1801 Bode Celestial Chart or Start Map of Cetus Constellation (Sea Monster) (elephant folio)

[Cetus Monstrum Marinum]

1801 Bode Celestial Chart or Start Map of Cetus Constellation (Sea Monster) (elephant folio)


The first, largest, and finest star maps of the 19th century.

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[Cetus Monstrum Marinum]
  1801 (undated)    24 x 34 in (60.96 x 86.36 cm)


A rare and extraordinary 1801 Johann Elbert Bode elephant folio celestial, constellation, or star map of Cetus (the Sea Monster) or as it is more commonly known, the Whale. Cetus was originally been associated with a whale, which would have had mythic status amongst Mesopotamian cultures. It is often now called the Whale, though it is most strongly associated with Cetus the sea-monster, who was slain by Perseus as he saved the princess Andromeda from Poseidon's wrath. Cetus is located in a region of the sky called 'The Sea' because many water-associated constellations are placed there, including Eridanus, Pisces, Piscis Austrinus, Capricornus, and Aquarius.

Considered the largest and most dramatic celestial maps of their era, possibly ever published, Bode's gigantic star charts detail thousands of stars, nebulae, and clusters. Constellations are dramatically represented in pictorial form, as was the convention of the previous century. May of the newly discovered nebulae, double stars, star and clusters recently discovered by European astronomers such as Lacaille, Lalande, Messier, and Herschel, are identified. Bode presents this map on a conic geocentric projection in which most constellations are seen from the front.

The current example is spectacularly colored with a light dusting of gold so that, from the right angle, the map has an almost imperceptible glitter. Bode's constellation maps are extremely rare with no other example currently on the market. Issued in Berlin in 1801 for publication in Johann Elert Bode's Uranographia.


Johann Elert Bode (January 19, 1747 - November 23, 1826), or Joannis Elerti Bode, was a German astronomer active in Berlin during the late 18th and early 20th centuries. Bode was born in Hamburg and exhibited an early aptitude for mathematics, which brought him to the attention of Johann Georg Busch, whose library he was given access to. His interest turned towards astronomy early on and in 1766 he published his first work, a treatise on eclipses. He later published more treatises and issued an annual periodical called Astronomisches Jahrbuch, which enjoyed a 51 year run. In 1786 he became the director of the Berlin Observatory. During his tenure in this position he calculated the trajectory of Uranus, named the planet, and discovered the Galaxy M81, more commonly known as Bode's Galaxy. Bode is best known for his popularization of Bode’s law, or the Titius-Bode rule, an empirical mathematical expression for the relative mean distances between the Sun and its planets. However, in cartographic circles is best he is more admired for his 1801 publication of the Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio, a gigantic elephant folio atlas of the stars and the climax of an epoch of artistic representation of the constellations. Bode also published a smaller star atlas, the Vorstellung der Gestirne. Bode retired from professional life in 1825 and died in Berlin on year later.


Bode, J. E., Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio, (Berlin) 1801.     Bode's Uranographia sive Astrorum Descriptio is the largest and most elaborately produced celestial atlas of its period and possibly the greatest ever issued. The Uranographia follows in the tradition of Helvius, Flamstead, and Bayer, in which constellations are represented pictorially. However, in size and scope, Bode's work far outstrips his successors and may fairly be considered "the most extensive and last great atlas of its kind" (Warner). Bode's work, however, was no mere copy of that of his predecessors. The majestic size and scope of the Bode Uranographia is a natural response to his role as a serious scientist and his intention to update the traditional celestial atlas with the most up to date astronomical discoveries. Divided into 20 plates, the atlas catalogues 17,240 stars, all of which are illustrated according to their magnitude. He noted double stars, star clusters, nebulae, including the most recent discoveries by European astronomical luminaries like Lacaille, Lalande, Messier, and Herschel. More than 100 constellations are identified, even those that never caught on and may seem quite strange to use today. As such, it is the first reasonably complete atlas depiction of the starts visible to the unaided eye. The work was issued in Berlin, Germany in 1801. There is only one edition, but there were several printings. The Uranographia was immediately recognized as a masterpiece and while issued in black and white, many examples exhibit spectacular original color, with gold foiling or even gold dusting, courtesy of enthusiastic early owner. Today all examples of Bode's work are extremely rare.


Very good. Minor wear on edges. Original platemark. Blank on verso. Some wear and creasing near original centerfold.


Kanas, N., Star Maps: History, Artistry, and Cartography, 6.5.4, pages 183-4.