Rare American broadside predicting the solar eclipse of June 16, 1806

Printed by John Poulson, Approaching Solar Eclipse. Philadelphia, [June 1806].
Letterpress broadside on laid paper, illustrated by a large woodcut diagram, printed area 18 ½”h x 7 ¾”w plus at neat line plus generous margins. Minor areas of discoloration to upper third of image. Some mended cracks and tears (with a few letters reinstated in facsimile), reinforcements along three horizontal folds, and some repairs and reinstatement of losses along edges. All expertly done, and all-but invisible from recto.

An impressive 1806 astronomical broadside alerting Philadelphia-area residents to an upcoming solar eclipse, illustrated by a large woodcut diagram. Viewers in Philadelphia experienced the eclipse as only partial, though their compatriots in parts of New England and New York were treated to a “total obscuration of the solar disk”.

Printed by newspaper publisher John Poulson less than a week before the event, the broadside quotes extensively from Boston instrument maker Andrew Newell’s pamphlet Darkness at Noon; or, The Great Solar Eclipse of the 16th of June, 1806 (Boston: D. Carlisle & A. Newell, 1806). Newell had described the eclipse as it would be seen from Boston, explained what stars and planets would be visible when the sun was obscured, and offered advice on how to view the eclipse using “a piece of common window glass, smoaked on both sides sufficiently to prevent any injury to the eye.” One wonders how many Bostonians suffered permanent damage to their eyes while following Newell’s advice.

Poulson augments Newell’s account with a large woodcut diagram illustrating what Philadelphians would see on the morning of June 16, 1806. The lower portion illustrates the predicted progression of the eclipse from its onset at 9:42 A.M. to its conclusion at 12:36 P.M. The upper illustrates the relative paths of the Sun and Moon and the moment of “greatest obscuration” at 11:06:30 A.M.

A visually striking and very rare broadside attempting to popularize astronomy for a lay audience.

Shaw-Shoemaker 50640. As of March 2020 OCLC 39093802 and 58783659 together locate institutional holdings at the American Philosophical Society, Hagley Museum & Library, Library of Congress, and New York Historical Society.