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Charles Messier
Other / Diversen


Map with Comets C/1698 R1 and C/1702 H1


Map with Comet C/1742 C1


Pieter Gabry, Map with Comet C/1748 H1


Hartmann Schedel, Liber Chronicarum, Nürnberg, publ. Anton Koberger, 1493, page CLVII with 1P/684 R1 (Halley)


Map with Comet C/1652 Y1


Mathias Merian, Theatri Europaei, Zwölffter Theil,  Frankfurt, 1691, plate 14, after page 258, Comet C/1680 V1

Johann Christoph Wagner, Eigentlicher abriß deß Schröklichen Cometsterns
, Augsburg, 1681, publ. Jacob Koppmeir



Christophoro Weigelio, Ethica Naturalis, Norimbergae (Nürnberg), ca. 1690, page XCII, "COMETA"

Map with Comets C/1698 R1 and C/1702 H1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 383-384 & 388)
This map was published in in the 'Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, Année 1702' in 1743. It shows observations of the comet of 1698 by Philippe de la Hire and Jean Dominique Cassini ("Cassini I") between September 2 and September 28, and of the comet of 1702 by Philippe de la Hire between April 24 and May 4.
What I find highly remarkable about this print is the fact that the track of the comet of 1698 is almost entirely drawn as a straight line, and that the constellations are drawn in relation to the comet. Usually it is drawn the other way around, as can be seen on my other maps.

Below we find the path of the comet of 1698 near the head on Cepheus. "B" marks an observation made on September 4, 1698.

Another fine detail, shown below, is the path of both the 1698 and the 1702 comet through the arm of the Serpent Bearer (Ophiuchus). "M", "N", "O" and "P" mark observations of the 1698 comet on September 15, 16, 24 and 28. "b" to "g" mark daily observations of the 1702 comet on April 27-30 and of May 3 and 4.

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Map with Comet C/1742 C1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 403-405)
This map was published in
in the 'Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences' in 1745. It shows observations by Grant, l'Abbé de la Caille, Cassini (Jacques, "Cassini II"), Cassini de Thury ("Cassini III") en G.D. Maraldi.

Below we can see the comet near Lyra and Cygnus, as it was observed from March 7 to 9.

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Map with Comet C/1748 H1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 414-415).
On October 6, 2004 I bought an old map. It shows Cepheus and Cassiopeia and parts of Perseus, Draco, Ursa Minor, Camelopardalus and Andromeda. Its dimensions are 252 x 189 mm. It took more than a year to identify it.

 It features two interesting 'guests'. The first is Tycho Brahe's supernova, designated as 'Nova Stella 1572'.

The second is Comet C/1748 H1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 414-415).
Peter Bus
provided the comet's path calculated with the present ephemerides.


To me, this comet is the most interesting feature on the map. It's position is given for May 2 to May 30 1748.
The unknown observer draw the comet on the following dates: May 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.  May is called 'Maji'. As one can see it is apparent that during the month both the brightness and the length of the comet's tail diminishes.

The way the constellations are drawn resembles Doppelmayr, as we can see below, the constellations are drawn the same way and also the designation of individual star is identical and not in accordance with Bayer. It seems the maker is inspired by Doppelmayr, but the real artist ánd the real observer remained unknown - at least for the time being.

1748 starmap  Doppelmayr, 1742

Then, on October 12, 2005 it turned out that the map shows observations made by the Dutch Amateur-Astronomer Pieter Gabry of The Hague. The map was used in a Dutch/Latin-leaflet called "Observationes astronomicae de via cometae anni 1748, cum nominibus et magnitudine singularum stellarum fixarum". Is was printed by Gerard du Mée te Den Haag, the only known locations of a copy are the 'Akademie der Wissenschaften' of Göttingen, Germany, the New York State Library, United States, and the Universitätsbibliothek of Tübingen, Germany (information received from Rob van Gent and Huib Zuidervaart).

