Top 10 Star Maps

We have explored the heavens to give you our favourite star maps

1. Dunhuang Star Map 700

This is the oldest surviving paper star map from any civilisation. It was found in a walled-up section of the Mogao Caves in Gansu, China.

Before this map, references to stars and information about the night sky in historical Chinese texts had been questioned for their accuracy.

This section of the map shows the North Polar region; you can actually see the Great Bear on the left of this image.


2. The Vienna Manuscript 1440

The oldest existing European star map is believed to be this parchment manuscript entitled De Composicione Spere Solide.

It was most likely produced in Vienna, Austria in 1440 and consists of a two-part map depicting the constellations of the northern celestial hemisphere and the ecliptic.

This map may have served as a prototype for the oldest European printed star chart, a 1515 set of woodcut portraits produced by Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg, Germany.



3. Stellatum Planispherium 1680

Made by Louis Vlasbbloem, this is the first of a series of charts from a rare maritime atlas published by Johannes van Keulen. A map enthusiast, he obtained permission from the States General of Holland and West Friesland to allow him to print and publish atlases and shipping guides.

This map was undeniably the most important celestial chart of the period. The expansion of Dutch maritime trade had led to far greater astronomical knowledge of the Southern hemisphere.

The spheres in between the hemispheres depict the geo-centric and helio-centric configurations of the solar system.


4. Stellar Atlas Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia 1690

This is a section of a stunning atlas by Johannes Hevelius showing the Polar Antarctic.

A Polish astronomer, he gained a reputation as "the founder of lunar topography" and discovered ten new constellations, seven of which are still recognised today.



5. Systema Solare et Planetarium 1742

Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr was a German mathematician, astronomer and cartographer. He combined all of these skills to produce this beautiful celestial map that depicts the extent of astronomical knowledge of the1700s.

This image of the sun and planets illustrates the heliocentric view introduced by Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus in the early 1700s. It depicts the orbits of the planets and their moons as they revolve concentrically around the sun.




6. Anno 1830. No. 4. June, July, 1844

The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), founded in 1826 by Lord Brougham, was a whiggish London organisation with the high-minded objective of bringing learning to the uneducated working and middle classes. Much of its printed literature was regarded as unreadable, it was not commercially successful, and the society was dissolved in 1848.

However its maps and atlas's continued to be published by Edward Stanford. This is a great example of the whimsical yet detailed maps they produced.


7. System According to the Holy Scriptures 1846

Isaac was a scientist and member of a religious sect known as ‘Muggletonians’, a small Protestant sect who believed the Earth was stationary and that Heaven existed as a physical reality.

His intricate prints were included as plates in his book 'Frost's Two Systems of Astronomy' (1846). The book attacked the orthodoxy of heliocentric Newtonian astronomy and presented instead a rival system of the universe based on a specific and literal reading of the Bible.

Many illustrations aimed to demonstrate flaws in 'The Newtonian System' of describing the cosmos, while others depicted the Muggletonians' own 'System According to the Holy Scriptures'.

This celestial chart shows earth as the centre of the universe. It is printed using an innovative oil colour technique that permits subtle gradations and seamless transitions between colours for a glowing effect.



8. Buck Rogers’ Space World 1930’s

This poster, part based on the popular science fiction character, Buck Rogers, was developed by R.B Davis & Co.

In the early 1930s, a time before the refinement of rating systems, the popularity of a radio programme was sometimes crudely determined by the number of public responses to a premium giveaway offer tied to a particular show.

In 1933, only a few months into the radio run of Buck Rogers the sponsors offered a free ‘solar map’ of the planets to any listener writing to the show and requesting a copy. They were deluged with more than 125, 000 requests!

The character went on to be a huge success in comic strip, film, and television.




9. A Better Sky 1944

A.P. Herbert developed this map "intended to make people more interested in astronomy by making the stars and constellations easier to remember" .

He started with the premise that we know or care little for astronomy and the stars because their mythology and their names are alien to us. So...Ursa Major became Great Britain with Shakespeare its star etc.

It was not a success, but it's concept has gone on to be adapted on many occasions, most famously by Simon Patterson with his poster of the London Underground renamed 'The Great Bear'.



10. The Constellations 2016

This functional map shows every star directly observable by the naked eye indicated by magnitude and brightness.

Also mapped are the nebulae, star clusters and galaxies visible from Earth. Original 17th century illustrations by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius depict the creatures and characters that inspired ancient astronomers to identify the constellations - we’ve included both Latin and English names.

Their intricacy contrasts against eye-popping fluoro, shimmering metallics and midnight blue, bringing the constellations to life.

The result is a unique, educational map that makes a fantastic piece of wall art for dreamers and realists alike.

Star Map Illustrated

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