This rare first edition work with 57 engravings is Johannes Hevelius’s Prodromus Astronomiae, exhibens fundamenta, quae tam ad novum plane & correctiorem stellarum fixarum catalogum construendum. The work was published in Danzig in 1690 by Johann Zacharias Stoll. The maps were drawn by Andreas Stech and engraved by Charles de la Haye and believed in part to be done by Hevelius as well.
It features a double page engraved frontispiece of an Observatory with a scene of Hevelius and other astronomers meeting including Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, Riccioli, and others. It includes general half and full title page, engraved portrait of Hevelius, and full text. Engraved headpiece and initial, woodcut headpieces, tailpiece and initials, bound without the engraved title to the Firmamentum. It has 2 double-page oversized engravings of planispheres, and 54 double-page engravings of the constellations. It is bound in contemporary polished calf gilt, rebacked, replacing the original decorated spine, with gilt swirls and arabesque designs.
Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) was a Polish-Lithuanian astronomer. He gained the epithet “the founder of lunar topography.” He built an observatory named Sternenburg featuring a large Keplerian telescope. He received patronage from four Polish kings. This work was published poshumously by his widow, Elisabeth (considered the first female astronomer), and includes an introduction from her. The Prodromus astronomiae manuscript was one of the few items saved from the 1679 fire at Hevelius’s home observatory.
Warner describes Hevelius as An outstanding astronomical observer whose private observatory in Danzig (Gdansk) was for many years the best in Europe… (Warner, The Sky Explored) Hevelius introduced eleven stars including Scutum Sobiescianum (The Shield of Sobieski), the Lynx, and the Sextans (named after the tool he designed).
Prodromus astronomiae “is by far the most widely known of [Hevelius’s] compendia of observations. … It is a catalogue of 1,564 stars arranged alphabetically under constellation names and by stellar magnitude within constellations. Latitude, longitude, right ascension, and declination are given. … Hevelius named eleven new constellations formed of stars not included in earlier groupings; seven of these names are still used.” (DSB)
The star atlas is unique in that it was done by a working astronomer and thus depicted “the constellations as they would appear on a globe, that is, from the outside looking in, rather than from a geocentric point of view, as Bayer and most others adopted.” (Linda Hall) His observations were adapted by his contemporary globemakers including Eimmart, Gerhard, and Valck.