“Visible Heavens”: A Swirling Set of Four Vintage Star Maps


Visible Heavens (set of four), a 20x200 Vintage Edition
10"x8" ($80) | 14"x11" ($200) | 20"x16" ($900) | 30"x24" ($3000)

O holy night the stars are brightly shining….and whether or not you’re a fan of deep cut Christmas carols, you’ve gotta admit: there’s something festive, fortuitous and profound about stargazing on the first night of Winter.

This set of four vintage celestial maps, Visible Heavens is an old-school ode to astronomy... Each intricate image in the set corresponds to one quarter of the year, and maps out the constellations of the night sky as they would have been seen from New York City in the mid-1800s. The woodblocks from which the originals were created were hand-carved by Asa Smith, the principal at NYC’s Public School No. 12. Smith’s goal was to “present all the distinguishing principles in Physical Astronomy with as few words as possible”. Working for nearly three years to complete the woodblock prints for the project, Smith finally published the sum total in 1850. The culmination of his efforts, Smith’s Illustrated Astronomy, became the most widely read American astronomy guide of the 19th century.

How these four images ended up in our hands is all thanks to an endeavoring dude with a particular passion for maps—and public access. Over a hundred years after Smith published his comprehensive compilation of self-made astronomical maps, they came into the possession of one David Rumsey, an avid map collector and president of Cartography Associates. Rumsey began collecting in the early 1980s (and continues to this day) acquiring more than 150,000 rare maps in the process, some dating back as far as the 16th century.

Not only is Smith’s Illustrated Astronomy in very good company, but Rumsey regularly uploads new maps to his website where they can be accessed by the public for free. Jackpot. Our curatorial team carefully remastered the file for printing and voila! Beautifully rendered map art for everyone? Now that’s something we can get behind.

With art for everyone,
Team 20x200

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