BAYER, Johann (1572-1625)
Uranometria, omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa
Augsburg: C. Mangus, 1603. Folio. (14 1/8 x 10 inches). Engraved title, 3 preliminary text leaves, plus 51 double-page engraved celestial charts with text recto and verso. Printer's device on verso of final chart. Scattered early manuscript annotations.
Expertly bound to style in early mottled calf, spine with raised bands in six compartments, morocco lettering piece in the second, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt
First edition of the first accurate star atlas.
Earlier star catalogues followed Ptolemy's Almagest in using verbal descriptions to describe the location of stars within the 48 northern constellations of classical astronomy, an awkward system that occasioned constant errors and misapprehensions. Bayer, a lawyer and amateur astronomer, was the first to identify the location of stars within a constellation by the use of Greek letters (with the addition of the Latin alphabet for constellations with more than 24 stars). This simple innovation greatly facilitated the identification of stars with the naked eye, just five or six years before the invention of the telescope. Bayer's stellar nomenclature is still in use today.
Bayer used Brahe's recent observations for the northern sky, and included, in chart 49, twelve new southern constellations observed by the Dutch navigator Pieter Dirckzoon Keyzer and reported by Pedro de Medina. To simplify identification of the stars Bayer included in his typographic descriptions both the traditional star numerations within each constellation and the many names for the constellations employed since Ptolemy.
While later editions of Bayer appear with regularity on the market, the first edition of 1603 is rare. Only four examples have appeared at auction in the last twenty years, including the Richard Green, the Earls of Macclesfield and the Haskell F. Norman copies.
Deborah Warner, The sky explored: celestial cartography 1500-1800 pp. 18-19; Norman 142; Zinner 3951.