Accurate depiction of the topography of the Moon was accomplished by mid-century in this lunar atlas by Hevelius. It set a new standard for precision that remained unmatched for a century. 40 stunning copper-plate engravings portray topographical relief along the Moon’s shadow-line, or terminator, at every conceivable angle of solar illumination. They represent the appearance of the Moon, along the terminator, over a period of five years.
A double-page plate depicts the entire lunar surface as a summative representation of the individual topographical studies. Rather than comprising a naturalistic portrait of how the Moon actually appears, this map is a composite record of the shadows cast by the passing of light moving back and forth, in both directions, during opposite lunar phases. The lunar map of Hevelius is accurate enough to plot the Apollo lunar landings.
Hevelius named 275 lunar features, but his nomenclature scheme, based on classical terrestrial geography, was not widely adopted.
In Gdansk, Hevelius operated the most sophisticated observatory in Europe. With income from the family brewery, he constructed the largest telescopes then known. His telescopes, used for observing the Moon and planets, included one that was 150 feet long.
On the frontispiece of this book, Hevelius celebrates not the triumph of a European “scientific revolution,” but a much broader heritage. On the left appears Ibn al-Haytham, a leading medieval Islamic astronomer and optical theorist. On the right, holding a telescope, is Galileo, portrayed in Middle Eastern dress. This frontispiece of Hevelius reminds us that the growth of western science cannot be understood apart from rich and sustained interactions between multiple cultures. It is impossible to separate the European “scientific revolution” from the achievements of the medieval Islamic culture and other civilizations which came before.
This 1st edition was added to the University Libraries on the occasion of the investiture of David L. Boren as the 13th president of the University of Oklahoma, September 15, 1995.
See Scott L. Montgomery, The Moon and the Western Imagination (Arizona, 1999).