An Easy Guide to the Constellations, with a Miniature Atlas of the Stars and Key Maps
First edition, undated. 12mo (6 x 4.5 inches); 52pp, . Previous owner's signature to pastedown, J. Rogers dated Sept. 13, 1856. Very Good+ with slight bowing to the slim volume, resulting in stress to the front joint, beginning fray at the spinehead. Illustrated with astronomical charts and lush diagrams of the constellations suspended in deep blue space. The cyanotype was invented by John Herschel in 1842 and popularized through the following decade by Anna Atkins, whose albums of botanical cyanotypes are regarded as the first photographically illustrated book. The immediacy of Atkins’ cyanotypes, providing the viewer with an intimate and unaltered image of the natural forms, may have inspired Gall’s unusual plates. He and his father both pursued innovative printing methods for the aid of the blind, using embossed scripts and embedding twine to aid their reading. Printer, clergyman, and polymath, Gall authored 3 map projections in his work as a cartographer. Most notably, his orthographic projection of 1855 became the basis of the 1967 Gall-Peters projection, which reduces the distortions of the Mercator projection that visually reinforce the perceived superiority of Europe and North America in the world image.
Gall’s acute understanding of space in translation clearly informed his approach to the Easy Guide illustrations, which are designed so that looking into one of its plates could approximate the experience of looking into the darkness of night and seeing the holes of light that form constellations. His work was intended for a popular audience–his introduction lays out his desire to create images where "the stars are unencumbered by names.” He earnestly believed that observing the stars could bring a person closer to God. His astronomy-conscious work on Christianity, The Stars and the Angels was published in 1858. Easy Guide… is often cited as being published along with its companion People's Atlas… in 1870– and later editions in handsome publisher's bindings were printed well into the 1900s. Those enlarged editions featured attractive, but altered plates with text and stylized stars. This original edition appears to be unique in its execution of Gall’s images and is duly rare. OCLC records 2 copies held by the British Library, dated 1855.