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This exceptional folio celestial engraving is from John Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis. The work was published in London by C. Nourse in 1781. This work was the most important and influential star atlas of the 18th century.
John Flamsteed (1646-1719) was the first Royal Astronomer. Flamsteed spent nearly half a century observing and recording the sky. He catalogued over 3000 stars in his life. Flamsteed also worked to correct Bayer’s represnetations of the constellation figures. However, as he did not want to release unverified data, he kept his records under seal in Greenwich.
His observations were pulled for publication in 1712 by Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley, as commissioned by the king. Flamsteed refused to publish for the king, but Newton pirated 400 publications, of which Flamsteed managed to gather 300 of these and burn them.
In 1729 his wife published his Atlas Coelestis, assisted by Joseph Crosthwait and Abraham Sharp, who were responsible for the technical side. The introduction to the atlas concludes with this fantastic passage, elucidating the motivations of his loved ones and associates in publishing the work:
“And lastly, as the principal View of the Royal Founder of the Observatory was to obtain a good Catalogue of the fixed Stars, so it must be justly acknowledged that Mr. Flamsteed has fully accomplished that great End, having left behind him one of the largest and compleatest Catalogues that ever the World was enriched with, from which these Charts, are deduced, containing almost double the Number of the Stars in that of Hevelius’s, to the Honour of the British Nation, and the last Reputation of the Author; a Work that will render his Name famous to the latest Posterity; and perpetuate his Memory ’till Time shall be no more.”