Illustrated Star Maps

Celestial maps give viewers an almost god-like view of the stars, and let people view the earth as if they were in the heavens. They became fashionable during the 17th century, and artistic celestial pictorial maps (rather than simple astronomer’s charts) were a must-have item among the wealthy of that time.
Andreas Cellarius designed an ornate celestial map in 1660, for publication in the Harmonia Cosmographica, his grand “atlas of the stars”. He included 29 star maps in the Harmonia Cosmographica, but the copper plate titled “Hemisphaerii Borealis Coeli et Terrae Sphaerica Scenographia” is perhaps the most worthy of note.
In the plate, the earth is positioned at the centre of the universe. The sun, stars, and other planets orbited around the earth. This earth-centric positioning was a major part of religious belief during the 17th century, and was generally accepted as being a fact.
The copper plate shows the constellations of the northern hemisphere, as listed in the 2nd century by Ptolemy. The stars are mounted on a crystal sphere which covers the earth. The illustrations are carefully done, with fine line drawings and lots of subtle shading and colour. The writing on the map may look strange to modern-day readers, the lettering, and type-setting of an old-english style.
The atlas itself was a labour of love for Andreas Cellarius, and the illustrations that he chose went beyond simple geography and science. Cellarius included astronomy, myths, and religious belief in his creation. His intention was not simply to chart the universe, but also to define earth’s place within that universe. Many of the traditional stories that explain the constellations, such as the story of Calisto and Zeus, make an appearance in this map.
Surrounding the map are a number of people, including young children, observing the heavens, studying books, and making careful calculations.

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