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Map, Celestial, Constellation, Lepus, Hare, Rabbit, Uranometria, Antique Print, Bayer, 17th Century

$975

Johann Bayer (1572-1625) (editor)
Alexander Mair (c. 1559-1616) engraver
Lepus Constellation
from Uranometria
Christoph Mang et al., Ulm, Germany: 17th Century
Hand-colored engraving
12.5 x 15.25 inches, overall
$975

A celestial chart of the constellation Lepus, from the celebrated Bayer atlas Uranometria. Lepus is Latin for “hare.” The constellation is located immediately below the constellation Orion and beside Canis Major. 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 a grid of black longitude and latitude lines to show their positions in relation to the celestial sphere. This particular example of the print is colored in opaque gouache.

Lepus is one of Ptolemy’s original 48 constellations, but unlike many of the others, it is not derived from Greek mythology. Bayer’s depiction shows the rabbit standing still, with its gaze fixed at a point overhead, where Orion would be if included in this chart. Lepus is often represented running away from the hunter Orion and his dogs — the neighboring constellations of Canis Major and Canis Minor.

Product description continues below.

Description

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.

Reference:

“Lepus Constellations.” Constellations: A Guide to the Night Sky. 2021. https://www.constellation-guide.com/constellation-list/lepus-constellation/ (10 May 2021).

Additional information

Century

17th Century