The Visible Heavens in June, May, April Pl.IV. (1835)

The Visible Heavens in June, May, April Pl.IV. (1835) Atlas, Designed to Illustrate the Geography of the Heavens, New Edition.
W.G. Evans, Engraver
hand colored engraving
Professionally conserved
dimensions: 14 1/8" x 16" condition: professionally cleaned, very good condition, some toning to paper, good impression throughout
14.125 × 16 inches
Sale Status: 
For Sale

This 1835 hand colored engraving is Pl. IV. from Elijah H. Burritt's 1835 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. Intent on writing his own astronomy school text book, Burritt trained himself further in astronomy by traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts to use the Harvard Telescope.  Burritt created the first edition of his illustrated atlas of the heavens in 1833 and is himself the artist of the naive and almost folk art images of the youthful figures representing the constellations in the seven plates of that Atlas. The 1833 first edition published by F.J. Huntington is scarce. The 1835 "New Edition" as it is described on the 1835 atlas cover, contains eight plates and new celestial information. This edition is found in institutional collections. The 1835 Atlas was accompanied by Burritt's Class Book of Astronomy.

The Visible Heavens in June, May, April (1835), Pl. IV. is engraved "under the Direction of E.H. Burritt" and stylistically shows a more formal and detailed representation of the constellations than in 1833. The 1835 edition of Pl.. IV. represents early observed constellations as Greek and Roman mythological characters and creatures, such as the Centaur.  The relative scale of each figure in Pl. IV. compares to the relative size of the constellation in the sky.  The ship Argo appears in the lower quadrant and above the Argo is a Sextant, a 17th c. constellation named for the astronomical instrument used to chart the sky. Libra is a constellation named after the Latin term for scales, shown here as just below Virgo's sandaled feet. More commonly, we see the Scales in ancient Greek art as the scales of Justice. The Hydra constellation is the largest figure in Pl. IV., drawn as a long green serpent and in fact the largest constellation in the night sky. The Owl and nearby The Crow perch on the Hydra' tail. Berenice's Hair is a "new" 16th c. constellation and according to the constellation guide consulted appeared first in star catalogues in 1602. 1/  20th century astronomy continues to use these constellation names, while adding names and features of the sky newly visible with modern telescopes and deep space viewing equipment.

Burritt's 1835 Atlas and text book became 19th c. American standard astronomy texts for students in the United States.  Recommendations published on the back cover of  Burritt's 1835 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 an 1830's schoolmaster in a small Connecticut school established a national, educational standard for astronomy education in 1835 is remarkable. The books demonstrate that even in a small rural school knowledge of astronomy was expected as was familiarity with the mythological and historical figures represented as constellations.

Burritt's 1835 celestial charts present the night sky as viewed from New England in each of the four seasons.2/ Each Burritt celestial chart has a Scale of Magnitude of the stars to indicate the brightness of each star when viewed by a student locating the constellations in the night sky.

Please consult to see images of Burritt's complete set of 19th c. celestial charts that are on offer.                                                              



2. The 1835 Atlas  includes charts for the three months of Summer, Fall, Winter and  Spring as well as the north and south polar views of the heavens. The 1835 Atlas presents a new black and white, double page Plan of the Solar System Exhibiting its Relative Magnitudes and Distances  including the planet Herschel (Uranus) "eighty times larger than the Earth. Both the 1833 and 1835 editions include a double page, color engraved chart titled a "Planisphere of the Whole Heavens on Mercator's Projection."

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Published Location Freeform: 
New York and Hartford, Conn.