Astronomy & Cosmology

Carrington, Richard Christopher | Observations of the Spots on the Sun

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  • First edition of Carrington’s landmark study of sunspots. Attractively bound in blue quarter morocco and uncommon in commerce, with only one copy in recent auction records (Christies 2009).

    Carrington was one of the last of the great amateur scientists, using family wealth to build his observatory at Redhill in the early 1850s. It was while construction was underway that he studied the Royal Astronomical Society’s collection of sun drawings, and was “struck by the capricious way in which the subject had been taken up, and then laid aside... Like many others, Carrington had been impressed by Schwabe's remarkable series of 9000 observations... which had revealed a regular variation in the number of spots on a cycle of ten or eleven years. Carrington determined that, alongside nocturnal observations of the circumpolar stars, he would observe the sun by day... He and [his assistant] Simmons commenced this arduous double schedule in November 1853, planning to include the complete sunspot cycle, which would commence with the minimum which was expected in 1855” (ODNB). Over seven years Carrington and Simmons observed 5,290 sunspots, and the results published here “determined the positions of the sun’s axis with unprecedented accuracy and established the important empirical laws of sunspot distribution and the variation in solar rotation as functions of the heliocentric latitude, which served to revolutionize ideas of solar physics just as effectively as the results of spectrum analysis” (Norman Library of Science and Medicine 407).

  • ...from November 9, 1853, to March 24, 1861, made at Redhill. Illustrated by 166 Plates. London & Edinburgh: Williams & Norgate, 1863.

    Quarto (380 x 239 mm). Late 19th or early-20th century blue quarter morocco, double rules along raised bands and floral roll to the ends of the spine gilt, blue cloth sides, edges of text block marbled. 167 lithographic plates (numbered to 166, with 102A and 102B), which which 3 are folding. Endpapers renewed. Blind stamp of the Wigan free public library to the title, with inked and pencilled numbers to the verso. Corners of boards worn, minor crease and a couple of short closed tears affecting the margin of the front endpapers, the title, and leaf B1, occasional light spots to contents. Very good condition.