New York, East
20 March 2001
BAYER, Johann (1572-1625). Uranometria, omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aeris laminis expressa. Augsburg: Christoph Mang, 1603. 2o (34o x 226 mm). Engraved title and 51 double-page engraved star maps by Alexander Mair, letterpress descriptive text printed on rectos/versos of the maps, printer's woodcut device on colophon page, woodcut headpieces, initials and tailpiece. (Engraved title with 19th-century library stamp in lower margin, faint dampstain in lower right corner throughout only becoming obtrusive and affecting images lightly and weakening the paper in the lower corner from Kk onwards, few short edge tears). Later calf with with modern buckram spine and corners.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST ACCURATE STAR ATLAS. Earlier star catalogues followed Ptolemy's Almagest in using verbal descriptions to describe the location of stars, an awkward system that occasioned constant errors and misapprehensions. Bayer, a lawyer and amateur astronomer, was the first to identify the location of stars within a constellation by the use of Greek letters. This simple innovation greatly facilitated the identification of stars with the naked eye, just five or six years before the invention of the telescope, and Bayer's stellar nomenclature is still in use today. Bayer used Brahe's recent observations for the northern sky, and included, in chart 49, twelve new southern constellations observed by the Dutch navigator Pieter Dirckzoon Keyzer and reported by Pedro de Medina.
Deborah Warner, The sky explored: celestial cartography 1500-1800 pp. 18-19; Zinner 3951; Norman 142.
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