Milky Way/ The Pleiades/ The Visible Creation/ A Finite View of Infinity

Method Mezzotint and etching
Artist [Anonymous]
Published [Thomas Wright, 1750]
Dimensions 196 x 124 mm
Notes A very scarce collection of four plates from Thomas Wright's "An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe", depicting the Milky Way, the Pleiades, "visible creation" or the region around the Sun, Sirius and Rigel, as well as "a finite view of infinity" or galaxies illustrating the "unknown immensity of creation" as Wright describes.

Plates XIV, XV, XVII and XXXI out of thirty-two.

"Milky Way" or Plate XIV: described by Thomas Wright as "an Observation I made myself, of a Part of this Zone near the Feet of Antonius; which, (by a Mistake of the Engraver) is, as it appears through a Tube of two convex Glasses." He quotes previous mentions of the Milky Way by Milton and Democritus, and explains the phenomenon, stating that it is due to our earth's immersion in a layer of stars, the combined light of these stars creates a milky effect when looking at other spaces within the layer.

"The Pleiades" or Plate XV: described by Thomas Wright as "a well known Knot of Stars in the Sight Taurus" together with a mention of the "Persides", (Perseids), a meteor shower in the constellation of Perseus, and other star clusters in the Milky Way, explaining how far the Milky Way stretches and calculating that there would be at least 3,888,000 stars in this galaxy, and seeing that this is only a small part of "the great Expanse of Heaven", there is no other way to describe space as "infinity" and we will need "eternity" to comprehend it. Wright also attaches a table with newly discovered stars he has regularly observed, and concludes the chapter by explaining how he calculates the distances of stars and planets to the earth and to each other, the magnitude of space, and the shape of our star system, which he envisions to be disk-shaped.

"The Visible Creation" or Plate XVII: described by Thomas Wright as representing "a kind of perspective View of the visible Creation, wherein A represents the System of our Sun, B, that supposed round Syrius, and C, the Region about Rigel." meaning that A represents the Sun, B is the brightest star in the sky known as Syrius in Canis Major, and C is Rigel, a double star in the Orion constellation.

"A Finite View of Infinity" of Plate XXXI: described by Thomas Wright in the last chapter of his book as "a partial View of Immensity, or without much Impropriety perhaps, a finite View of Infinity", illustrating the idea that there is an unlimited "Plenum of Creations" not unlike the known Universe.

Thomas Wright of Durham (1711-1786) was an astronomer, best known for being the first to explain the appearance of the Milky Way in his book "An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe". Although he gathers and describes very interesting astronomical finds, it is clear from his writing that Wright tries to combine the science with a religiously satisfying vision of the universe and the idea of creation.

Condition: Trimmed close to image at tops, plate numbers lost. Inscriptions in ink with titles to lower margins, and some touches to the plates, likely to be contemporary to publication.
Framing unmounted
Price £2,200.00
Stock ID 47153