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Object 22

Johannes Hevelius (Jan Höwelcke)
Selenographia sive Lunae descriptio (Fig. R – Vollmond/Neumond)
Kupferstich (1647)
Royal Library of Belgium (KBR), alte und wertvolle Druckerzeugnisse
Inv. II 51.991 C

Two years after publication of the first map of the Moon, by Michel van Langren in 1645, the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius or Jan Heweliusz (1611-1687) published the first atlas dedicated entirely to the Earth's satellite. The book was called Selenographia in Latin, meaning selenography, or the study of the Moon's surface. The name refers to Selene, a Greek goddess personifying the Moon and said to be sister of Helios (the Sun god). This science began to develop in the mid-17th century: shortly after the first telescopes appeared, scientists tried to develop standards for the representation of celestial bodies. Hevelius studied the Earth's satellite for more than a decade: he produced his own observation instruments and made his own sketches and etchings for this book. The map displayed here shows the Moon between two phases (full and new): we can decipher the oceans (dark areas) and the land (light areas); the craters are particularly well emphasised. Being subject to oscillation (so-called libration), only 59% of the Moon's surface is visible from the Earth: Hevelius took this into account in this representation. The previous pages include an index of the elements in the Moon's relief (oceans, mountains, rivers, continents, valleys, etc.). At the time no standard terms were used to describe these physical characteristics. Each cartographer made his own choices: Van Langren was inspired by the names of kings and scientists, while Hevelius got his inspiration from geographical locations on the Earth. In the top-right corner, the engraver Jeremiah Falck placed two angels: they hold a banner bearing a passage from the book of Psalms. The other etchings in this book feature quotes from work by writers from Ancient Greece/Rome along with Christian texts. These passages bear witness to a humanistic vision of scientific knowledge at the time: traditional and Christian cultures are intertwined with science. Hevelius' work remains one of the most important references of his day.



Clarke
Mélusine : Contes de la pleine lune
Melisande : Verhalen bij volle maan
Sc : F.Gilson
Dupuis, 2002

 

 

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