middle - Michael Oates,
left - Anthony W Cross, right - Kevin J Kilburn


John Bevis' proposed 'Uranographia Britannica'

An extremely rare atlas compiled by John Bevis, in the eighteenth century,
discovered at the Manchester Astronomical Society.

Dr John Bevis' intended URANOGRAPHIA BRITANNICA, a very rare star atlas that should have been published in about 1750 but tragically became lost to science. The copy discovered by members of Manchester Astronomical Society in 1997 consists of original plates sold anonymously for a quick sale as 'Atlas Celeste' in 1786. Only about 20 of these so-called 'ghost books' are known to exist. The MAS atlas is one of only two that has a complete and undamaged 1786 'title' page, the other being in the British library. However unlike their atlas, the MAS copy is the only complete 1786 atlas bound in its original, unfolded, format as intended by Bevis.

On this CD-ROM there is a wealth of information including the discovery of the Manchester copy, the extraordinary history of the atlas and why it was never published. Kevin Kilburn also describes the first recorded pre-discovery observation of Uranus by the first Astronomer Royal, the Rev. John Flamsteed, in 1690. This 'star' is clearly shown on the Taurus chart. He also suggests the possibility that Bevis himself may have observed the planet over forty years before William Herschel officially discovered it in 1781.

All the pages of the Atlas are included as Windows .BMP files in addition to the Adobe Acrobat presentation; these are located in a directory called "images" on the CD-ROM. In addition to the bitmap images there are a few VERY high-resolution jpeg images in a subdirectory called "highres". To view these images at least 32Mb of RAM is recommended. You can view all the charts on screen or you may print them to get a paper version.

Copies or the 'ghost book' are extremely rare and many are incomplete but they do occasionally come on the market. With a good 'Atlas Celeste' selling at auction for around £28,000 [October 2001] it is important to know how the atlas offered compares with the others. In an attempt to describe and list all known books, or sets of Bevis' charts, Kevin Kilburn has compiled a list that is updated as and when information comes to light. If any auction houses, academic institutions or private individuals know of any other copies of the atlas, or can provide further information on any of the ones already listed, please contact Kevin at kkilburn@globalnet.co.uk

Or by post to:
Kevin Kilburn (Bevis Atlas)
Manchester Astronomical Society
Godlee Observatory
Floor G, Sackville Building,
University of Manchester.
Sackville Street
M60 1QD

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Page modified 21 January, 2005