In order to teach identification of constellations in the night sky, holes of various sizes are punched in the center of each star, backed by tissue paper (as issued) so that when held to a light source such as a lantern, the card approximates the appearance of the constellation. The stars of highest magnitude appear larger and brighter — as they do in the sky — through the larger holes. The star cards could also be used outdoors as a reference, as long as a light source was available.
The complete set is known as Urania’s Mirror and depicts the constellations that can be viewed in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly from London. According to the accompanying guide book by Jehoshapat Aspin, they were created by “a young Lady,” to make the study of astronomy “familiar and amusing.” The anonymous young woman probably suggested the idea, which was then executed by skilled professionals. Although uncredited on the card set itself, according to an 1874 account by the British biographer Samuel Redgrave, the set was designed by John Heaviside Clark, who also designed other educational novelties for Samuel Leigh, the publisher of Urania’s Mirror. The engraver credited on the cards, Sidney Hall, was a well-known map engraver. The card set and Aspin’s book both proved popular and were republished in subsequent editions.
John Heaviside Clark was a British painter of maritime subjects and landscapes, a draftsman, and an aquatint engraver. Born in Scotland, he worked in London for 30 years beginning in 1802, and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1812 and 1832. He then worked in Edinburgh, where he remained for the rest of his life. Clark’s sketches made on site directly after the Battle of Waterloo earned him the nickname “Waterloo Clark.” He frequently collaborated with the aquatint engraver Matthew Dubourg and often worked for the London publishers Edward Orme and Thomas McLean. Clark authored and illustrated instructional works on landscape painting in watercolor in 1807 and 1827, aimed at amateur artists seeking to create mementos of their travels. During the 1820s, he also designed entertaining novelties published by Samuel Leigh: the miniature Portable Diorama; two myrioramas, boxed sets of cards each printed with part of a landscape that could arranged in any order to form a continuous panorama; and, according to Redgrave, the celestial card set Urania’s Mirror.
Sidney Hall was a British map engraver and cartographer. In the early 19th century he made the engravings for popular atlases of the United Kingdom and the ancient world, and for a number of international atlases. He also made the engravings of constellations for the celestial card set Urania’s Mirror (c. 1824).
Condition: Cards generally very good, the colors bright, noting the usual light toning, wear and soiling.
Aspin, Jehoshapat. A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy, Explaining the General Phenomena of The Celestial Bodies; with Numerous Graphic Illustrations. Written Expressly to Accompany Urania’s Mirror, or A View of the Heavens; Consisting of Thirty-Two Cards, on which are Represented all the Constellations Visible in Great Britain; on a Plan Perfectly Original, Designed by a Lady. 2nd ed. London: Samuel Leigh, 1825.
Huhtamo, Erkki. “Peristrephic pleasures: on the origins of the moving panorama.” in Fullerton, John and Jan Olsson, eds. Allegories of Communication: Intermedial Concerns from Cinema to the Digital. Indiana University Press, 2004. pp. 216 and 236 (Clark). Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=ABf4XCG4Hz0C&pg=PA236 (3 July 2014).
“John Heaviside Clark.” British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?people=129162&peoA=129162-2-60 (3 July 2014).
Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. p. 81 (Clark).
Ridpath, Ian. “Urania’s Mirror.” Ian Ridpath. http://www.ianridpath.com/atlases/urania.htm (25 August 2014).
“Sidney Hall.” Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. 2012. http://brbl-dl.library.yale.edu/vufind/Author?author=Hall%2C+Sidney (25 August 2014).