I am very grateful to Huib Zuidervaart, who owns a photo-copy of the leaflet for his assistance to solve this mystery.
Below Pieter Gabry's account (written in old Dutch) on this comet is given.

The map was published in September 2007 in number 149 (Volume 45, Part 3) of the Journal 'History of Science' to illustrate an impressive article of Huib Zuidervaart on Pieter Gabry: “A Plague to the Learned World”: Pieter Gabry, F.R.S. (1715–1770) and His Use of Natural Philosophy to Gain Prestige and Social Status, (page 287-326).

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Comet 1P/684 R1 Halley (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 109-111)

Recently I acquired a page of Hartmann Schedel's 'Liber Chronicarum', published in 1493, with a woodprint of a comet on it, according to Kronk the comet in question is no other than the most famous of comets: Halley's Comet.

The accompanying text states that the comet led to three month's of severe bad weather causing many deaths and failed harvest.

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Comet C/1652 Y1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 346-347)

"Eigentlicher Abriß und Situation deß Neuen Sternes, wie derselbe zu Regensburg, und anderer Orthen im H. Röm. Riech den 14/24, 15/25, 16/26 Decembris des 1652. Jahrs, Observiert und gesehen worden."

In July 2005 I purchased this leaflet. It shows three subsequent observations of this nice comet on 24-26 December 1652 (Gregorian Calendar - also the dates according to the Julian Calendar are mentioned; 14-16 December). It shows the comet near the Pleiades. From the compass card (Sept. = Septentrio = North / Orie. = Oriens = East / Meri. = Meridies = South / Occi. = Occidens = West) the lower left corner we learn that the comet was visible in the Eastern sky (Orie. is up).
Peter Bus provided me with a chart on which the real position (based upon the current ephemeris) of the comet is drawn, on the evenings of December 23 - 26 at 17.35UT (being around the end of the astronomical twilight, with the comet having an altitude of 39° on December 23rd, 46° on December 24th, 52° on December 25th and 57° on December 26th) as seen from Regensburg.

There are several remarkable things about this leaflet. First of all, the drawing op the Pleiades is upside down. Is it possible that the artist who made this drawing (or he who ordered it) had watched the Pleiades through a telescope?
Anyway, it lured people to think that the Great Bear / Big Dipper (Ursa Major) was drawn, not the Pleiades.
Furthermore, as we can see, the position of the observations (or better: sightings) differs from the actual position.
But who cares?
It is a nice eyewitness account concerning a comet never to return again

About the mix up of the Pleiades and Ursa Major: Sumner Hunnewell from Austin, Missouri, USA, draw my attention to "A Narrative of the Planting of the Massachusets-Colony &c." published in the "Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society" in 1694:
The 1652 comet
was also seen as a portent at the death of the Massachusetts Puritan minister, John Cotton. It is referred to as a "Caelestial Flambeau" that "directly followed the Reer of the Pleiades, in the Rising Progress and setting of the Seven Stars, as if it had steer'd their Course" . Also here a clear reference to the Pleiades.

My copy of this leaflet has been published in the January 2008 issue of 'The Antiquarian Astronomer', the Journal of the Society for the History of Astronomy in the UK, where it featured an outstanding article, written by Mike Frost of the Coventry and Warwickshire Astronomical Society, on the Northamptonshire Astronomers of the 17th Century John Twysden and John Palmer.

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Comet C/1680 V1 (Kronk, Cometography, Vol. 1 - page 369-373)

The first comet discovered with a telescope by Gottfried Kirch, of Koburg, Germany, on 1680 November 14th.

