Astronomical Diagram after John Senex
Venice: First Half 18th C.

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Astronomical diagram
Detail Cartouche
William Whiston (1667-1752) (author)
John Senex (1678-1740) (after)
Rappresentazione del Sistema Solare colle Orbite de' Planeti
[Representation of the Solar System with the Orbits of the Planet]

Venice: First Half 18th Century
Hand-colored engraving
24 x 27.75 inches, platemark
25.75 x 29.5 inches, overall
37 x 33 inches, framed
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Chart of the solar system showing the orbits of planets and paths of comets, apparently an Italian version of a chart with the same title originally authored by astronomer and Cambridge University professor William Whiston and published by John Senex in London in 1712. The broadside displays the latest discoveries and theories of planetary revolution based on the works of the great English astronomers Sir Isaac Newton, his successor at Trinity College in Cambridge, William Whiston, and Dr. Edmund Halley (1656-1742). Decorations include renditions of the known planets to demonstrate the differences in size, a map of the moon, a cartouche flanked by allegorical figures, a coat of arms, and a diagram of solar eclipses.

The chart is based on the first of at least a dozen astronomical broadsides Senex produced during his publishing career, which reached a lay public eager for the latest information about comets and eclipses, translated into visual terms they could understand. The original London version of this particular chart remained popular in Britain for years, and was reprinted by Senex himself, and as late as c. 1760 by his successors, who purchased the plates after his death. Judging by this Italian example, publishers in other European nations produced their own versions in other languages, changing some of the decorative elements, a common practice in the 18th century.

This Italian version of the chart is dedicated to Field Marshal Johann Matthias Graf von der Schulenberg (1661-1747), a retired professional soldier hired by the Venetians in 1715 to command their military forces. He earned their enduring gratitude for his leadership in the defense of Corfu against the Turks. He is also known for amassing a large art collection in the last 23 years of his life that eventually numbered over 900 objects.

John Senex was a map and atlas maker, engraver, and publisher. He was also the father of British globe making. According to Dekker, he "stood at the beginning of a new branch of globe producers in Britain” in the early 18th century (Dekker & van der Krogt, p. 112). Senex produced pocket globes and larger globes in collaboration with Charles Price (fl. 1697-1733) from 1706 to 1710, and thereafter under his own name until his death in 1740.

Full title: Rappresentazione del Sistema Solare colle Orbite de’ Planeti, e delle comete spettanti ad essa Descritta da Guglielmo Whiston sopra l’esatta tavola delle comete del Dr Halley o nelle Trans Filosof No. 297 fondata su le mirabili scoperte del Sr. Cav’r Newton.

The title is an Italian translation of the following title, found on a similar plate originally published by the British mapmaker John Senex in 1712: A Scheme of the Solar System with the Orbits of the Planets and Comets belonging thereto, Describ’d from Dr. Halley’s accurate Table of Comets Philosoph Transact No. 297. Founded on Sr. Isaac Newton’s wonderful discoveries by Wm. Whiston M.A.

Dedication on cartouche: A Sua Eccellenz A Mattia Gio[vanni] Conte del S.R.I di Schulemburg Feld Marescial, e Generale in Capite della Serensissima Republica di Venezia Cavalier dell’ Aquila Nera di S.M. Prussiana. [To His Excellency Johann Matthias, Count of the S.R.I. of Field Marshall Schulemburg, and General in the Charge of the Very Serene Republic of Venice, Knight of the Black Eagle of S.M. Prussia.]