'Historia Coelestis', John Flamsteed's new catalogue of Fixed Stars

Edmond Halley's copy of Flamsteed's catalogue, published incomplete and against Flamsteed's wishes in 1712.

Historiae coelestis libri duo quorum prior exhibet catalogum stellarum fixarum Britannicum novum & locupletissimum una cum earundem planetarumque omnium… observante J Flamsteedio in Observatorio Regio Grenovicensi continua serie ab anno 1676 ad annum 1705 completum.

'Historiae Coelestis' by John Flamsteed. Repro ID: F4680
'Historiae Coelestis' by John Flamsteed. Repro ID: F4680
Author: John Flamsteed

Publisher: London, J Mathews 1712

Details: Edmond Halley’s copy containing his astronomical annotations

Library Ref: PBN1363

Flamsteed set about compiling a new catalogue of Fixed Stars in 1676 and the last part of his life was passed in controversy over its publication, which was still incomplete nearly 30 years later.

As its observations were urgently needed by Newton and Halley, Prince George of Denmark insisted that the catalogue, albeit unfinished, should be published and undertook the cost of publication. Four hundred incomplete observations edited by Halley were published in 1712 despite Flamsteed’s furious objections. Flamsteed later managed to burn 300 copies on a bonfire in Greenwich Park, declaring:

‘I make a sacrifice to Heavenly Truth’

The final version of the Historiae Coelestis did not appear until after Flamsteed’s death in 1725. It contains information on nearly 3000 stars and is the fundamental work of British astronomy.

Copies of the images on this page can be ordered via the Picture Library, or by contacting 020 8312 6600 / picturelibrary@rmg.co.uk. Please quote the Reference ID: F4680.

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