A stunning and unrecorded image of the solar system, the fruit of a collaboration between a famed scientific thinker and author, a geographer, a wallpaper manufacturer, and an educational publisher.
This spectacular chart represents the Copernican model of the solar system, with the eight known planets, the asteroid belt and a pair of comets orbiting the Sun, the latter complete with sunspots (The image is wildly out of scale, but it does get the point across.) This central diagram is surrounded by the signs of the zodiac and a monthly calendar, with the whole framed by a spectacular architectural border. Embedded within this are diagrams explaining the seasons, lunar and solar eclipses, and the phases of the Moon; along with a chart of basic statistics about the planets, including their distances from the Sun, diameters, volumes, &c.
The chart’s visual impact is in part a function its size (more than three feet by four feet), but is primarily a result of its having been printed by the pochoir technique. Almost never seen on cartographic material, this involves the use of a sequence of stencils to guide successive applications of color—usually layers of gouache, as here. “The pochoir process, characterized by its crisp lines and brilliant colors, produces images that have a freshly printed or wet appearance.” (Smithsonian Libraries) Here, the impact of the technique is heightened by the treatment of the architectural border exclusively in shades of gray (en grisaille). The printers were the Hoock Brothers in Paris, better known as manufacturers of wallpaper, a field where the brilliance of pochoir was much in demand.
The chart’s “notions de cosmographie” are attributed to Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), the noted astronomer, scientific speculator and author; and one Naud-Evrard, a member of the Geographical Society about whom little is known (He did collaborate with Emile Leavsseur to produce two spectacular wall maps of the Americas, also printed au pochoir, which may be viewed here.) The publisher was Charles Delagrave (1842-1934), an educational publisher with a specialization in maps and atlases.
The chart is not explicitly dated, but a footnote specifies that in the years 1801-1880 no fewer than 219 asteroids were discovered orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. It was certainly published by 1882, in which year it was advertised in the Catholic Literary Circular (vol. II no. 5, p. 104), 8 shillings unmounted, 16 shillings mounted.
In all, a stunning and extraordinarily rare image.