the eldest son of nine children born to a merchant. His father educated him to follow him into his business as a merchant. During his youth, he developed an interest in mathematics, geography, and astronomy, and he built a telescope and observatory in the garret of the family’s home.

In 1765, Bode was introduced to the mathematics professor, Johann Georg Busch (1728 – 1800), who gave Bode access to his library and instruments. Bode’s first publication, on solar eclipse of August 5 1766, appeared when he was 19 years old. Bode also observed the transit of Venus June 3, 1769, and an made an independent co-discovery of the comets of 1769 and 1770. He is best known for Bode’s law (Bode, 1772), or the Titius-Bode Law, an empirical law that determines planetary distances, originally found by J.D. Titius (1729–96). IN 1787, Bode became Director of the Berlin Observatory, a post he held until1825, just one year before he died. 

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