Northern CircumPolar Map for each month of the Year Pl.VI. (1835)

Northern CircumPolar Map for each month of the Year Plate.VI. Atlas, Designed To Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens. Pl.VI.
W.G.Evans, Engraver
hand colored engraving
Professionally conserved
professionally cleaned, very good condition, some toning to paper, good color throughout
14.125 × 16 inches
Sale Status: 

This 1835 hand colored engraving, is Plate. VI. from Elija H. Burritt's Atlas, Designed To Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens. Elijah H. Burritt, A.M. was a Connecticut school teacher who decided that the then available school astronomy books were not adequate. He trained himself further in astronomy by traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts to use the Harvard Telescope.  His illustrated celestial Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens of 1835 and accompanied in the classroom by a published text book, the Class Book of Astronomy is in fact the second edition of his seminal 1833 work of the same title, and became the standard astronomy atlas and text book for students in the United States. The recommendations published on the back cover of the 1835 edition of Burritt's Atlas explain "This book is now used in the principal Seminaries of the United States" and is recommended by the Board of Examinations of Yale College." That a schoolmaster in a small Connecticut school established a national, educational standard for astronomy education in 1835 is remarkable as is the recognition that this level of academic study and competence in both the science and art of astronomy was expected.

All of the color engraved celestial charts present a view of the night sky from the vantage point of New England. In addition to a north and south polar views of the heavens, there are four separate views of the constellations in the New England night sky for each three-month season. Each celestial chart has a Scale of Magnitude of the stars in order to indicate the brightness of the star in the night sky when viewed by a student of the heavens.  For the student of astronomy, there is a double page, black and white engraved chart that shows the relative size of the planets in our solar system including the planet Herschel (Uranus). Finally, there is a double page, color engraved chart called a "Celestial Planisphere or Map of the Heavens" and in the 1835 New Edition "Planisphere of the Whole Heavens on Mercator's Projection."

Constellations and the planets in Burritt's charts and maps are primarily named according to Greek and Roman mythology. Certain of the constellations, such as "The American Goose" appear to be home grown. A then contemporary understanding of many of the "historic" constellation names also required a familiarity with Greek and Roman mythology. Certain "modern" constellations pertain to 18th c. scientists or their discoveries or to 18th c. history. The constellation Gloria Frederica shown in this Map is one such example and it currently not regarded by astronomical science as a constellation. This Map also shows the Mural Quadrant, an 18th c. instrument used in astronomy that is another example of a "modern" constellation. The January meteor shower called the Quadrantids is named after the constellation in this map "Mural Quadrant".

The rare 1833 first edition, of the same title, in my private collection, has seven rather than eight color engraved plates. The first edition is engraved by Ilman & Pilbrow and printed by Illman & Co. These 1833 illustrations of the constellations are actually drawn by Elijah Burritt himself ("E.H. Burritt Delt.") in a simpler and somewhat naive and American folk art style. The 1835 Atlas edition illustrations shown here are overseen by Elijah Burritt and engraved by W.G. Evans in a formal style influenced by 18th and 19th c. European examples of celestial illustrations.

Each Burritt celestial chart may be purchased individually or as a set of two or more. Please consult for photographs of each celestial chart.

Item Type Taxonomy: 
Published Location Freeform: 
New York and Hartford, Conn.