Fortin 1795 - E


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Fortin -Atlas Céleste 1795 (ga naar de Nederlandse versie)

I am the happy owner of several copper gravures with constellations from 1795. These maps, most of them hand coloured, are from the atlas of Jean Fortin (1750-1831) "Atlas Céleste de Flamstéed, publié en 1776", edited by Joseph Jérome le Français de Lalande & Pierre Mechain, third edition, Paris, Lamarch 1795.

My copy of plate 10 (with Poniatowski's Bull) was published in the June 2005 issue of the outstanding French magazine: ASTRONOMIE magazine. Plate 2 and 11 were published in the September 2006 issue and (parts of) plate 2, 5, 6 and 24 in the December 2006 of the same magazine.

I also possess some maps from the first French edition, which was published in 1776.

So this third edition is actually the second in the French language. As the name already states it is based upon Flamsteed's Atlas Coelestis. This original (first) edition was published in 1729. There are considerable differences between Flamsteed's Atlas and the two Fortin editions, but I will not discuss these here.

Images of the plates I own can be found here.

I am sure that I have the third edition and not the second edition because:

on plate 10 the constellation of 'le Taurean Royal de Poniatowski' (Taurus Poniatovii - Poniatowski's Bull) is drawn. This constellation, created  in 1777 by Abbe Poczobut from Vilnato to honour king Stanislaus Poniatowski (1677-1766) of Poland, is (obvious) not in the 1776 edition. Drawing the constellation in the 1795 Atlas let to removal of the words 'le Serpent'.


on plate 3 a unnamed constellation is drawn; a crown, a sword, a feathered pen and some laurels. Unnamed, but not unknown: it is 'Frederick's Glory'.  Flammarion writes in his 'Les Etoiles' that this constellation first was drawn by Bode in 1798, but that is incorrect. This constellation 'Frederici Honores' (or 'Honores Friderici') was created in 1787 to honour Friedrich (Frederick) II (1712-1786) of Prussia (Frederick the Great). On plate 2, where only the crown is drawn, a name is given though: Trophee.

Both constellations are no more; they went to oblivion when the IAU (International Astronomical Union) decided in 1922 to divide the heavens into the current 88 constellations.

Other differences found at plates 3 and 10 between the 1776 edition (to be found at the Linda Hall Library) and the 1795 edition after closer examination:


in 1795 the legend 'Grandeur des Etoiles'  is added. It is not on plates from  1776.


plate 3: 1776: 'le Poisson boreal' / 1795: 'les Poissons'


plate 3: 1795: By drawing 'Frederick's Glory' a mistake was corrected in the 1776 version; where a bright star 'ο' is drawn, which should not be there.


plate 3: 1795: the indication (from Bayer) 'e' is given to a star in Cassiopeia, a little above the 'p' in the name Cassiopeia.


plate 3: 1795: the indication 'r' is added in Pegasus (right bottom); also a star is added, unfortunately at the wrong place.


plate 10: 1795: many stars of Antinous and a star under the Foxes tail are underlined.


plate 10: 1795: the above mentioned Bull is drawn using not to accurate positioned stars. Only the brightest is correct, being not on the 1776 edition.


plate 10: 1795: between the Goose and the Bull a bright star is drawn. In fact two weaker stars should have been drawn here.


plate 10: 1795: at the upper right δ Herculis is drawn, with to the left and to the right a bright star. This  scene is not in the 1776 atlas.

A strange case.
As stated before there are two editions of the Atlas, but there are more than just these two.
On the www I found above the already mentioned
American site of the Linda Hall Library also an Italian site from Giangi Caglieris.
The mystery can be found on plate 10 of the Atlas of Giangi Caglieris  and concerns the presence of Poniatowski's Bull. This constellation was created after the 1776 edition en is not on plate 10 of the Linda hall Library. First assumption you make is that Giangi Caglieris has a mix of the 1776 en 1795 maps, which sounds reasonable, where it not that Giangi states that this is not the case. Marc Hoffeld from Luxemburg has the same edition as Giangi. This makes it a very strange case.

