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Andreas Cellarius: Coeli Stellati Christiani Haemisphaerium Prius / Posterius

Map: CELEST1331
 
Cartographer: Andreas Cellarius
Title: Coeli Stellati Christiani Haemisphaerium Prius / Posterius
Date: 1661
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 20 inches / 51 cm
Height: 16 inches / 41 cm
Map ref: CELEST1331
Description:
This splendid pair of celestial charts shows a proposed alternative set of constellations based on Biblical figures. The traditional 12 constellations of the Classical Zodiac are replaced by the 12 Apostles, while the other constellations are substituted for Christian saints or important objects mentioned in the Bible. Each constellation is labelled with both the proposed new name and its traditional name. For example, St Peter's ship replaces Ursa Major, St. Thomas replaces Leo, and Noah's Ark replaces Argo.

These Christian constellations were first proposed by the cartographer Julius Schiller in his 1627 celestial atlas Coelum stellatum Christianum. Schiller's atlas contained 49 celestial diagrams, each one using a Biblical illustration in place of the traditional constellation. Most of the illustrations employed by Cellarius in these two maps are direct copies of Schiller's illustrations, albeit reduced and simplified. Even though Schiller's proposal was never adopted by the scientific community, they were clearly influential enough to warrant inclusion in Cellarius's atlas three decades later, suggesting that there was still an ongoing debate about their use.

These two charts are not only stunning examples of some of the finest Dutch Golden Age cartography, but are also a fascinating window into what might have been if Europe had chosen to overhaul their maps of the stars in favour of an entirely new system. Instead of admiring Orion's Belt in the night sky, we might instead have been admiring St. Joseph's Belt.

Sumptuous original hand-colour with the stars highlighted in gold. [CELEST1331]