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1603 / c. 1640 Johann Beyer Celestial Chart of the Cancer Constellation

[Cancer The Crab 5]. - Main View

1603 / c. 1640 Johann Beyer Celestial Chart of the Cancer Constellation


Cancer from the most important 17th Century celestial atlas.


[Cancer The Crab 5].
  1603 (undated)     11 x 15 in (27.94 x 38.1 cm)


This is a beautiful example of Johann Bayer's celestial chart of the zodiacal constellation Cancer, in a finely colored example with gilt highlighting. It was engraved for Bayer's seminal 1603 celestial atlas, Uranometria: omnium asterismorum continens schemata, nova methodo delineata, aereis laminis expressa. As the forerunner of all later celestial atlases, the importance and relevance of this work is emphasized by its continued publication through the mid-17th century.
A Groundbreaking Atlas of the Heavens
Bayer's Uranometria was built on the work of Tycho Brahe and Alessandro Piccolomini, but he added roughly a thousand additional stars. Bayer's breakthrough was, first, to fix all these discovered stars to a reference grid, and second, to provide a systematic format for their classification. Bayer's system - still in use - is known as the Bayer Designation. Bayer assigned Greek letters to each star of a given constellation, in order of apparent size: thus, the brightest star of the Cancer constellation was classified Alpha Cancri. (The traditional name of this star, Acubens, is derived from the Arabic الزبانى‎ [al zubanāh], 'the claws.') The stars on Bayer's charts accompany each of the major stars with their Greek letters, making them easily identifiable. Beta Cancri, for example, appears as the bottom left of the crab's eight legs. (its Arabic name, Al Tarf, can be translated from the Arabic as 'end' or 'edge'.) An exoplanet, designated Beta Cancri b, is believed to be orbiting the star.
Publication History and Census
This plate was engraved by Alexander Mair for inclusion in the 1603 Augsburg edition of Johann Bayer's Uranometria. The plates were acquired in the late 1630s by Johann Görlin the Elder, an Ulm bookseller who would republish Bayer's work in two separate volumes - first in 1639, and thereafter in apparently identical editions in 1648, 1655, and 1661 - the present map is from one of the Ulm editions. The Ulm editions are distinguishable from the Augsburg by the absence of verso text on the plates, otherwise not changed. The various editions of Uranometria are well represented in institutional collections. The separate plates are ill-cataloged, with only one 1603 example of this plate listed at the National Library of Australia.


Johann Bayer (1572 - March 7, 1625) was a German lawyer and celestial cartographer. Bayer was born in Rain, Lower Bavaria. In 1592, he began studying philosophy and law at the University of Ingolstadt. Upon completing university, he began legal practice in Augsburg, becoming legal adviser to the city council in 1612. In addition to the law, he studied archaeology, mathematics, and especially astronomy. His work codifying the positions of stars and other celestial objects on the celestial sphere had remains in use today. His star atlas Uranometria Omnium Asterismorum, published in 1603 in Augsburg, was the first atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere. It drew upon the work of Tycho Brahe and Alessandro Piccolomini, but was far more encyclopedic: Bayer's catalog included a thousand more stars than its precursors. Uranometria also introduced a new system of star designation, now known as the Bayer Designation. In addition to the classical constellations of the northern hemisphere, Bayer included in his work a dozen further constellations, invented to fill the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere - which Ancient Greece and Rome had never seen. The crater Bayer on the Moon is named after him. More by this mapmaker...

Alexander Mair (1559 - 1617), also known as Mayr / Mayer, was a German engraver and painter active in Augsburg in the latter part of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth. Mair was born in Augsburg. His works include both copper engravings and woodcuts, although he is best known for copper. Among his more famous works are the frontispiece and celestial map plates for Johann Bayer's 1603 Uranometria, a portrait of Pope Leo X, vignettes such asDas Armbrustschiessen zu München 1599, the frontispiece of Marcus Welser's Dissertation sur les antiquités d'Augsbourg, and Welser's portrait. Mair is also credited with a wood-engraved map of Augsburg. He died in Augsburg in 1617. Learn More...

Johann Görlin (June 26, 1635 - February 2, 1663), also known as Gerlin, was a German printer and bookseller active in Ulm, Germany. Some suggest he is the son of a bookseller, also Johann Görlin, while others suggest he was born of a Steinenkirch pastor. He established himself with a private press on May 7, 1658, but published earlier works. He was briefly succeeded widow, who published until 1680, and by his son, also Johann Görlin. His shop printed theological and historical works for the most part, but also produced several editions of Johann Bayer's Uranometria. Learn More...


Bayer, Johann, Ioannis Bayeri Rhainani I. C. Uranometria: Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata, Nova Methodo Delineata, Aereis Laminis Expressa, (Ulm: Görlin) 1639 - 1661.    


Very good. Original centerfold visible. No verso text. Ink manuscript title in upper margin, with ink offsetting.


OCLC 435639634 (1603 printing).