Treasures of the RAS: Urania's Mirror


In this edition of Treasures of the RAS, Librarian Jenny Higham introduces a teaching aid for astronomy, Urania's Mirror, published in 1824.

Victorians could learn about the night sky using these pretty pictures of the constellations. The cards had pinpricked holes to mark the location of the bright stars. Hold them up to the light, and you can see the stars as if in the sky – but be careful not to let them catch fire if you're using a candle!

The identify of the author was a mystery for 170 years. In 1994 Peter Hingley, then Librarian at the RAS, identified the author as Reverend Richard Rouse Bloxam. He probably kept his identity secret because the images were copied (plagiarised) from an earlier work: A Celestial Atlas by Alexander Jamieson (1822).