This chart titles 'COMET welcher Anno 1680 und 1681 beobachtet worden' ('Comet that has been observed Anno 1680 and 1681'), and was published in 1691 in Matheus Merian's '
Theatri Europaei, Zwölffter Theil'. This map was published in the January 2008 issue of the Dutch astronomy magazine Zenit.
Merian writes about this comet on pages 259 and 260 the following:

"Erschröcklicher Comet läst sich in Europa sehen.
Unter allen Wunderzeichen aber/so hin und wieder am Himmel und Erden gesehen worden/ ist nicht das geringste der erscherckliche Comet / welcher sich/ Donnerstags den 16, 26, Decembr. Gleich nach anbrechender Nacht hat sehen lassen. Der Stern an sich selbst wurde zwar nicht viel gesehen / und von den Gestirn verständigen nicht grösser / als sonsten ein gemeiner von der zweiten / oder dritten Gattung gehalten / aber sehr feurig / und doch dunkel i seine Ruthe / deren Beginn von dem Stern ungefehr bei dem Horizont gestanden / erstreckte sich von Sud-Westen nach Nord-Osten und nahme beinahe den höchssten Theil der Luft ein.  Die daran hangende Ruthe/ oder Schwanz war hell und klar/ aber bleich / daß man auch die Fix Stern darunter bequemlich erkennen und unterscheiden konte. Er gieng / wie gemeldet/ mit einfallender Nacht auff/ und um 10. oder 12. deß Nachts wiederum unter.
Zur selbigen Zeit stunde der Comet von dem hellen Stern der Leier 46. Grad / von dem Stern des Schwans 50. und vom Halse deß Pferdes Pegasus 75. Grad. 3 Tage verflossen/ daß man nichts sonderliches davon sehen konte / aber den 1. Januarii erschiene er wiederum 11. Grad / und 10. Min. vom Herzen deß Adlers / 39. Grad von der Leier / und auch so weit vom Halse deß Pferdes Pegusus, so daß er bereits 11. Grad verlauffen war; jedoch haste sein Swanz wenig abgenommen / dann er bestunde in 67. Graden ungefehr ben dem Stern Cassiopaeiae. Deß andern Tags sahe man ihn zwar wieder / aber 5. Grad verlauffen.
Der dunckeln Lufft halben blieb er drei Tagen unsichtbar: den 7. Jan. war er abermal von seiner vorigen Stelle gewichen / und befande sich zwischen dem Hals / und lincken Fuß deß Pegasus, im achten Grad deß Delphins/ fünffzig Grad / vierzig Minuten von der Leier / zwei und dreissig und ein halben Grad von dem Schwanz deß Schwanen und 27. Grad / 15. Minuten vom Haupt Andromedae. Der Schwanz war zwar heller / aber allein auff 56. Grad / bei dem lincken Fuß Andromedae, und dem mittelsten Stern Cassipeiae, biß zum Haupt Persei.
Nach diesem ist er je länger je kleiner worden / und hat man denselben im Außgang deß Jenners nicht mehr erkennen können / ob er gleich biß an Ende deß Hornungs an unterschidlichen Orten in Teutschland / Dennemarck / Schweden / Polen und Moscau geleuchtet,. Hierbei ist Anmerckens werth / daß man diesen Cometen in ganz Europa aller Orten / absonderlich in Italien / Hispanien / Portugall / Engeland / Franckreich / Niederland / Teutschland /Dennemarck / Schweden / Polen und Moscau / ja auch in der Türckei gesehen. Uber diesen Stern haben die Gelehrte / und unter denen auch der Fürstl. Hessische Professor Juris Primarius zu Marburg Johannes Tesmarus, ihre Gedancken der Welt mitgetheilet und werln dergleichen Himmels Zeichen“/ fast von jederman vor bös und schädlich gehalten werden / hat derselbe / auß alten und neuen Scribenten erwiesen und in Tage gelegt / daß auß ihrem Gheist nichts eigentliches / vom zukünftigen Blick ober Unglück / oder Regimenes Veränderungen geschlossen werden könne / ja daß darauss mannschmal mehr gute / als böße Zeiten erfolgen sind; massen dann / Gott sei Danck / nach dieses so grossen Cometen Erscheinung / viel gute fruchtbare Jahre / weniger nicht / als herzliche Victorien / wider den Erbfeind der Christenheit verleien worden seind."

