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James Middleton

A celestial atlas, containing maps of all the constellations visible in Great Britain (1842)

This first edition copy of Middleton’s atlas contains ‘maps of all the constellations visible in Great Britain : with corresponding blank maps of the stars, systematically arranged for communicating a practical knowledge of the heavens’.  Middleton was a professor of astronomy at Norwich, where he was a great believer that a knowledge of astronomy should form a prominent part of a liberal education. His atlas was primarily for the ‘learner rather than the learned’, although the author expressed the hope that it would also be of use to ‘scientific persons’.

His popular and instructive atlas beautifully illustrates the stars to be seen in different seasons, with pairs of views, one as seen on a clear night sky, and one with the usual constellations identified.  Middleton believed that a ‘knowledge of the heavens is much sooner acquired than a knowledge of the earth’:

‘… in geography we only see the names of the places on the maps, and not the places themselves ; whereas, in astronomy, we see the stars, not only upon the maps, but actually shining in the heavens, in all their beauty and splendour.