Uranographia – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)

Berlin (Germany) — 1797–1801

A true pre-modern bestseller with magnificent depictions of the universe: a staggering 17,240 planets, stars and nebulae in Johann Elert Bode's masterful star atlas

  1. Johann Elert Bode (1747–1826) is counted among the most significant 18th century German astronomers

  2. Bode’s star atlas is the most masterful and simultaneously the last of its genre ever to be printed

  3. Appearing in multiple editions between 1796 and 1801, his work was an Early Modern bestseller


Facsimile Copy Available!
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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)

Johann Elert Bode is counted among the most significant German astronomers of the 18th century. He postulated equations and mathematical formulas for the calculation of planetary orbits, which made possible the discovery of Neptune inter alia by his successors. Appearing in multiple editions between 1796 and 1801, his Uranographia represents his astronomical findings in the most beautiful and artistically attractive way. The book is considered to be a true best seller of the Early Modern Period and simultaneously represents the last masterpiece of artistic celestial cartography.


Uranographia sive astrorum description, such is the title of one of the most important astronomical works of the 18th century. The text, the title translates to Uranography or the Description of the Stars, was composed between 1791 and 1802 by the German astronomer Johann Elert Bode. It is considered today to be the last great masterpiece of artistic celestial cartography. The spectacular star atlas comprised 20 celestial maps with a directory of a total of 17,240 planets, stellar nebulae, and binary stars. The original specimen of the atlas is found today in the university library of the Nicolaus Copernicus Institute in the Polish city of Torun.

The Astronomer Johann Elert Bode

Johann Elert Bode was born in Hamburg in the year 1747. Together with his eight sisters, he was educated by his father, an esteemed Hamburg merchant. Johann Bode's scientific curiosity, his interest in mathematics and physics already made him notable in his youth. In 1765, he was introduced through a family friend to Johann Georg Bürsch, a teacher of mathematics at Hamburg’s Akademischen Gymnasium. After speaking with him, he was impressed with the youngster’s intelligence and calculative skills, and permitted him to make use of his library and the instruments of his collection for private study. His first scientific treatise was published in 1766, when Bode was 19. It was concerned with a solar eclipse on August 5th, 1766. Additional treatises for the calculation of the movement of the planets followed, in which Bode inter alia postulated an empirical formula for the calculation of the spacing of planetary orbits from the Sun. In 1776, Bode functioned as the publisher of the first Berliner Astronomisches Jahrbuch, the most renowned astronomical publication series worldwide. He is counted today among the most important astronomers of world history.

The Discovery of Uranus

Johann Bode became famous in professional circles above all because of his work on the orbit of Uranus, discovered in 1781. The planet, which is visible with the naked eye from Earth, already appeared in very early star catalogs. Bode discovered its position in a catalog published in 1690 by the English court astronomer John Flamsteed, where it was registered under the designation Tauri 34. He calculated the planetary orbit of Uranus with a high degree of accuracy and his observations of the surrounding planets led to the discovery of Neptune in 1846. The naming of Uranus is traced to a suggestion of Bode’s.

The Scientist’s Masterpiece

The Uranographia is one of two star atlases that Bode published and is by far his most important work. He depicted his astronomical findings and his scientific research in a grateful, artistically pleasing manner. His star constellations are deposited with visual interpretations of people, animals, and celestial phenomena. The printed book, whose style corresponds completely to the scientific spirit of Renaissance humanism, was bound in a special manner. The pages were stuck to the book spine in such a way that one can open the book completely and spread it flat. Consequently, every detail of the astounding star maps are visible. Bode’s artistic atlas is the most masterful and simultaneously the last of of its genre ever to be printed.


Alternative Titles
Joannis Elerti Bode, Uranographia sive astrorum descriptio
Size / Format
44 pages / 65.0 × 45.5 cm
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Toruń library of the Protestant Academic Gymnasium
Coppernicus-Verein für Wissenschaft und Kunst (Toruń, Poland)

Available facsimile editions:
Uranographia – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2010
Limited Edition: 299 copies
Detail Picture


Hot Air Balloon and Microscope

Capricorn bounds across the sky and over two of the most important inventions of the Early Modern Era: the compound microscope and the hot air balloon. The first manned balloon flight occurred in Paris on November 21, 1783 – only a few years before the publication of this work. It was an exciting event that would lead to the first moon landing only 186 years later. Although less glamorous, the development of the microscope in early-17th century Europe would change the way we see the world.

Uranographia – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Single Page


Ursa Major and Ursa Minor

This page represents one of the last and greatest masterpieces of artistic celestial cartography, whereby the incredibly accurate findings of Early Modern astronomers were presented in the imaginative trappings of the constellations’ mythical conceptions. This 18th century printed work presents two of the original 48 Ptolemaic constellations.

In Roman mythology, Jupiter lusts after Callisto, a nymph of Diana, who is turned into a bear by his jealous wife, Juno. Callisto’s son, Arcas, nearly kills his mother before Jupiter turns him into a bear as well and puts them in the sky, forming the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The Big and Little Bears are presented with artistry that blends seamlessly with the precise mapping of the grid pattern.

Uranographia – Orbis Pictus – Biblioteka Uniwersytecka Mikołaj Kopernik w Toruniu (Toruń, Poland)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Uranographia

Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2010

Publisher: Orbis Pictus – Pelplin, 2010
Limited Edition: 299 copies
Binding: Half leather, leather bound with canvass, gilded title, atlas folios glued and sewn as in the original, allowing the atlas to be fully opened and viewed without loss of details at the folds
Commentary: 1 volume
Languages: English, Polish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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