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Tycho Brahe’s Instruments in the Blaeu Grande Atlas

Jean Blaeu’s Grande Atlas, issued with French text in 12 volumes dated 1663, is one of the great collections of Renaissance cartography. The section reproduced here (volume 1, pp. 61-108), a tribute from Jean to his father Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638), was published separately in 1658, then included in the Latin version of Blaeu’s atlas (Atlas Maior, 1662), before its incorporation with French text in this edition. The handcolored copper-plate engravings here were revised from wood-cuts originally published in Tycho Brahe’s Astronomiae Instauratiae Mechanicae (1598), which also included the accompanying descriptions in Latin; an English translation from the 1598 text is available from the Danish Royal Library. 

The section describes and illustrates the astronomical instruments constructed eighty years earlier by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) on the island of Hven, off the coast near Copenhagen. Blaeu’s father had studied on Hven with Tycho in 1594-1596, and drew the map of Hven (after p. 61). The section also gives plans and descriptions of Tycho’s two observatories, Uraniborg (from 1576) and Stelleborg (from 1581).

The set of Blaeu’s Grande Atlas digitized here, which retains its original binding of full gilt-stamped vellum, was donated to the University in 1959 as part of the Henry P. Kendall Collection. 

Patrick Scott
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections

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