Friday, January 8, 2010

A Sign from Heaven?

A title page for "Kometographia, or, A Discourse Concerning Comets."The appearance of Halley's comet over North America in 1682 spurred Increase Mather to write his landmark work in the development of astronomy and empirical science in the British colonies: Kometographia, or, A Discourse Concerning Comets (Boston in New England: Printed by S.G. for S.S., 1683). Mather had published earlier sermons regarding comets, but here diverges from a purely religious interpretation of "blazing stars" by incorporating his own scientific observations while referencing Kepler, Hevel, Tycho Brahe, and Robert Hooke. In so doing he deftly combines his religious beliefs with the latest scientific theories and presents them in a form easily understood by a lay audience.

His mission is laid out in his note "To the Reader":
Some Worthy Persons having desired me to Write the History of Comets; I resolved (with Divine Permission and Assistance) to spend the spare hours of a few Weeks in an endeavour that way.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The British Are Coming!

A photograph of the title page for "The American Military Pocket Atlas," dated 1776 in pencil.And the British who came had to find their way around the wilderness that covered most of the Americas.  To do this they needed maps.  To fill this need Robert Sayer and John Bennet had a set of maps printed and bound together in a small atlas.

It was officially The American Military Pocket Atlas, but known as the “Holster Atlas” because it was more commonly carried in an officer’s holster.  Rauner’s edition is in the original marbled boards and shows wear consistent with use. This 8.75 x 5.5 inch book was printed in London for Sayer and Bennet in 1776, and contained the “maps that the British high command regarded as providing the essential topographical information in the most convenient form.”  It was intended for use by British army officers in the field.  An advertisement bound into the atlas states, that it was “calculated in its Bulk and Price to suit the Pockets of Officers of all Ranks.”

A photograph of the atlas cover, which has a leather spine and marbled boards.The idea for the atlas was suggested by Governor Pownell, then a Member of the British Parliament, but formerly the Governor of the Massachusetts Colony from 1757-1760 and later commissary-general of the British troops in Germany.  Initially opposed to the War with America he became a supporter of Lord North after the outbreak of hostilities.

The atlas claims to contain “Surveys and Topographical Charts being fit only for a Library” and, indeed, most of the maps were issued as separate items previous to their publication in this smaller format.

A photograph of an unfolded map titled "A Survey of Lake Champlain."
There are a total of six maps: North America, As Divided Amongst the European Powers, by Samuel Dunn; A Complete Map of the West Indies, Containing the Coast of Florida, Louisiana, New Spain and Terra Firma: With All the Islands, also by Dunn; A General Map of the Northern British Colonies in America by Sayer and Bennet; A General Map of the Middle British Colonies, in America by Sayer and Bennet (based on work by Lewis Evans); A General Map of the Southern British Colonies, in America, by Sayer and Bennet (based on a map by Bernard Romans); and A Survey of Lake Champlain, by Sayer and Bennet (based on a survey by William Furness Brassier).

Ask for McGregor 5 to use this atlas or view it online.