Star Maps pp 151-190 | Cite as

The “Big Four” of the Golden Age of pictorial star maps

  • Nick Kanas
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


The Golden Age of pictorial celestial cartography took place in Europe, roughly from 1600 to 1800. During this period, grand sky atlases were produced that attempted to accurately place the stars and planets in the heavens in coordinate systems that paralleled those on Earth. These were influenced from increasingly more accurate placement that resulted from new star catalogs that built on that of Ptolemy. Using bigger and better instruments, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Hevelius determined the locations of the stars using naked eye observations. Beginning with John Flamsteed, telescopes and micrometers were added to these instruments, which made their positioning even more accurate. In addition, the rapid advances in printing techniques since the development of movable type procedures in the 1450s led to the ability to depict images with more detail and accuracy. Paralleling developments in terrestrial mapmaking, the use of coarse woodblocks gave way to intaglio processes in celestial maps that allowed fine images on copper and steel plates to be reproduced as fine images on paper. Now, maps of the heavens could be both aesthetically pleasing and technically accurate, and mapmakers increasingly competed with each other to produce bigger and better star atlases. Some of these are truly works of art and will be described in Chapter 7. In this chapter, I will deal with four individuals who are considered to be the most influential during this period for the standards they set and their influence on others. But, first, a word about the conventions that will be used.


Coordinate System Steel Plate Type Procedure Fine Image Rapid Advance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Praxis Publishing Ltd, Chichester, UK 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nick Kanas
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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