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Andreas Cellarius: Scenographia Compagis Mundanae Brahea

Map: CELEST1332
Cartographer: Andreas Cellarius
Title: Scenographia Compagis Mundanae Brahea
Date: 1661
Published: Amsterdam
Width: 21 inches / 54 cm
Height: 18 inches / 46 cm
Map ref: CELEST1332
Splendid example of Cellarius's celestial diagram illustrating the geo-centric Solar System proposed by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1587. The orbits of the Sun, the Moon, and 5 known planets are drawn using coloured lines. According to Brahe's theory, the Sun and the Moon orbited the Earth while the other planets orbited the Sun. This is not particularly clear from the diagram which appears to show the Earth at the centre of all of the orbits, but this would have been understood by contemporary readers. Brahe's theory was an attempt to reconcile the Catholic church's belief in a geo-centric universe with the latest discoveries in astronomy, some of which appeared to refutre geo-centrism altogether. Brahe's theory was the most popular cosmological model when this atlas was published in the mid-17th century, though Cellarius did also include diagrams of the Ptolemaic and Copernican models as well.

A careful examination of this map's decoration suggests that Cellarius himself may have believed Brahe's theory to be the truth. The winged eagles which bear aloft the map's title are classical symbols of wisdom or truth - this is the only map in Cellarius's atlas to use this motif, The woman examining her face in a mirror in the bottom-left corner of the map is also likely an allegory for truth or prudence as the mirror showed the viewer what was, not just what they wished to see. The figure in the bottom-right corner appears to represent Selene, a personification of the Moon itself and of the night. Her staff is pointing at a celestial sphere as if to encourage the reader to go outside at night and perform their own calculations to determine the truth of this theory.

Besides the allegorical decorations this diagram also features a beautifully illustrated band representing the constellations of the Zodiac. The globe which forms the central point of the cosmological model is represented by a finely drawn map of the Eastern Hemisphere according to the best contemporary geography. Though generally accurate, the depiction of Australia is still striking for its errors. The outer borders of the diagram are further embellished with winged putti and fluffy pink clouds.

Andreas Cellarius's celestial charts are some of the most decorative ever published and are highly sought-after for their combination of Dutch Golden age beauty and their scientific content. These maps were published at a time when the classical cosmologies of the ancient Greeks were at last being challenged by the new, emerging theories of contemporary scholars, such as Tycho Brahe and Nicolaus Copernicus. To find out more about Andreas Cellarius's maps, read our extended blog post - "Finding our place in the Universe" - on The Map House blog.

Rich original hand colour. [CELEST1332]