New York, Park Avenue
15 - 16 June 1998
MAYER, Johann Tobias (1723-1762). Tabulae motuum solis et lunae novae et correctae... quibus accedit methodus longitudinum promota. Edited by Nevil Maskeleyne (1732-1811). London: William and John Richardson for John Nourse, John Mount and Thomas Page, 1770.
4o (267 x 217 mm). 2 parts in one, part 1 ("Methodus longitudinum promota") in Latin and English, part 2 (the letterpress tables and "Papers relative to the...tables") separately paginated, 2 folding engraved plates, contents and errata leaf at end. The errata corrected throughout the text (as often) in a contemporary hand. (Some mostly light dampstaining, marginal tears to O1 and Cc2.) Contemporary tree calf (rebacked). Provenance: Margaret Maskelyne (1786-1858), daughter of the editor (bokoplate).
FIRST EDITION. In 1752 Mayer, a cartographer and astronomer, "drew up new lunar and solar tables, in which he attained an accuracy of +_1', an achievement attributable to his skillful use of observational data, rather than to the originality of his theory or the superiority of his instruments" (DSB). He sent a copy of the tables in 1755 to the Lords Commissioner of the British Admiralty, hoping to receive the prize promised by the Act of Parliament of 12 November 1713 to anyone who could solve the age-old problem of devising a method for determining longitude at sea (see lot 629). Although he failed to win the prize, Mayer continued to improve the tables until his death in 1762, and in 1763 his widow submitted a copy of the revised tables to the Board of Longitude, who deemed the improved tables sufficiently useful to grant her a prize of 3000. The astronomer Nevil Maskelyne had used Mayer's tables successfully in 1761 on a mission to St. Helena, in order to determine the reliability of the lunar distance method for determining longitude at sea, and Maskelyne assumed the responsibility of editing the tables and supervising their publication. "They were used to compute the lunar and solar ephemerides for the early editions of the Nautical Almanac. (They were superseded a decade later by tables employing essentially the same principles, but based upon the newer and more accurate observational data that were gradually being assembled at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich)" (DSB). Sotheran I, 2934-5; Norman 1468.
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