The Small Collection of Important Selenographical Works Held by the Manchester Astronomical Society

By Nigel Longshaw


On December 2nd 2004 I was discussing the work of James Nasmyth, the engineer and amateur astronomer, with Tony Cross, who is working with Kevin Kilburn trying to establish the true location of Nasmyth's house when he lived at Patricroft in Manchester. We talked about the book co-authored by Nasmyth and Carpenter entitled "The Moon, Considered as a Planet, a world, and a Satellite", which uses volcanism to explain the features on the Moon. Tony had a first edition copy which he had secured on special loan from Manchester Library, and we compared this with my own 1903 edition reprinted in a much more compact format.
Tony said, "have you seen the old Moon books in the cupboard"? I was intrigued, the first book was "Der Mond" by Beer and Madler, 1837. Then came "Mond-Atlas" by J.N.Krieger volume 1, 1898.

Last of all, I found volumes 1 and 2 of J.H.Schroeter's "Selenotopographische Fragmente" 1781 and 1802. Again these two volumes are in German, but the copper plate reproductions of Schroeter's drawings are wonderful.

As an avid Lunar observer I knew the importance of these works, but had no idea they had such fascinating stories attached to them until I carried out some further research. I have now had the opportunity to study the volumes on a number of occasions, and report my findings to the members as follows;

Johann Hieronymus Schroeter "Selenotopographische Fragmente" volume I - 1791 and volume II - 1802

A contemporary portrait of J.H.Schroeter.

Born in Erfurt, Germany, in 1745 Schroeter has never been given due credit for his contributions to Lunar and Planetary observing. Never a professional astronomer Schroeter was trained in the legal profession , and later in his life appointed Chief Magistrate of Lilienthal near Bremen. His life took a turn in 1781 when William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, after which Schroeter decided to "devote himself to astronomy". Quickly progressing from a 2.5 inch refractor, to reflectors of 4.75 inch and 6 inch diameters, constructed by himself using mirrors purchased from William Herschel, who he was acquainted with by contact with Williams younger brothers, Schroeter set about observing all manor of astronomical objects. In the winter of 1787-1788 Schroeter turned his attention to the Moon. Initially he intended to complete a map of the entire visible surface to a diameter of 46.5 inches, which was to be based partly on the map of Tobias Mayer. However he soon had second thoughts and decided this was too arduous a task for one observer, and instead he concentrated on preparing large scale drawings of sections of the Moon. During this time he also made numerous measurements of the features he observed, and in 1790 he had enough material to publish the first volume of his work, "Selenotopographische Fragmente". Running to 676 pages with 43 copper plates engraved by Georg Tischbein, a Bremen artist, the publication of the work was paid for by Schroeter himself.

He continued his Lunar studies until 1797, during this period he acquired a 9.5 inch reflector and later a massive 19.25 inch, the latter being of rather poor optical quality and a somewhat "unwieldy contraption". In 1802, again at his own expense, Schroeter published the second volume of "Selenotopographische Fragmente", a little shorter than the first at 565 pages with 32 copper plates. Even before this time Schroeter was concentrating more of his efforts on observing the planets, and must have felt after publishing more that 1000 pages, in two volumes, there was little further to say about the Moon.

During this period Lilienthal was becoming quite a centre for astronomical observation, with Schroeter at the forefront of the work. It was at Schroeter's observatory that the "celestial police" met to search for the "missing" planet which was thought to exist between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Schroeter was president of the committee, which included such eminent astronomical figures as Dr. H.Olbers, who eventually discovered the asteroids Pallas and Vesta in 1802 and 1807.
Schroeter went on to make a number of important contributions in the field of planetary observing, and he is credited with being the first to report the apparent "Ashen light" on the un-illuminated portion of the planet Venus, similar to earthshine on the Moon.

Schroeter's observatory, and much of Lilienthal, was destroyed following a skirmish between French and Cossack troops after Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign in 1813, and Schroeter never recovered from this loss, which included many of his papers and manuscripts. He managed to publish further work relating to his observations of the great comet of 1811 and Mercury, but he passed away on the eve of his 70th birthday in 1816.

