This planetarium is said to have belonged to Margaret Maskelyne, daughter of Nevil Maskelyne the 5th Astronomer Royal. It may, therefore, have been used by her and other members of the family at the Royal Observatory. It consists of a baseplate, covered with engraved paper, with a central column supporting brass arms with models of the known planets and their satellites, surmounted with a brass sphere representing the Sun. The whole supported by a single turned wooden stand.

Inscribed on the baseplate is: "A new portable orrery. Invented and made by W. Jones and sold by him in Holborn, London". In addition there are calendar and zodiac scales, a depiction of the relative sizes of the planets, including Georgium Sidus (later named Uranus) and a comet. It would have been possible to buy additional parts, providing a lunarium or telluruim to swap with the planetarium existing in this example. It is very similar to AST1056, AST1060 and AST1062.

A number of the ivory models of planetary satellites are missing, indicating that the object was once in frequent use. The inclusion of Uranus dates the object to after 1781, while the inclusion of five or six moons surrounding it (it is unclear whether or not one is missing) would suggest that it post-dated William Herschel's spurious discovery of a further four moons, after an initial two, in 1798. William Jones, the maker, died in 1831.

Object Details

ID: ZBA4664
Collection: Astronomical and navigational instruments
Type: Orrery
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Jones, William
Date made: 1798-1820; 1798-1830 1781-1791 1781-1800 1798-
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 230 mm x 270 mm x 200 mm

Your Request

If an item is shown as “offsite”, please allow eight days for your order to be processed. For further information, please contact Archive staff:

Tel: (during Library opening hours)

Click “Continue” below to continue processing your order with the Library team.