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April 10, 2017

Visit to the NMM Caird Library – April 10, 2017

Louise Devoy, Megan Barford and Gareth Bellis
Report by: Mike Dryland

On Monday April 10, 2017 we had the pleasure of a visit to the NMM Caird Library to look at some of the terrific books, maps, and charts related (vaguely!) to astronomy.   Our visit was hosted by Louise Devoy (Curator of the ROG), Megan Barford (Curator of Cartography), and Gareth Bellis (Manager of the Library).

Louise began with an overview of the books chosen for display which fell into three groups –

Old favourites: Peter Apian’s “Astronomicum Caesareum” and Kepler’s Rudolphine Tables.   The Apian is always a great thrill. Dating from 1540, the Caird’s copy is pristine and blazes with colour in the intriguing ‘volvelle’ – like paper slide-rules.  Kepler was included in honour of Andy Sawer’s talk earlier in the year, and the Rudolphine Tables demonstrate the breathtaking extent of Kepler’s work and achievement.

Women authors in astronomy:  we had come across a series of very interesting women authors, all connected in some way with Greenwich and the ROG.  They range from authors of popular works and for children (Margaret Bryan ran a school in Blackheath), through substantial surveys of astronomy for the layman (Annie Maunder worked at the ROG and Agnes Clerke was offered a job but declined), to seriously heavy academic mathematical works (Mary Somerville is remembered in the name of the Oxford college).

Cooke, Troughton & Simms: Malcolm and Louise found two product catalogues from this famous firm of optics and instrument makers.

Megan introduced the selection of charts and maps which illustrated the fabulous range of the collection.  Megan’s earliest choice was from 1482 and the charts spread up to the 1820s.   Special for astronomers are the Albrecht Duerer woodcuts from 1515 – beautiful depictions of the constellations; Hevelius’s lunar atlas, the Selenographia of 1647; and Halley’s chart of magnetic variation, not astronomy but evocative evidence of the man’s abilities.

As always, we ran out of time with barely 20 minutes left to browse the display and ask questions.  Many thanks indeed to Gareth, Louise and Megan for a great afternoon.

See below for a list of the items displayed and links to more information and digital copies where available.


MAPS, CHARTS, and ATLASES ———————————-


Bartolommeo Sonnetti, Manuscript Isolario c.1485 – P/21


Cosmographia (Ulm, 1482) – PBD5109


Albrecht Durer, Imagines coeli septentrionales and Imagines coeli meridionales (1515) –


Johannes Helvelius, Selenographia (1647) – PBG2055


William Hack, A Waggoner of the South Sea (1685) – P/33


Chart of Terra Australis by M Flinders Commr. of HM Sloop Investigator 1798-1803, East Coast Sheet I. – STK262:4/7(1)


Henry Bayfield, Gulf and River of St Lawrence – PBD8170


Edmond Halley, A New and Correct Sea Chart of the World showing the variations of the compass – G201:1/1A and G201:1/1B



BOOKS ———————————————


Peter Apian “Astronomicum Caesareum” 1540


Johannes Kepler “Tabulae Rudolphinae” 1627


Margaret Bryan “A Compendius System of Astronomy, in a course of familiar lectures” 1799


Mary Somerville “On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences” 1836


Margaret Herschel “Memoirs and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel” 1876


Agnes Clerke “The System of the Stars” 1890


Agnes Giberne “Sun, Moon and Stars Astronomy for Beginners” 1893


Annie Maunder “The Heavens and their Story” 1908


Cooke, Troughton & Simms – Product Catalogues of astronomical instruments and observatory equipment 1929 & 1930,_Troughton_%26_Simms


Pictures from the event (by Mike Dryland):

Posted under: Flamsteed, History of Astronomy, Meeting Report, Society Trip