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“the most elaborate and famous celestial atlas of the seventeenth century” – Koeman

CELLARIUS, ANDREAS. Harmonia Macrocosmica Sev Atlas Universalis Et Novus

Amsterdam: J. Jannson, 1661

Folio. Contemporary vellum, red morocco label. Some wear and staining to binding, hinges and extremities restored. A few expert paper repairs, allegorical engraved title laid down. Minor staining. Engraved title and 29 double-page engraved charts, finely hand-colored, many heightened in gold, 4 engraved and 2 woodcut illustrations in text. A very attractive, complete copy in a contemporary binding.

First edition, second issue of the greatest 17th-century celestial atlas. Cellarius’s Harmonia Macrocosmica is one of the most beautiful books of the Golden Age of Dutch cartography and a visual landmark in the history of man’s understanding of the cosmos. This 1661 issue is a variant of the edition of 1660, which is otherwise identical. The edition of 1708 omits text found in this edition.

The 16th and 17th centuries were a period of revolutionary advances in science and art. One of the greatest syntheses of these two fields of human achievement is Cellarius’s Harmonia Macrocosmica (Harmonious Universe, or New and Universal Atlas). Cellarius uses his original dramatic charts of the stars and planets not only to describe the heavens but also to formulate a harmonic description of the universe incorporating the concepts of antiquity and new astronomical discoveries.

Cellarius’s exquisite illustrations show the movements of the heavenly bodies and present views of the universe from antiquity to the modern era. They depict the evolution of astronomy from antiquity to the author’s time according to the systems of Ptolemy, Copernicus and Tycho Brahe. The ancient world’s Ptolemaic system presents the earth as the center of the universe, with the sun, planets, and stars on spheres rotating around it. The revolutionary Copernican system depicts a heliocentric universe. Tycho Brahe’s cosmology was a failed attempt at a compromise: the sun and the moon revolve around the earth, while the planets revolve around the sun. The final eight charts depict the constellations of the Northern and Southern hemispheres in the form of biblical and classical figures, animals, and instruments. The plates are splendidly embellished with decorative borders depicting astronomers, instruments, cherubs, and other figures.

This is “perhaps the most ornate celestial atlas ever published … In this hand-coloured engraving he succeeds in dramatising the Copernican system of the cosmos, making the radiant bands of light echo the classical image of the sun as Apollo. The artist has cleverly portrayed the relationship between sun, earth and stars through the seasons: at the winter solstice Gemini faces the night side of the earth, while at the summer solstice it is Sagittarius. It is this combination of ingenious structure with rich visual texture that gives the Cellarius atlas its unique place in the history of astronomical publishing” (British Library).

This is a magnificent copy of one of the great illustrated books of the 17th century. The early editions of Cellarius are becoming increasingly rare as they are broken up for their magnificent plates.

Koeman IV, Cel. 2.