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Map, Celestial, Constellation, Orion, Uranometria, Antique Print, Bayer, 17th Century


Johann Bayer (1572-1625) (editor)
Alexander Mair (c. 1559-1616) engraver
Constellation Orion
from Uranometria
Christoph Mang et al., Ulm, Germany: 17th Century
Hand-colored engraving
18.5 x 14.5 inches, overall

A celestial chart of the constellation Orion, from the celebrated Bayer atlas Uranometria. Orion is shown as a mythological figure in the classical taste. The stars are shown in different sizes to indicate magnitude and are located against a grid to accurately show their positions. Many of the stars are labeled with Greek and Latin letters. The blue area with irregular rounded edges that crosses Orion’s arm represents the Milky Way.

According to Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, a classic reference on Greek myths, Orion was a mighty hunter, who fell in love with the daughter of the King of Chios and received the king’s permission to marry her, but angered the king by his subsequent bad behavior. This set in motion a series of events that led to his being killed by one of the gods or goddesses — Artemis, Aurora, or Apollo, depending on variant accounts of the story — and being placed in the heavens as a constellation. He is illustrated — as shown in this celestial chart —  holding a club and a lion’s skin, and wearing a sword tucked in his belt.

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 of Orion 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, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified with only light remaining toning, wear, handling. Vertical center fold, as issued.


Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Mentor Books, 1942, 43rd printing. p. 297.

Additional information


17th Century