FLAMSTEED, John (1646-1719) - Jean Nicholas FORTIN (1750-1831). Atlas celeste de Flamsteed, approuve par l'Academie royale des Sciences, et publie sous le privilege de cette compagnie

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FLAMSTEED, John (1646-1719) - Jean Nicholas FORTIN (1750-1831). Atlas celeste de Flamsteed, approuve par l'Academie royale des Sciences, et publie sous le privilege de cette compagnie, seconde edition par M. Fortin. Paris: F.G. Deschamps & l'Auteur, 1776. 


4to., (8 5/8 x 6 inches). Letterpress within woodcut borders. 30 fine numbered engraved celestial charts all mounted on guards (some light browning, and one or two spots), woodcut publisher's device on title-page, head- and tail-pieces. Contemporary mottled calf, red morocco lettering-piece on the spine (worn with loss at the head and foot of the spine).  

Second edition, early issue before the introduction of Taurus Poniatowski to plate 10, first published in folio posthumously in 1729 by Flamsteed's widow with the help of his two assistants James Hodgson and Joseph Crosthwait. Delayed by years of rancor between Flamsteed and Sir Isaac Newton who with Edmond Halley had published a preliminary version of Flamsteed's "Historia coelestis Britannica" without crediting him as the author. Flamsteed denounced the publication and destroyed as many copies as he could.  

Jean Fortin "took the old Flamsteed charts, made smaller and more commercially sized plates for printing and over the years updated them as needs dictated. Where a new item was introduced in a celestial globe or hemisphere by Fortin or others this would have provided the impetus to also update the Atlas Celeste at the earliest opportunity. In 1779 Didier de Vaugondy was forced to sell off part of his business to Jean Fortin. When Fortin took over the stock he published a catalogue of the de Vaugondy items he was now selling, and implied that de Vaugondy was available to continue correcting his maps and collaborating with Fortin.14 How much this was just clever advertising is unclear yet when Delamarche purchased Fortin’s stock in 1786 he claimed that he was assisted by Fortin, who helped make globes to accompany Delamarche’s Traité de la Sphere in 1790...In addition to Flamsteed’s 25 original maps of 1729 scaled down in size Fortin added five more - one omitted by Flamsteed, two replacement hemisphere maps, and two additional

1 - Hemisphere Boreal Lemonnier (replacing a map by Sharp in Flamsteed’s atlas)
2-26 - Flamsteed’s maps
27 - Hydra & le Coupe - A curious omission from Flamsteed’s atlas
28 - Hemisphere Austral Lemonnier (replacing a map by Sharp in Flamsteed’s atlas)
29 - Planisphere des etoiles Australis De Lacaille
30 - Planisphere pour les alignments des principals etoiles Fortin

The introduction to Fortin’s Atlas Céleste includes extracts from the Register of the Académie Royale des Sciences stating that Pierre Charles Lemonnier and Charles Messier had examined and edited the edition, and that it was certified by the Académie on 6 July 1776.17 The Fortin hemisphere Maps 1 and 28 were by Lemonnier who undertook the measurements for a star atlas and in 1775 produced a map of zodiacal stars. Fortin was responsible for map 30 which comprised the brightest naked-eye stars joined by dotted lines and without constellation figures – the first modern ‘star-hoping’ map" (Anthony S. Drennan "Variations Within The Fortin-Flamsteed Atlas of 1776: Taurus Poniatowski" Journal for the History of Astronomy 2015, Vol. 46(1) 29–47).

Instrumental in founding the Royal Observatory and nominally the first Astronomer Royal from 1675, Flamsteed "… was a dedicated observational astronomer, and his 'British Catalogue' of stars, finally published in 1725, well after his death [in 1719], brought stellar astronomy to a new level…One of Flamsteed's principal motives in publishing the "Atlas coelestis" was to correct what Flamsteed felt were serious errors in Bayer's depiction of the constellation figures. Bayer had reversed many of the figures, showing them from the rear instead of the front, and these new positions contradicted the traditional star descriptions (i.e., Ptolemy's "star in the right shoulder" of Orion had become, in Bayer's rendering, the star in the left shoulder). Since most stars were still referred to by their Ptolemaic labels, Flamsteed objected to Bayer's revisions as introducing unnecessary confusion into stellar astronomy, and so all his figures follow the traditional descriptions exactly" (Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology). Honeyman 1326; Kenney 58; Stoppa 50. Warner, Sky explored 82, 1a. 1729. Fortin was commissioned to publish this edition of Flamsteed's celebrated atlas on a much reduced scale. He also published an edition in 1795. Catalogued by Kate Hunter