Astronomy & Cosmology

Webb, T. W. | Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes

  • First edition, and a lovely copy, of the classic guide that served as the standard text for amateur astronomers into the 20th century.

    The Reverend Thomas William Webb (1807-1885) spent much of his career as the Curate and Vicar of Hardwick in Herefordshire. A devoted servant of his parish, he was also a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and “considered an expert in optics and other fields of science, and took a keen interest in the flora and fauna of his native Hereford” (Moore, “The Rev. Thomas William Webb”, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol. 85, pp. 426-429).

    Webb’s interest in astronomy dated to around 1825, and blossomed once he was appointed to Hardwick, where he acquired progressively larger reflectors and refractors to make a series of significant observations over the next thirty years. “Webb kept notes of his observations in four large notebooks, of which he filled four, his observations of stellar and nebulous objects alone totalling 3463. His earliest recorded manuscript observation was of Jupiter, on 1834 December 2. In the latter years of his life he worked on the observation of red stars for Birmingham’s catalogue and discovered a considerable number of new ones, including the detection of the variability of S Orionis, on Christmas Day 1869” (Moore).

    Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes was written to fill the need for a concise guide for amateurs, after Admiral William Henry Smyth’s Cycle of Celestial Objects (1844) had become outdated and gone out of print. “It is indeed not wholly correct to speak of Webb's “Celestial Objects” as an abridgement of Smyth's older, larger, and more expensive volume. It was this; but it was also a good deal more, for whilst it offered to the possessors of small telescopes convenient lists of objects deserving of their attention, it also supplied an enormous amount of original information connected with the sun, moon, and planets, and the use of telescopes. This information... represented the personal experience of an intensely industrious and persevering man working under great difficulties through lack of instrumental means” (Chambers, “The Rev. T. W. Webb”, Nature, vol. 32, no. 130, 1885).

  • London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1859.

    Octavo. Original reddish-brown bead-grain cloth, titles to spine gilt, boards elaborately blocked in blind, dark red coated endpapers. Westleys & Co. binder’s ticket to the rear pastedown. Bookseller’s ticket of J. C. Hotten of Piccadilly to front pastedown. Engraved folding map frontispiece of the Moon. One gathering of the introduction and contents unopened. The cloth is fresh with just a little rubbing at the extremities and some small, faint marks. Two small abrasions to the front endpapers where they were adhered, a few very light spots to the preliminary matter and occasionally to the contents. An excellent copy.