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The 19 celestial maps from this set show the constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres (together with an image of the moon). The constellations, including zodiac signs, are illustrated in the Italianate Renaissance taste as classical mythological figures. The constellations of the southern hemisphere, which were discovered and named later, are traditionally rendered as scientific instruments and other figures.
This series reflects the interest in science, classical art and history in the Federal republic in America, and the popularization of such topics in educational publications aimed at the layperson. They are from an atlas produced by the American scientist Jacob Green, published by John Laval and Samuel Bradford in 1826.
The atlas also bears an earlier title page, dated 1824, with the name only of the original publisher, Anthony Finley "N.E. Corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets" and Clark & Raser as "Printers, 33 Carter's Alley." A dedication page dated 1824 (the year of the original issue of the atlas) thanks James Stevenson, a prominent citizen of Albany, New York, who served as mayor from 1826-1828:
"To James Stevenson, Esquire, Albany.
"It is with great pleasure that I inscribe to you this book, as a slight acknowledgement of my obligations for your numerous acts of kindness. It was under your hospitable roof that I matured the plan which is here published, and it was during our frequent evening rambles that I first experienced the want of a work which I have now endeavoured to supply. When I recollect the years passed in Albany, and recal (sic) the hours of rational pleasure and solid improvement which I there enjoyed, I feel desirous of giving my friends around you this evidence that they still live in my remembrance.
"With every sentiment of gratitude and affection, I remain
Your friend, Jacob Green
Philadelphia, Sept. 1, 1824."
Jacob Green was a Philadelphian with wide-ranging interests and accomplishments in the sciences. At an early age, he wrote a treatise on electricity which launched his reputation. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1806, he studied and practiced law for several years, but in 1818 accepted appointment to the chairs of chemistry, experimental philosophy, and natural history at Princeton University. In 1822 he became professor of chemistry at Jefferson Medical College, where he remained until his death. He was the author of three books on chemistry, as well as a two-volume set on trilobites and books on The Botany of the United States, Diseases of the Skin and Astronomical Recreations. His father, Ashbel Green, and grandfather, Jacob Green, were prominent clergymen and authors on theological topics.
Scholar Walter Ristow describes Finley as follows:
"Little is known about his background, but he was probably born around 1790. Judging from contributors to his atlases, he apparently moved in the same Philadelphia circles of engravers and compilers as other contemporary publishers. Finley also borrowed freely from European sources in compiling his atlas." (Ristow, 268) Ristow quotes the North American Review, describing in 1824 Finley's New General Atlas, issued in the same year as Finley's celestial atlas:
"[T]he number of elegant maps and atlases which have come from the press within a short time in the United States, is a most flattering proof of increased attention of the community to the important study of geography. The present work contains sixty maps, about half of which are devoted to the American continent, and the remained to other parts of the world, chiefly to Europe. The engraving is done almost uniformly with remarkable distinctness and the face of the maps is frequently beautiful, not overloaded with a confusion of useless names." (Ristow, 268-9)
Condition: Each map generally very good with the usual light toning, soiling, wear overall. Some occasional light scattered foxing.
"Jacob Green." Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography. James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds. Six volumes. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889, Stanley L. Klos, ed., 1999. Estoric.com. http://www.famousamericans.net/jacobgreen (16 December 2003).
Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "Index of Politicians: Stevenson to Steward." The Political Graveyard. 1 September 2003. http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/stevenson-steward.html (16 December 2003).
Walter W. Ristow, American Maps and Mapmakers: Commercial Cartography in the 19th Century. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1985.