Crawford Collection


Busch, Georg: Die andere beschreibung von dem cometen/... 1572. Erfurt, Germany, (1573).
A later and augmented edition of Busch's tract on the new star of 1572. It is described by Tycho Brahe.
In 1572, an new star appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia and it was assumed it was comet. Its constant position soon made it clear it was no such thing. This new star was visible for only few weeks but it made such an impression on astronomers that it was depicted in numerous publications, such as this one, several decades after it had disappeared.


John Flamsteed: Atlas Coelestis, London, (1781).
The constellation Cassiopeia is one of 26 constellations depicted in this large tome. It incorporates the drawings, by the artist Sir James Thornhill, from the first edition published posthumously, in 1729. It was reprinted twice, in 1753 and 1781 and was the first modern star catalogue based on telescopic observations. The coordinates of nearly 3,000 stars are reproduced with meticulous precision and are 15 times more accurate than the best previous atlases such as those by Tycho Brahe.

A selection of items from the Crawford Collection.

Max Alexander took this shot for 'Explorers of the universe' exhibition held, firstly, at the Royal Albert Hall, London, then Utrecht in 2009 & at the Centre for life, Newcastle, from 25 Nov 2009-31 March 2010.
The image shows items from the collection from Ptolemy to Newton, charting the changes, through four centuries, of man's acceptance of the doctrine of a geocentric system towards a 'new' heliocentric one. The items on display include manuscripts from the 13th and 15th centuries, an example of an early printed book from 1476, alongside all the big names in astronomy with publications by Copernicus and Tycho Brahe in the 16th century, and Galileo and Isaac Newton in the 17th.


Anonymous old German manuscript: (circa1450).
The image shown on the page is of the astronomer at his desk (which has been adopted as the library logo). In the middle ages there was great demand for calendars and almanacs which included straightforward advice on agriculture, the weather, medical remedies and prognostications. The manuscript includes colourful illustrations emphasising the close relationship between man and the universe. This relationship was defined through a belief in astrology with the influence of the cosmos, the patterns in the sky, having a direct bearing on man's behaviour, character and his destiny.


Theodorus Maius: Kurtzer bericht von dem Strobelstern Oder Cometen Magdeburg, (1607).
One of over 1200 comet tracts held in the collection. Comets, before astronomers, such as Edmund Halley, increased our understanding of them, were held in awe and often viewed as bad omens. They have been blamed for events such as earthquakes, outbreaks of plague, wars and other disasters. This destructive influence can perhaps explain why skeletons are depicted in this cometary tract from 1607. The original woodcut illustration from the title page of the tract (or booklet) is much smaller than the reproduced image here.