Note: Jenner: Januar / Hornung: Februar

English translation (text in italic and brackets added by HB):
"Dreadful comet shows up in Europe.
Of all the marvellous signs visible in the Heavens and on Earth none of the least is the dreadful comet which showed himself Thursday December 16, 26 just after the fall of night. The star itself was not seen a lot, and considered as bright as the stars of the second of third brightness, but very fiery but also gloomy was its tail, that when the star stood just about on the horizon would stretch from South-West tot North-East and would cover most part of the sky.  The tail was bright and clear, but transparent, so that the fixed stars underneath it were clearly visible and recognisable. It rose, as stated, during nightfall and set about 10 or 12 during Night.
At that time the comet stood 46 Degrees from the bright star of Lyra (Vega), from the star of Cygnus (Deneb) 50 and from the neck of Pegasus the Horse (Markab) 75 Degrees. 3 Days passed in which nothing could be seen, but on January 1st it appeared 11 Degrees and 10 Minutes from the heart of Aquila (Altair) , 39 degrees from Lyra (Vega), and also that far from the Neck of Pegasus the Horse (Markab), so that it had moved already 11 degrees, nevertheless its tail had lost a little of its length, because it stretched for about 67 degrees to the star Cassiopeia (Schedar). The next day it was seen again, but it had moved 5 degrees.
Obscured skies made it 3 days invisible: on January 7 it had moved again from its previous position and was between the Neck (Markab)  and left foot (Scheat) of Pegasus, eight degrees from Delphinus, 50 degrees 40 Minutes from Lyra (Vega), 32.5 degrees from the tail of Cygnus (Deneb) and 27 degrees 15 Minutes from Andromeda’s head (Alpheratz). The tail, although brighter, was 56 degrees, near the left foot of Andromeda (Alamak) and the middle star of Cassiopeia (gamma Cas) all the way to the head of Perseus (gamma Per).
After this it became fainter and fainter / and it became undistinguishable at the end of January, although it shined till the end of February on several places in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Moscow.
It is worth noticing that the comet was seen all over Europe, in Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Moscow, and even in Turkey. Men of learning, among them the Professor Juris Primarius of the principality of Hesse Johannes Tesmarus (1643-1693) in Marburg shared their thoughts on this star with the world, and where similar heavenly signs are considered evil and pernicious by almost everyone, these men pointed out and showed from old and new writings that, to tell the truth, to their opinion, from future vision neither misfortune nor change of regime could be concluded. Yes, even that from it sometimes more good times as bad times will come; Thank God, this great comet appearance only led to many fruitful years, no less, and sweeping victories over the birth enemy of Christianity."

The copperplate was later reused in 1696 for Johannes Zahn's Speculae Physico-Mathematico-Historea, printed in Nuremberg.

There is also something peculiar about this chart. What puzzled me like a poker game right away was the large oval to the lower right. It just didn't make sense. Until I found out about the tale of the 'Comet egg leg laid by a Roman hen in 1680', published by Friedrich Madeweis (Berlin, 1681) - this can be found on website of the Adler Planetarium.
There the 'comet egg' is drawn in the oval. This is why there are two versions of this copperplate: one with, and one without the 'comet egg'. Apparently, the one with the egg was first!

I would like to thank Maik Meyer,, for his information on this matter. It was of great help solving this riddle.


In 2011 I had the opportunity to buy a leaflet on this comet. It shows the comet Kirch above the city of Augsburg, Austria.

