Set of six hand-coloured cards from the first edition of the elegant astronomical teaching set Urania’s Mirror, “one of the most charming and visually attractive of the many aids to astronomical self-instruction produced in the early nineteenth century” (Hingley, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol. 104, p. 238, 1994). Included here are Orion, Cassiopeia, Virgo, Libra, Cancer, and Cetus.
Of particular interest is the fact that this set was used, each constellation having been cut out from its rectangular card (for what purpose is unclear) and Cassiopeia was even been painted over by an amateur with a full dress to cover her nudity.
Rare full sets of Urania’s Mirror contain 32 engraved cards depicting constellations, largely those we are familiar with today, but also some which are no longer recognised. Each star is perforated so that when held up to a light source the constellation could be view as if in the night sky. First published in November 1824 in time for the Christmas shopping season, the sets could be obtained in both plain and hand-coloured versions, and were “fitted up in an elegant box” (The London Literary Gazette review, November 27, 1824). The illustrations themselves were based on those published two years before in Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas, and it has been speculated that the author, the Reverend Richard Rouse Bloxam, remained anonymous to avoid plagiarism accusations (and he may have had help from his wife, thus the attribution on the box to “a lady”). Bloxam’s identity was discovered in 1994 when Royal Astronomical Society librarian Peter Hingley discovered that the Reverend’s application to join the organisation listed Urania’s Mirror as one of his accomplishments (Hingley).
London: Samuel Leigh, November, 1824.
Set of six hand-coloured cards depicting the constellations Cancer, Virgo, Orion, Cetus, Cassiopeia, and Libra, with perforations so that the stars could be viewed by holding them up to a light source. The major constellations have been cut out along the dashed line around each. Cassiopeia has been over-painted, probably at or near the time of publication, to cover her nudity with a purple and white dress. Cancer was mis-punched during printing, resulting in additional perforations outside the constellation. Very good condition.
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