I don't think Schroeter has had the recognition he deserves, its true to say his draughtsmanship was not of the highest standard, but he was seldom inaccurate in the portrayal of the detail he observed. He was the first to make repeated use of the words "rille" and "crater" when describing the Lunar features he observed, however his use of these terms gave no implication relating to their mode of formation. He introduced around eighty new references for previously unnamed Lunar features, most of which are still in use today.

Volumes one and two of Schroeter's work
(Shown with the detached spines)

The two volumes held by the Manchester Astronomical Society are very similar in terms of their condition, which is generally as follows;

At approximately 200 x 260 mm these are indeed "hefty" volumes, the first containing 676 pages and 43 plates, the second 565 pages and 32 plates.The heavyweight card covers have a "mottled" finish. The decorated leather covered card spines have become detached on both volumes, but are with the books. Corners are very worn and bumped. The pages inside are in remarkable condition considering their age, but suffer from a little foxing and darkening of their edges. The plates are in good condition, and the paper is indented where printed by the original copper plates. Whilst a little crude in their depiction, the drawings give an overwhelming feeling that they had paved the way for selenology over the next 100 years or so.

The bindings to both volumes is intact and there no loose pages, the frontispiece to volume one is inscribed indicating that both volumes were presented to the Society in 1924 by E.T.Whitelow F.R.A.S. Mr.Whitelow was head of an important engineering practice and patent office based at 70 Deansgate, Manchester. He became a partner of Julius Allmann & Co. in 1884, and took over the business when its founder, Mr.Allmann, retired in 1890. Mr.Whitelow worked on a number of engineering projects, some of which were in other countries, putting down the first steelwork plant in China. Mr.Whitelow was also head of the international patent side of the business, and had a large clientele both in this country and abroad. Business in this regard was transacted in English, French and German. We might conclude from Mr.Whitelow's business activities that he may have spent some time abroad, and may have picked up the two volumes of Schroeter's work outside the U.K. Mr. Whitelow was president of the M.A.S. from 1904 to 1907.

The Moon according to Schroeter was a geologically active body, the features on it's surface exhibited changes in their appearance, there was a tenuous atmosphere, and the surface was inhabited by "Selenites".

Thirty five years later, with the work of W.Beer and J.Madler, our view of the Moon changed, and has remained much the same to this day.

Wilhelm Beer and Johann von Madler, "a map and a book".

J.Madler, the main contributor to "Der Mond"

Born in Berlin in 1797 W.Beer trained for a career in banking, at which he was very successful. Madler on the other hand had a tortuous early life, he seemed destined for an academic career until an outbreak of typhus claimed the lives of both his parents when he was 19 years old. He had to change his plans quickly in order to provide for his four younger siblings; he trained as an elementary school teacher, gave private lessons, and later founded a school in Berlin for children whose parents had limited means.

Wilhelm Beer was introduced to Madler by Alexander Humboldt, the explorer and naturalist, and the two men immediately became friends sharing their common passion for astronomy. It was Beer who established his own observatory, equipping it with a fine 3.75 inch Fraunhofer refractor, and the two men set about their Lunar mapping project in 1830, where their predecessor Lohrmann had left off.

Adopting a scale of 37 inches to the Lunar diameter Beer and Madlers map was produced in four sections, bounded by the Lunar equator and the prime meridian, with no overlaps. In the space of only six years the two men completed a monumental achievement, however its generally thought that Madler was the one who carried out the majority of the observations. The last "quarter" of the map was published in 1836.

This chart surpassed anything which had been previously published in terms of its accuracy and detail, and because of this the two men attributed some 130 new names to the features they had recorded. Most of these names are still in use to this day.

The chart however was only part of the storey. During the making of the chart Beer and Madler had amassed a huge amount of written notes and measurements of Lunar features. This information they collated and published in a book entitled "Der Mond" (The Moon) published in 1837. The book, written in German, contains just about all that was known about the Moon at the time, along with detailed descriptions of all the features observed by Beer and Madler.

The views expressed in "Der Mond" were completely different from everything which had gone before. Beer and Madlers Moon was airless, waterless and lifeless and therefore "changeless, because of this the work marked an epoch in the study of the Moon. Madler scorned observers who had preceded him, such as Schroeter, because of their beliefs and "flimsy and insubstantial results". To all intents and purposes "Der Mond" drew a line under Lunar observing as it stood at that point in time creating a new view of our Moon, and this is why it is such an important book.

