Elijah Hinsdale Burritt was born in New Britain, Connecticut, to a farm family. He first studied mathematics and astronomy while training as a blacksmith, and attended Williams College for two years. As a school teacher, he recognized a need for better textbooks, and wrote his first, Logarithmick Arithmetic, in 1818. He moved to Georgia, and while working as a teacher, newspaper editor and surveyor, published a short guide to finding stars. In 1829, he returned to New England where he continued to work as an educator, eventually becoming the first principal of Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, Massachusetts. Burritt saw the need for a star guide that would be clear, accurate and easy for students (and amateur astronomers) to follow, and in 1833 published the first edition of a star atlas and accompanying textbook as Geography of the Heavens or, Familiar Instructions for Finding the Visible Stars and Constellations, Accompanied by a Celestial Atlas (the atlas was known as Atlas of the Heavens). The works were greeted with enthusiasm by teachers and the press for their affordability and lucid content, especially the third edition in 1835, which contained newly engraved maps. The maps for the 1835 edition were based on the work of British author Alexander Jamieson (which, in turn, was derivative of earlier English and European star charts). Burritt’s insight was that celestial globes were expensive and impractical for comparing with an actual night sky, and that finding stars was daunting for a beginner. His atlas emphasized the most visible stars in four maps corresponding to the skies at different seasons and two circumpolar maps. The renderings of the constellation figures were visually graphic and appealing. Burritt did not live to see the full extent of his success; in search of new opportunities he relocated to the newly independent nation of Texas in 1837, and died of yellow fever the following year. The atlas and book remained exceedingly popular with schools and the general public, and was published in various editions over the next 40 years or so.
Condition: We have various sets available from time to time. Each set we offer has been professionally restored (for marginal chips, tears, etc.), cleaned to remove staining and discoloration, deacidified and expertly re-colored by hand. Please contact us regarding currently available prints and specific condition information.
“39. Elijah Burritt: Atlas of the Heavens, New York, 1835.” Out of This World. http://www.lhl.lib.mo.us/pubserv/hos/stars/bur.htm (16 June 2003). Gagliardi, Frank. “Elijah Hinsdale Buritt.” Elihu Burritt Archives, Central Connecticut State University. http://wilson.ccsu.edu/lib/archives/burritt/burr21.html (16 June 2003).
Kidwell, Peggy Aldrich. “Elijah Burritt and the “Geography of the Heavens.'” Sky & Telescope. January 1985. pp. 26-28.