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Andreas Cellarius

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 5 — The Copernican World System, 1660

The first space race

Science vs. Religion

It was the first space race — did the sun orbit the earth or did the earth orbit the sun? In the 1600’s it was up for grabs. The greatest minds in science and religion waged a war of observation and ideology to try and answer the question: what is our true place in the universe?

In this turbulent environment worked Andreas Cellarius, a cartographer and the president of a latin school in Hoorn, in North Holland. We don’t know much about Cellarius — his birth, his death, and that he was interested in the mathematics of fortified walls and liked to write poetry about his fellow teachers.

An atlas for the universe

But in 1660, Andreas Cellarius published a truly unique document. Cellarius worked with the engraver and portraitist Frederick Hendrick Van Hove, and the cartographer Johannes van Loon to compile the known history of astronomical systems into a single star atlas. Every competing theory and philosophy of the cosmos in a single, beautiful volume. He called it the Harmonia Macrocosmica.

The Harmonia Macrocosmica covered 1500 years of astronomical theory. It begins with Ptolemy’s Almagest star catalog from 150 A.D., the oldest surviving comprehensive document of celestial motion. The Macrocosmica then describes the renaissance theories of Nicolaus Copernicus, who’s 1543 book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres made the dramatic statement that the earth orbited the sun, and became a cornerstone of the scientific revolution. The Macrocosmica continues to catelog Tyco Brahe’s planisphere — a “geo-heliocentric" system where the Sun and Moon orbit the Earth, and the other planets orbit the Sun.

The final pages of the Macrocosmica leave science behind in a series of colorful and imaginative depictions of the constellations — Greek, Roman and the later Christian icons. It’s a sweeping and stunningly beautiful work, criticized in it’s time for refusing to take a side in the debate of sun vs earth, science vs religion. But to criticize the Macrocosmica is to misunderstand its purpose — it wasn’t telling us how the universe works, it was showing how we see ourselves in it.

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Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 1 — The Planisphere of Ptolemy

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 1 — The Planisphere of Ptolemy

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 12 — Upright and Oblique Spheres

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 12 — Upright and Oblique Spheres

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 23 — Second Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 23 — Second Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 2 — Ptolemaic Cosmography

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 2 — Ptolemaic Cosmography

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 13 — Hemisphere of the Old World

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 13 — Hemisphere of the Old World

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 24 — Northern Stellar Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 24 — Northern Stellar Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 3 — Planetary Orbits

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 3 — Planetary Orbits

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 14 — Ptolemaic Planetary Motions

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 14 — Ptolemaic Planetary Motions

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 25 — Celestial and Terrestrial Hemispheres

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 25 — Celestial and Terrestrial Hemispheres

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 4 — The Copernicus Planisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 4 — The Copernicus Planisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 15 — Opposition and Conjunction of the Planets

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 15 — Opposition and Conjunction of the Planets

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 26 — Northern Stellar Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 26 — Northern Stellar Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 5 — The Copernican World System

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 5 — The Copernican World System

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 16 — Sun in Eccentric Orbit

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 16 — Sun in Eccentric Orbit

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 27 — Southern Stellar Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 27 — Southern Stellar Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 6 — The Tycho Brahe Planisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 6 — The Tycho Brahe Planisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 17 — The Revolution of the Sun around the Earth

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 17 — The Revolution of the Sun around the Earth

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 28 — Southern Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 28 — Southern Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 7 — Brahe's Construction of the World

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 7 — Brahe's Construction of the World

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 18 — The motion of the Moon

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 18 — The motion of the Moon

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 29 — Southern Stellar and Terrestrial Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 29 — Southern Stellar and Terrestrial Hemisphere

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 8 — The Planisphere of Aratus

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 8 — The Planisphere of Aratus

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 19 — Phases of the Moon

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 19 — Phases of the Moon

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 9 — Brahe’s Altitudes of the Planets

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 9 — Brahe’s Altitudes of the Planets

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 20 — Mars, Jupiter & Saturn

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 20 — Mars, Jupiter & Saturn

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 10 — The Sizes of the Celestial Bodies

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 10 — The Sizes of the Celestial Bodies

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 21 — Venus and Mercury

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 21 — Venus and Mercury

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 11 — The Location of the Earth

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 11 — The Location of the Earth

1660
Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 22 — First Hemisphere

Harmonia Macrocosmica Plate 22 — First Hemisphere

1660

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