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Image of chart of the night sky

Astronomical Print

  • Chart of the Heavens
  • Shewing the Stars Visible on any Night Throughout the Year
  • Published by James Reynolds & Sons, 174 Strand, London
  • 229 x 286mm (9 x 11¼in)
  • Circa 1850

James Reynolds was well known as a prolific publisher of scientific subjects, educational diagrams and all types of maps in the nineteenth century.

The main diagram illustrates the constellations and Milky Way encircled by a scale indicating months of the year. The chart has a tissue paper backing with punched holes in the card so that it could be held up to the light, the principal stars appearing as small bright dots against a dark background. The brightness of the stars as seen from the Earth are indicated by the varying size of the hole and symbols along with a numerical scale in which the lower numbers mean greater brightness.

The brief instructions for use are given at the bottom of the page:
Find the day of the Month on the outer circle and the stars in a straight line with it, and the Pole-star in the centre will be on the meridian, or south, at nine o'clock in the evening, the relative positions of the other stars and constellations may then be readily traced. Nebualae of which a few representations are here given, are considered to be siderial firmanents each as expansive as that surrounding our system, but compressed by their immeasurable remoteness into a space, which at the largest to the naked eye, a snow-flake will utterly conceal. Recent discoveries show true nebulae to differ entirely from those resolvable, and to consist of glowing gaseous matter.

Image of chart of the stars at night Accompanying the hand-tinted astronomical print is a Moveable Horizon arranged for the Chart of the Heavens; a clever device facilitating which part of the night sky will be visible at 9 o'clock in the evening on any day of the year.
Directions for use:

Find on the outer circle of the Chart the day of the month, and place this card over the Chart, with the South point of the horizon against the date; the part of the Heavens visible at 9 o'clock in the evening of that day will then be seen through the opening. To find the state of the Heavens at any other hour, place the South point 15 days westward for every hour of time earlier, and a similar distance eastward for every hour later.

The highlighted detail, in the photograph below, shows the South point placed on the first day of December.

Image of moveable horizon card in situ

The Victorian stargazers delight and fascination with celestial matters permeated all levels of society in Britain, accordingly these prints enjoyed a broad audience and played an important role in popularising astronomy.

 

 

This regular feature shows special items from members’ own collections. Submissions by email should include a scan of the item.

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