J. Aspin

Samuel Leigh

Urania's mirror, London 1825





Introduzione di


Ian Ridpath


Urania’s Mirror is a boxed set of 32 constellation cards first published by Samuel Leigh of the Strand, London, in or shortly before 1825. The engraver was Sidney Hall but authorship was coyly attributed to “a lady”. Peter Hingley, librarian of the Royal Astronomical Society, has established that the true author was almost certainly the Reverend Richard Rouse Bloxam of Rugby (Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol. 104, p. 238, 1994).


There seems little doubt that Urania’s Mirror was directly inspired by Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas published in London in 1822. A comparison of the two shows that the constellation figures have been copied almost exactly from Jamieson’s atlas. Urania’s Mirror even adopted two figures newly formed by Jamieson – Noctua, the owl (Card 32, a replacement for the existing Turdus Solitarius), and Norma Nilotica (Card 26, held by Aquarius, apparently intended as a gauge to measure the annual flooding of the Nile). Perhaps the real reason the author chose to remain nameless was to avoid accusations of plagiarism.


There are two versions of the cards. In the first edition, only stars in the constellations named on each card’s heading were included. In the second edition, which apparently followed soon after the appearance of the first, stars were added in the surrounding constellations. It is the second edition that is illustrated here. One attractive feature of the cards is that they were perforated with small holes for each star, to give an impression of the constellation’s appearance when held up to the light. Doubtless many cards met an untimely end through being held too close to a candle flame.


The cards were hand-coloured in water colours. While the colourists followed a general style, presumably laid down by the publishers, every set is slightly different.


A book called A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy by Jehoshaphat Aspin was produced in 1825 specifically to accompany the cards. This book went through at least four editions, the fourth being published in 1834. The cards and book were also published in the United States and a facsimile of the American edition was produced in 2004 by Barnes & Noble. Facsimiles of the cards alone are contained in The Box of Stars published in 1993.


In all, 80 constellations are featured, not all of them still recognized by astronomers, plus two sub-constellations (Caput Medusae and Anser). The constellation names given in the captions below are as written on the cards themselves. For more about the background to these constellations, both current and obsolete, see my Star Tales pages. 


Ringrazio Ian Ridpath per avermi concesso il permesso di pubblicare la sua introduzione all'Urania's Mirror.



Consulta anche





1 e 2    3 e 4    5 e 6    7 e 8 

    9 e 10    11 e 12    13 e 14    15 e 16 

   17 e 18    19 e 20   21 e 22   23 e 24  

  25 e 26    27 e 28    29 e 30    31 e 32 



Tavole e particolari di un'altra copia dell'atlante

02 Camelopardalis

08 Lynx

15 Pegasus

17 Taurus

19 Cancer

22 Libra

28 Psalterium