Complete Set of Bevis Star Charts of the Signs of the Zodiac in Early Color
Quite possibly the only surviving separately published set of 12 star charts of the signs of the Zodiac, published by John Bevis.
These extremely charts were compiled by Bevis, an eighteenth century physician-turned astronomer, whose other claim to fame is as the discoverer of the Crab Nebula,
The present set is believed to be the only known separately issued complete set, according to Kevin Kilburn of the Royal Astronomical Society (London). Beviss complete work is extremely rare. Plates were also sold individually, this being perhaps the largest known collection of the separate plates in private hands.
Historians of astronomy name four great celestial atlases: Bayer s, Hevelius s, Flamsteed s, and Bode s. To this, they add one great work that could have been: Beviss Uranographia.
John Bevis was an Oxford trained physician and amateur astronomer, who is perhaps best known for his discovery of the Crab Nebula in 1731, 27 years before Charles Messiers re-discovery. Bevis set up a private observatory in North London in 1738, where he made observations, which led to his attempt to create the second British Celestial Atlas. In the mid 18th Century, Bevis produced his Uranographia Britannica, which was the first major celestial atlas published after the posthumous publication of the Atlas of John Flamsteed, Englands first Royal Astronomer.
Although many astronomers praised the Flamsteed atlas for its accuracy, others were unhappy with the unwieldy size and inelegant plates. This dissatisfaction resulted in John Beviss decision to base his work on Bayers Uranometria, rather than Flamsteeds work. Bevis succeeded in having the plates engraved for his atlas with the assistance of publisher John Neale, but Neales bankruptcy prevented publication of the Atlas, although a star catalog was printed.
Careful cross-referencing of the dedications on each work allows the date for the creation of the plates to be constrained to between 1747-1749. By comparing the titles suggested in the work to Royal Society and clergy records, upper and lower bounds of the date of creation can be made.
When one compares the Bevis atlas to Bayers Uranometria, it is apparent that Bevis followed the plan of the Bayer atlas exactly. There are the same number of plates, of the same size, and each covers the same area of the sky. The constellation figures are also stylistically identical. But the two are not the same. Bevis has more stars, and more accurate positions for those stars. He also took pains to include the many new or variable stars that had been recently discovered, as well as the nebulous objects. There are in fact nine Messier objects on the Bevis charts (including M1, which Bevis discovered), and five of them had never before appeared in a star atlas.
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