First printed star charts to show the constellations from a terrestrial viewpoint

By HONTER, Johannes, 1541 

Imagines constellationum Australium [and] Imagines constellationum Borealis

  • Author: HONTER, Johannes
  • Publication place: Basel
  • Publication date: 1532 [but 1541].
  • Physical description: Two woodcut charts, Australium measuring 301 by 371mm, and Borealis measuring 275 by 373mm.
  • Inventory reference: 12903


A rare pair of early star charts.

The charts appeared in a 1541 edition of Ptolemy’s collected works, Omnia quae extant opera’; they were first published separately in 1532. Stars are represented by dots, with particularly bright ones shown as a six-pointed star. Interestingly, Honter shifted the longitude 30 degrees from the correct position for the year 1532, possibly to reflect an earlier epoch (Friedman Herlihy).

Earlier printed examples, like Albrecht Durer’s pair of charts printed in 1515, showed the constellations from the outside. Honter’s works were the first printed charts to adopt a geocentric perspective. Although Honter, like Durer, used the classical astronomical work of Ptolemy, the Almagest’, as a basis, Honter chose to dress the human constellations in contemporary garments, initiating a tradition of the constellations being dressed appropriately to the region and period of the chartmaker (Warner).

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