The text reads as follows:
"Eigentlicher abriß deß Schröklichen Cometsterns, welcher sich dem 16/26 December deß 1680. Jahr von neuen widerumb sehen lassen, nach dem er in die dritte wochen unter der Sonnenstrahlen verborgen gewesen. Sein Lauf ist zimlich geschwind und scheinet disem nach über den Mond zu stehen der schweiff so viel man wegen der Helle des Mondes abnehmen können erstrecket sich auf die 70 grad. Fernen bericht giebet das Tractätlein von dem Ursprung des Cometen. Zue finden bei Jacob Koppmeir buchtrucker in Aug"

English translation:
"True depiction of the Terrible Comet star, which appeared again on 16/26 December of the Year 1680, after it had been hidden behind the Sun's beams for three weeks. Its Course is quite speedy and it seems to stand above the Moon. The tail as far as one can estimate because of the Brightness of the Moon stretches over 70 degrees. More is reported in the Leaflet on the origin of Comets. Obtainable at Jacob Koppmeir, book printer in Aug"

The Tractätlein/Leaflet that is referred to is written by Johann Christoph Wagner (1640 - ?) and is called:
"Gründlicher und warhaffter Bericht von dem Ursprung der Kometen / derselben Natur / Gestalt / Zeit / Farb / Grösse / und Lauff / nebenst andern darzugehörigen Umbständen / was für Würckungen muthmaßlich ihnen zuzuschreiben / deßgleichen auch / ob man vorhero wissen könne/ wann ein Komet entstehen werde: Aus Anlaß deß gegenwärtigen schröcklichen Komet-Sterns / Welcher in dem November / und jetzund den 26. December deß 1680. Jahrs sich widerumb sehen lässet."

In the tail of the comet the following constellations are drawn: Delphinus (Dolphin), Cygnus (Swan), Aquila (Eagle) and Antinous.

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Christophoro Weigelio, Ethica Naturalis seu Documenta Moriale, Norimbergae
(Nürnberg), ca. 1690, page XCII, COMETA

Around 1690 Christoph Weigel published under his latin name Christophoro Weigelio his 'Ethica Naturalis' (complete title: Ethica Naturalis seu Documenta Moralia e variis rerum Naturalium proprietatibus Virtutum Vitiorumque symbolicis imaginibus collecta), a so called "Emblem Book". I purchased this page in April 2005.

Emblem books were a particular style of illustrated books developed in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The 'Ethica Naturalis' contains 100 picture/text combinations, of which COMETA is number 92. It is a combination of an engraving and a short text. The intension was to inspire the readers to reflect on a general moral lesson derived from the reading of both picture and text together.
From this page we learn that comets pose a real threat to ordinary life, and nothing good will come of them.

Reinier Ott translated this text into Dutch (Thanks Reinier!) - I will translate it to English within a couple of months.

de Komeet,
Vrees, mijn kind, de vurige tuchtroede van de Vader kondigt zich aan.

 Kijk, nieuw vuur verdrijft de nacht door het ongewoon licht van een hemellichaam,
    Immers, de Komeet heeft zijn rossige lichtstralen uitgespreid.
De lichtstralen tezamen richten zich verontrustend ten Hemel op.
    Bedroefd laten de stervelingen deze voortekenen tot zich doordringen.
Maar hij die deze fakkels des oorlogs vreest, is bang voor de dood van Grote Koningen,
    de ondergang des volks en voor besmettelijke ziekte.
Het staat vast, kometen zullen zelden ongestraft schitteren,
    Ik weet, het zijn de vertoornde Goden met een vlammende tuchtroede.
Waarom laten zij, bij deze gelegenheid, lichtstralen plengen in plaats van tranen?
    Want dit vuur kan niet worden geblust met ander water.

Even now, after all these centuries this text still has potency to scare the s... out of (ignorant) people!

The same plate also appears in the Dutch Emblem Book: "Beschouwing der Wereld" (1708) by Jan Luiken (or Luyken), 1649-1712, with a direction to two Bible verses:
"Daar zullen ook schrikkelijke dingen, en groote tekenen van den hemel geschieden", Lukas XXI:11, en
"En daar zullen tekenen zyn in de Zonne, en de Maane, en de Sterren, enz.", Lukas XXI:25.

"And there shall be terrors and great signs from heaven", Luke XXI:11, and
"And there shall be signs in sun and moon and stars, etc.",  Luke XXI:25.

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