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Andreas Cellarius: Harmonia Macrocosmica

Views: 5474 Added: 07/20/2009 Updated: 07/20/2009

When you wish upon a star…. Ever wonder what they are? This question has plagued mankind through the centuries.

A relatively unknown figure, Cellarius was rector of a college in  Hoorne, in the northern Netherlands . During this time he produced what has become the penultimate seventeenth century work on the Heavens, Harmonia Macrocosmica. These exquisite maps c hart the scientific advances in astronomical information. Diagramming theories of the planets and charts of the heavens, the illustrations were spectacular examples of man’s fascination with the universe. Cellarius was able to contract one of the most prominent publishers of his time to produce the atlas, Jan Jansson.

 This is arguably the greatest age in cartography. The values of both science and art were applied to each map with discoveries heralded through the use of imagination as well as fact. The universe was seen through the eyes of three great astronomers: Ptolemy, Copernicus and Brahae. Both the medieval and renaissance churches supported the Ptolemaic theory that the earth was the center of the universe with all the heavenly bodies orbiting around it. Copernicus dared to disagree and committed heresy with his illustration of a solar system. As a measure of support, Brahae reconciled the two theories to create a terrestrial system with the remaining planets orbiting the sun and the earth. It would be over a century before one theory would be recognized as accurate.

The values of both science and art were applied to each map with discoveries heralded through the use of imagination as well as fact. Note the whimsical cherubs bearing transits and compasses as they float in the clouds above the astronomers who discuss and record studied observations. We also see that astronomy is partnered with astrology, each sharing in importance. It is a time of wonder when art and science communicate the curiosity of man. Complete with detailed text, this volume was to gain immense notoriety. The 1660 atlas was reprinted in 1661 due to its popularity. In 1708, Gerald Valk and Pieter Schenck very noticeably engraved their names onto the plates and reissued the atlas exactly as Cellarius had done forty-eight years earlier.

Reference: Maps of the Heavens. Snyder. Abbeville Press. New York , 1984.
Author:   Danielle Ann Millican
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Maps from the Atlas of Andreas Cellarius: Harmonia Macrocosmica

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