|Method||Woodcut with original hand colour|
|Published||[By Asa Smith. Boston: Samuel F. Nichols, 43 Washington Street. 1866]|
|Dimensions||252 x 208 mm|
A mid-nineteenth century astronomical chart showing four separate diagrams relating to the Sun, from the 1866 edition of 'Smith's Illustrated Astronomy.' In the top left, a hand coloured illustration shows the spots, luminous atmosphere, and 'opake' body of the Sun. Beside this, the various spots that have been observed on the Sun's surface are mapped in relation to its axis and equator, while in bottom left are shown detailed illustrations of these same spots. The final diagram at bottom right shows the various transits of Venus and Mercury from 1848 to 1894.
Smith's Illustrated Astronomy, Designed for the Use of the Public or Common Schools in the United States was a general astronomical textbook, first published in 1848 but improved and reprinted a number of times. The author, Asa Smith, described himself as 'Former Principal of Public School No. 12, City of New York,' and the text of the book is designed as a number of lessons, positing questions that teachers could address to their pupils, along with the answers, both simplified and in depth. Smith's knowledge of his subject was enthusiastic but often flawed, perpetuating numerous mistruths or historical misunderstandings, particularly in regards to the historical appreciation of astronomy. The most egregious of these occurs in Smith's very first lesson, which denies any ancient knowledge of the spherical shape of our planet, instead telling students that ancient peoples believed the world to be a flat disc supported by an elephant or a turtle. While true for some Huron, Hindu, and Chinese mythemes, it in no way compares to the beliefs of the classical astronomers upon which Smith purports to rely. For later editions, the numerous illustrations and diagrams were updated and improved by Prof. Newcomb from Harvard's Astronomical Department, though the lessons themselves remained relatively unchanged.
Asa Smith (fl.1848) was a New York based educator, best known for his very popular Illustrated Astronomy, a textbook created for use by American Public Schools.
Condition: Minor time toning and foxing to edges of sheet. English text on verso.