A closer look shows that the Poniatowski's Bull differs a lot with mine (of both the 1795 and 1776 editions). 'My' Bull has more stars and most of them have Bayer's designation with the Latin alphabet. For example: the right front leg of the Bull on my plate has a 'f' written near one of the stars, which is not on the Italian plate 10.

1776 edition (Linda Hall Library)

1776 edition A (Giangi Caglieris / Marc Hoffeld)

1982 Bode's Atlas (Astaria Verlag)

1776 edition B (Henk Bril)

 1795 edition (Henk Bril)

I contacted Giangi Caglieris on this matter, but the mystery remained unsolved. I am not a real specialist in this field, but common sense led to the conclusion that the Linda Hall Library possesses an Atlas of 1776, I posses maps from 1795 (ánd of the 1776 editions), and Giangi Caglieris and Marc Hoffeld own an edition made somewhere between 1777 en 1787 (because 'Frederick's Glory' is not drawn in his Atlas). My conclusion was confirmed on January 26th 2004 by dr. Robert H. van Gent of the University of Utrecht. He stated that Poniatowski's Bull was added to the copper plates of Fortin's Flamsteed atlas in 1778. But apparently in the 1778 and later printings of the atlas the publisher evidently did not feel the need to update the title page. This information can be found in Lalande's astronomical bibliography (pp. 555-556),  online at the ARIBIB website of the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut in Heidelberg, Germany. All this has been confirmed on February 25th 2004 by  Felice Stoppa who has a 1795 atlas (his plates are identical with mine). He made closer examinations of the atlases of 1776, 1795 ánd Johann Elert Bode's "Vorstellung der Gestirne ... nach der Pariser Ausgabe des Flamsteadschen Himmelatlas" of 1782. And he concludes that Giangi and Marc's 1776 Atlas must be dated somewhere between 1778 and 1782. Felice also traced another copy of the 1776 edition, which is neither identical with Linda Hall nor Giangi or Marc, and because several stars are placed on exact the same location as in Bode's atlas, it  has to be dated after 1782.
On December 18th 2004 I received an email from Shinobu Takesako, who lives in Japan. He owns a copy of the 1776-atlas which in fact has 2 plates 10. One with and one without Poniatowski's Bull
. This leads to the following hypothesis: Apparently a new page 10 (with the Bull) was made in 1778 on authority of Fortin (?) (see the above mentioned reference to Lalande's Astronomical Bibliography and the below shown reference to his 'Astronomie', Paris 1792, on page 233 - Felice Stoppa mailed me this information on December 22nd 2004).

Prints of these were added to the stock of unsold 1776-editions. When these were sold out and new atlases had to be printed, they were printed with only the new one, because the original copper-plate had been changed. So there is prove that the copperplate of the 1776 edition was changed 3 times. The last change was a minor one when a tiny star was placed in de Bull's belly.

Between the 2nd edition (1776) and 3rd edition (1795) an edition 2A of the Fortin Atlas was published, somewhere between 1778 and 1782 with an adjusted plate 10. After plate 10 has been adjusted in 1778, the remaining unsold 1776-editions were sold with two plates 10 - one with and one without Poniatowski's Bull ! An edition 2B of the Atlas was published between 1782 and 1787 with again a changed plate 10; in September 2006 I found out that from this edition 2B not only plate 10 is different from edition 2A, but also plates 8, 9, 23, 24 and 25. When edition 3 came out in 1795, again plate 10 had changed.

By the way: Bode's Atlas of 1782 has been reissued by Astaria Verlag in Germany.

In December 2006 I found out that there are also two versions of the second edition of Bode's Atlas.
One without and one with an image of the obscure constellation Cat (the Katze). A constellation placed upon the heavens by Bode himself, who was fond of cats (like me). - more on this later -

Quick links:

My plates:
Linda Hall Library
Giangi Caglieris:
Felice Stoppa:
Shinobu Takesako:

Robert H. van Gent:
Astaria Verlag*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

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