TROUVELOT, Étienne Léopold (1827-1895)
Star Cluster in Hercules. From a Study made in June 1877.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1881. Chomolithograph. Image size (including text): 22 1/2 x 27 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 27 1/2 x 35 3/4 inches.
From a magnificent series of American chromolithographs of celestial phenomena by the Audubon of the skies.
The Great Cluster of Hercules, more prosaically known as M 13, is the brightest globular cluster in the Northern Sky. Globular clusters are gravity-bound groups of stars, tens to hundreds of thousands, that orbit a galaxy, in this case our Milky Way. "A keen observer and skillful artist, Trouvelot spent several years working with the fifteen-inch refractor [telescope] at Harvard Observatory. [In all he spent fifteen years observing and drawing the heavens. In addition to Harvard, he also used the telescopes at the Washington Observatory and the University of Virginia.] The drawings he made... are still widely known. Except for Rutherford's wet-plate photographs of the sun and moon, made in 1865, Trouvelot's drawings were considered the most accurate pictures of celestial objects available until the perfection of dry-plate photography" (DSB XIII, 472). Like Audubon, Trouvelot, who was born in Aisne, France in 1827, made his name in America. He arrived in Massachusetts in 1855 and initially he worked as an artist and experimented with entomology: he was responsible for the plague of Hawk Moths in Massachusetts in the late 19th century. From 1870 he turned his attention to the skies, producing a whole series of detailed paintings of the aurora. In 1872, he was invited by Joseph Winlock, director of the Harvard College Observatory, to join the staff. During his relatively short time at Harvard, he produced the drawings that were re-produced in colour in Winlock's series of Astronomical Engravings, published in 1876. Although astro-photography was advancing rapidly, Trouvelot argued, with reason, that the ' well-trained eye alone is capable of seizing the delicate details of the structure and configuration of the heavenly bodies'. The current images certainly bear this out. They represent Trouvelot's own selection of the best from the corpus of over 7,000 drawings that he produced. In an effort to reach a wider audience, Trouvelot decided to publish the selection. With this in mind he contacted Charles Scribner's Sons, the New York publishing house, who agreed to publish the work. He personally supervised the preparation of the lithographic stones, and the set was finally published in 1882 with the accompanying book, The Trouvelot ... Manual, priced at $125 for the set. Each print bears a facsimile of Trouvelot's signature and is titled with sub-title giving the precise time and date when the original observation was made. In 1882, he left the United States, to take up a position at the Meudon Observatory, in France, where he died in 1895. His legacy is the unequalled corpus of illustrations of celestial phenomena and the present work: a fitting memorial to the greatest astronomical artist of the nineteenth century.
OCLC 39538252 and 985012; see DSB XIII, 472; Encyclopedia of Planetary Sciences, p.842. A.M. Clerke, A Popular History of Astronomy During the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1885), pp.191, 241.