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Map, Celestial, Constellation, Delphinus, Dolphin, Uranometria, Antique Print, Bayer, 17th Century


Johann Bayer (1572-1625) (editor)
Alexander Mair (c. 1559-1616) engraver
Delphinus Constellation
from Uranometria
Christoph Mang et al., Ulm, Germany: 17th Century
Hand-colored engraving
12.5 x 15.25 inches, overall

A celestial chart of the constellation Delphinus, from the celebrated Bayer atlas Uranometria. Delphinus is Latin for “dolphin.” The relatively small constellation is located in the Northern celestial hemisphere near the celestial equator between Pegasus and Aquila. The stars are shown in different sizes to indicate magnitude and are highlighted in gold. Some are labeled with Greek letters. They are located against the vertical longitude lines to show their positions in relation to the celestial sphere, with the Milky Way indicated by a white band with wavy edges crossing the upper right portion of the print. This particular example of the print is colored in opaque gouache. The dolphin’s form follows the conventions of the Classical era, depicting it as having fins and scales and a fishlike face instead of the features of actual dolphins.

Delphinus is one of Ptolemy’s original 48 constellations. Like many constellations whose names come from antiquity, it is associated a story from Greek mythology. In one of these stories, Delphinus was placed in the sky by the Olympian sea god Poseidon as a reward for finding the sea goddess Amphitrite, who he then married.

Product description continues below.


Johann Bayer was a German lawyer, best known as the celestial cartographer who created Uranometria, which was published in Ulm, Germany, in 1603. It is one of the first great comprehensive celestial atlases, showing both northern and southern celestial skies. Its name is derived from Urania, the muse of astronomy of ancient mythology. Uranometria contained 51 star charts comprised of 48 ones of the Ptolemaic constellations, with another chart introducing 12 newly named constellations of the southern sky and with two additional planispheres — one of the northern hemisphere and one of the southern hemisphere. The charts depict the constellations according to classical mythology in a late Renaissance or early Baroque style. The charts combine these graphic traditional concepts of the constellations with scientific accuracy showing the stars to various magnitudes of brightness within a grid for precisely determining the position of each star shown.

For Uranometria, Bayer derived the star positions from the then recently expanded star catalog of the renowned astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), which had been available in manuscript since 1598. Brahe’s work could also be observed on the early Dutch celestial globes of Petrus Plancius, Jodocus Hondius, and Willem Blaeu. The use of Brahe’s star observations enabled greater accuracy than that of preceding star atlases. Nonetheless, one unusual aspect of this atlas is that many of the constellations depicted as mythological persons or gods were engraved as seen from behind whereas they had traditionally been rendered as facing the earth.

Uranometria introduced the practice of labeling stars by Greek and Latin letters, known as Bayer star designations, a system which is still used today. In the first edition of Uranometria, a table of stars was printed on the back of each engraving. Subsequent editions published in the 17th century, including one in 1639 and another in 1661, changed this practice, instead printing the tables in a separate catalogue. The offered print  does not have text on the back; thus it is from a 17th century edition later than 1603.

Full title: Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa. [Uranometria, containing charts of all the constellations, drawn by a new method and engraved on copper plates].

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, handling, and wear. Margins slightly short, probably as issued. Vertical center fold, as issued.


Bellingham, David. An Introduction to Greek Mythology. Secaucus, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, 1989. p. 17.

Additional information


17th Century