These illustrations come from the book Astronomy (published 1875) by Jean Pierre Rambosson (1827-1886), the preface of which features a most gloriously aggrandising letter:
MY DEAR RAMBOSSON
I have read your work on Astronomy with much interest, and have satisfied myself that the clearness of the language has not prevented it from being scientifically exact. I have in particular noticed that you have set forth the most recent advances in Astronomy, so as to bring them within the reach of ordinary intelligence, &c.
PARIS, March 8, 1866.
BABINET, of the Institute
Rambosson was something of le grand fromage in Paris, and keen to tell his readers just that, stating that as “early as 1852 I pointed out in an influential newspaper the progress of science, and in the columns of La Science pour tous [Science for all; 1850-1900], of which I was editor-in-chief for several years, the successive discoveries of the astronomers were carefully registered. In 1865 I published an elementary treatise, which had an exceptionally large circulation, and since then, a more complete work, which was adopted by the official committee of the Ministry of Public Instruction.”
All lofty stuff from the laureate of the Académie Française & Académie des Sciencee, author or work “calculated at once to elevate the mind and develop the intelligence”. You can read the entire work at the Library of Congress.
Although, we are mainly here for the pictures, of which there are 63 wood engravings, three maps of celestial bodies and ten coloured plates.
We love old illustrations of the celestial world, some of which you can buy as fine-art prints and more in the shop.
Now we can look at videos from Mars and the moon to study celestial objects, but before that, translating the complex motion of all things into static images took imagination and skill. We’re gathering the data about the universe – more and more of it – but how to do interpret it?
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