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Astronomy, Planisphere, Barritt-Serviss, New York, Revolving Disk on Card, Antique, c. 1930


Leon Barritt and Garrett Putnam Serviss (1851-1929)
Star and Planet Finder — Northern Hemisphere
The Barritt-Serviss Company, New York: c. 1930s
Paper and cardboard device with cardboard box and printed manual
15 x 15 x .5 inches, overall

Barritt-Serviss square cardboard planisphere with the original box, manual and planet disks. A planisphere is a portable device that shows the stars and constellations visible in the night sky at any given date and time, generally for a particular locale. It consists of an outer rotating card with cutouts set against an inner hemispheric celestial map. The disk is rotated to match up the hour and minute of the day and compass points to printed data of day and month on the edge of the inner map, revealing the visible constellations within the cutout area. The disk is sometimes referred to by the antiquated word volvelle, used to describe rotating disks on various calculating devices.

Product Description Continued Below.


This particular planisphere has an applied paper cover and central volvelle of constellations (stars connected by straight lines) on a black sky background. A slogan printed on the front calls it “The Heavens Without a Telescope. The Only Practical Stars, Planet, and Sun and Moon Map.” Aside from star finding, there are instructions in the accompanying Planet Tables manual for using the ecliptic printed in red on the star map to determine the sun’s daily position, phases of the moon and positions of the planets, which can be marked using the enclosed disks labeled with their names. The device was patented October 2, 1906, but this is a 1930s edition: the Planet Tables manual is a Tenth Edition, and contains the tables for 1930 through 1937. Instructions are printed on the dial:

“Revolve the map until the day of the month desired stands opposite the hour of the day you wish, and that portion of the map showing within the opening below, will present the stars and planets in view at that hour. Hold the map over your head – the top north, and you will see the stars just as they appear in the heavens.”

This Star and Planet Finder was designed by Leon Barritt, who served as publisher and editor of The Monthly Evening Sky Map, a journal for amateur astronomers that he founded in 1905 and which continued publication for decades, and by Garrett Putnam Serviss, a noted astronomer and writer of popular astronomy books and science fiction. The label of the seller, E.B. Meyrowitz, Optician, is glued to the top of the box, listing locations in New York, Brooklyn and other cities.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Slight warping to boards. Metal nail heads a bit oxidized and tarnished. Box toned, worn, slightly soiled, warped; sides of box top torn at some of the corners. Nonetheless, an extremely rare item with its original box, instructions, and planets.


Barritt, Maria. Barritt’s Revised Celestial Album. Brooklyn, New York: Celestial Map Publishing Co., 1939.

“Garrett P. Serviss.” Wikipedia. 26 April 2011. (31 May 2011).

Additional information


20th Century