Today’s post is from Carlyn Osborn, a Library Technician in the Geography and Map Division. Carlyn has a B.A. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from Johns Hopkins University and is currently a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies.
With high-resolution images of Pluto and the search for Earth-like exoplanets making national headlines, it is clear that space and space exploration still capture our collective attention. While the tools we have used to gather and write down our observations may have changed, our curiosity has not. Charts and globes drawn from studying the sky throughout history can be found right here at The Library of Congress.
A celestial chart is, put simply, a map of the night sky. The Library’s Geography and Map Division has approximately 600 of these, in addition to numerous globes depicting the night sky. Our celestial collection consists of exceptionally rare charts bound in 17th century atlases, colorful newspaper graphics from the Space Race, detailed Russian maps tracking the paths of solar eclipses, explanatory diagrams from German schoolbooks, and countless other depictions of the solar system and universe. You can view examples of these astronomical holdings in the Heavens section of the “World Treasures” online exhibit. In addition, you might also be interested in exploring the ”Finding our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond” online exhibit which presents examples of the changing models of the universe through time.Approximately half of the Geography and Map Division’s celestial charts are uncatalogued. Even fewer have been digitally scanned. So just because it’s not online, doesn’t mean we don’t have it! All of our acquisitions made since 1970 have corresponding digital catalog records, however, the rest of our collections are organized by a unique classification system devised for our Division. The Library’s geography/maps specialists are here to help should you have questions about the Library’s holdings.
The Geography and Map Division’s celestial charts collection greatly compliments the astronomy collections located in other parts of the Library such as Rare Books & Special Collections, African and Middle Eastern, Asian, and Prints & Photographs collections. In addition, the Library’s Science Reference Service can assist researchers with navigating the Library’s amazing astronomy collections.
Read More About It. Below is a selection of books about the history of astronomy and celestial observation that you can find at the Library of Congress:
- Elly Dekker. Illustrating the Phaenomena: Celestial Cartography in Antiquity and Middle Ages. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2013
- Deborah J. Warner. The Sky Explored: Celestial Cartography, 1500-1800. New York : Alan R. Liss Inc, 1979
- Emilie Savage-Smith. Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their history, Construction, and Use. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
- James A. Bennett. The Divided Circle: A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation, and Surveying. Oxford : Phaidon Press, 1987
- Carole Stott. Celestial Charts: Antique Maps of the Heavens. London: Studio Editions Ltd, 1995
- George S. Snyder. Maps of the Heavens. New York: Cross River Press Ltd, 1984
You also might find the following science research guides helpful
- Archaeoastronomy Guide– This guide provides a starting point for those who wish to study prehistoric, ancient, and traditional astronomies within their cultural context.
- Teaching Astronomy Guide– This guide features a selection of resources on teaching and learning about astronomy for educators and enthusiasts.