Urania's mirror, London 1825
Ridpath is one of the most dedicated and prolific writers on
astronomy.His works all have clarity and authority.”
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.
There seems little doubt
that Urania’s Mirror was directly inspired by
Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial
Atlas published in London in
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
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
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.
Ian Ridpath per avermi concesso il permesso di pubblicare la sua
introduzione all'Urania's Mirror.
di FELICE STOPPA