On the construction of the heavens.
Item ID 72070
London, The Royal Society, 1785. 4to (27.4 x 21.1 cm). Engraved title page; 54 pp., and one very large, double folded plate. Later quarter calf over marbled boards in a beautiful, contemporary style. Spine with five raised, gilt-ornamented bands; compartments rich gilt with floral vignettes, and two red morocco labels with gilt title. All edges red. The first serious attempt to determine the shape of the Milky Way, "our" galaxy, by the German-born English astronomer and composer Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel - later Frederick William Herschel - (1738-1822), who was the first to have built a telescope powerful enough not only to dissolve the Milky Way into its millions of stars and nebulae (this had already been done by Galilei) but also to give an indication of its general shape by counting the number of stars in different directions. The original paper was read on February 3rd, and published in the Society's Philosophical Transactions , volume 75 (I), pp. 213-266. This is the complete volume 75(I) of the original edition (i.e. not from the later abridged edition) with 14 other papers, including one by Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus; the second Catalogue of double stars by Herschel (86 pages, and a plate, adding 484 double stars to his first list), as well as three other astronomical publications, for a total of vii + 309 pages and nine plates. An unmarked, wide-margined copy in a beautiful contemporary style binding. Rare - especially in this good state. Houzeau & Lancaster II, p. 771. The first serious attempt to determine the shape of the Milky Way