Two comets

This is one of nine wall hangings, all on astronomical themes, that were among many produced by the Working Men's Educational Union in the 1850s. They were printed lithographically on cotton, probably to avoid paper duty. The hangings would have been used in lectures, held at various locations, to illustrate the latest advances in knowledge. The Working Men's Educational Union (f. 1853) was a philanthropic society with the object of “the elevation of the working classes, as regards their physical, intellectual, moral, and religious condition”. Their chief means of achieving this was to encourage popular literary and scientific lectures “by preparing suitable Diagrams and other aids to lecturers” and to promote lending libraries and “mutual instruction classes”.

This example depicts two comets, dated 20 August and 28 August, both of which may be views of Donati's Comet of 1858, now formally designated C/1858 L1 and 1858 VI. Named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati, who first observed it on 2nd June 1858, the comet's closest approach to Earth occurred on 10th October, 1858.

Object Details

ID: ZBA4554
Collection: Textiles
Type: Wall hanging
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Working Men's Educational Union
Date made: 1850-1860; 1852 or later about 1860
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: 875 x 1190 mm

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