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Harmonia macrocosmica seu Atlas universalis

Although little is known about the life of Andreas Cellarius (born around 1596 in Neuhausen, Germany), his work "Atlas Coelestis, seu Harmonia Macrocosmica" is well known among collectors of celestial maps for the sumptuous Baroque style of its 29 double plates. The first 21 constitute a historical survey of cosmological theories, illustrating the motions of the sun and planets according to Ptolemy, Copernicus and Tycho Brahe. The last eight plates are celestial hemispheres and hemispheres depicting the constellations; they are the most ornate of all, and their level of artistic detail has made these plates popular among collectors of fine art.
Andreas Cekllarius worked from 1625 to 1637 as a schoolmaster in Amsterdam and later The Hague, and in 1637 he moved to Hoorn, where he was appointed to be the rector of the Latin School.

The first of a projected two-volume set (the second volume never materialized), Cellarius’ atlas had its first printing in 1660 and went through two subsequent printings in 1661 and 1666.
The Amsterdam publishers Gerard Valk and Petrus Schenk, who purchased the original copper plates plates in 1694 and produced in 1708 a new edition of the Harmonia Macrocosmica, this time without the extensive Latin text that had accompanied the original printings.

Despite its continued popularity as an art object, the Harmonia Macrocosmica was panned on its first appearance by professional astronomers (including Cellarius’ countryman and contemporary Christiaan Huygens) for its scientific inaccuracies.
But more recent commentators have taken a more conciliatory view. Van Gent quotes the Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolf, who in his 1877 book Geschichte der Astronomie suggests that, for all its failings, Cellarius’ atlas had merit by virtue of its all-encompassing scope:
For its peculiarity, the atlas by Andreas Cellarius, published in Amsterdam in 1708 under the title Harmonia macrocosmica seu Atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem et novam exhibens, deserves particular emphasis, for in it he attempts to depict not only the heavens but the entire structure of the world.
The Ptolemaic, Tychonic and Copernican systems are dealt with in 29 plates — the first is particularly detailed, with special concentration upon the theories of the Sun, the Moon, the upper and lower planets; the next two plates represent the Christian, the last six the heathen skies — naturally according to the taste of the period, so that in spite of the neatness of the drawing one can hardly see the stars for the figures.

The Harmonia Macrocosmica marks a high point in the artistic development of celestial maps, but it was based largely on existing work and contributed no new science. The perfection of the telescope would soon force artistic considerations to take a back seat to accuracy: Although the beauty of Cellarius’ atlas has rarely been surpassed, it was quickly superseded by homelier but more accurate maps. (text : Divine Sky: The Artistry of Astronomical Maps, University of Michigan)

The title page
was engraved Frederik Hendrik van den Hove (1628/29-1698). He was born in The Hague and worked in Antwerp, Amsterdam and London. As was pointed out by Ashworth (1985), Van den Hove’s design for the frontispiece of the Harmonia Macrocosmica and the choice of the depicted persons was largely based on the frontispiece of the Tabulae Motuum Coelestium Perpetuae of Philips Lansbergen (1561-1632), published in 1632 by Zacharias Roman in Middelburg (Zeeland).
The upper half represents the celestial vault with a radiant Sun, a crescent Moon, the stars and a portion of the zodiac with the signs of Virgo and Libra as observed by a pair of putti with cross staffs while another pair of putti uphold an emblem of the heliocentric world system and a banner with the book’s title.
The depicted persons in the lower half can be identified as follows: seated in the centre with an armillary sphere on her lap and a ruler, a mariner’s astrolabe and a quadrant at her feet is Urania, the muse of astronomy.
Seated on the left is the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) with a celestial globe and a pair of dividers in his right hand, and on the right the Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) with a graphometer at his feet and pointing at an armillary sphere.
Standing in the background at the left is the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (fl. A.D. 150), pointing to a passage in an opened book (the Almagest). Standing to the right of Urania in the background is the Castilian king Alfonso el Sabio (‘the Wise’, 1221-1284), holding a model of the heliocentric(!) world system in his hands – an apparent error of the engraver as this properly belongs in the hands of Copernicus.

CELLARIUS, A. / VALK,G. / SCHENK, P. - Harmonia macrocosmica seu Atlas universalis et novus, totius universi creati cosmographiam generalem et novam exhibens. Published in: Amsterdam, 1708. In attractive strong original colours. Folio (530 x 344mm). Title printed in red and black, additional engraved allegorical title by F. H. v. Hoven, and 29 double-page engraved celestial maps, all coloured in contemporary hand. In contemp. full calf binding, richly gilted.
Wide margins and dark impressions. Very good throughout.


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