Wilhelm Beer died in 1850, later Madler worked at the observatory at Dorpat which housed a 9.5 inch refractor. Initially he used the instrument to further refine his observations, but he was never happy, and moved back to Germany in 1865, he died in Hanover in 1874.

Wilhelm Beer and Johann von Madler's "Der Mond" in the possession of the Manchester Astronomical Society.

The title page of "Der Mond"


Measuring 240 x 300 mm the 404 page treatise (excluding the forward and index), is complete, the pages are rather "creased" suggesting exposure to damp air at some stage in its life, there is occasional foxing and the edges of the pages are darkened. There are five pages bound in at the back of the book showing 21 figures, which I assume are referred to in the text, and eight drawings of selected Lunar features.These pages are of different quality paper than the rest of the book, and have suffered from a little water staining and foxing. The book is bound in dark brown cloth ( calf skin effect) over card. The spine contains the words "Der Mond" in gold lettering, however the spine has become detached along its right hand side and would benefit from a little repair to prevent further damage.
There are three inscriptions on the inside, first page, and suggest the book was acquired by F.W.Longbottom in 1904 from W.Murray Dobie, who at the time appears to have been disposing of a number of his selenographical works. F.W.Longbottom was an early astrophotographer and from 1906 to 1926 Director of the B.A.A. photographic section. W.Murray Dobie was a frequent contributor to the B.A.A. Mars section. The book changed hands again in 1916 when it was acquired by Dr.H.Whichello and finally presented to the Manchester Astronomical Society in 1939 by Dr. Whichello.

A portrait of Dr. Whichello who donated "Der Mond" to the M.A.S. (from the Liverpool Astronomical Society)

Dr. H.Whichello listed in the members section of the B.A.A. Lunar Section memoirs volume 5 circa 1902, Dr. Whichello's address is listed as Tattenhall,a small village South East of Chester, and his instruments, a nine inch. Spec. (Newtonian) and a six inch. O.G. (refractor). The memoirs list observations received by the B.A.A. Lunar Section during the particular period of the volume. In one instance the section Director, Walter Goodacre at that time, comments as follows; "Dr. Whichello has been very active in making sketches of different formations, of which about thirty have been sent in. These illustrate, among other objects, rilles and ridges near Cauchy, the West wall of Hipparchus, Posidonius and several of Atlas".

Dr. Whichello is again listed in the sixth memoir circa 1905, still residing in Chester and using a six inch refractor, and again descriptions of his observational work are referred to.

Between the years of 1914 and 1922 Dr. Whichello was honorary secretary of the Liverpool Astronomical Society, and between 1923 and 1925, and again between 1931 and 1935 their president. I understand he was also a full member of the M.A.S. and may have served on the council at some time.
It is appears from the above that, at least for a time, Dr. Whichello was an enthusiastic and productive Lunar observer.

Johann Nep. Krieger, "Mond Atlas"

J.N.Krieger's portrait from the title page of "Mond Atlas" volume 2, 1912.


Born in 1865 in Bavaria, Johann Nepomuk Krieger can be considered something of an "enigma" in terms of the history of Lunar observing. He is seldom mentioned in the "popular" literature, however his storey is a fascinating, and moving one.

Son of a master brewer he started observing the Moon as a small boy using a modest refractor. He left formal education at the age of 15, at the age of 21 he visited professor Klein director of the Cologne Observatory and an eminent astronomer in his own right. Klein encouraged Krieger to make the study of the Moon his "life's work". Using his inheritance to establish an observatory in the Munich suburb of Gern-Nymphenburg, and equipping it with a fine 10.6 inch Zolliger refractor, this is exactly what Krieger did, and he resolved to produce a "definitive Lunar Atlas". Working at the same period, with the same intentions, was the "aggressive" Lunar cartographer Philipp Fauth. Fauth was a master of careful observation, his drawings of Lunar formations were superb, both in their representation and accuracy, and he quickly became well respected in astronomical circles. Not a shy man, Fauth delighted in letting everyone know his observations were second to none and that he was routinely able to observe finer details than those using larger instruments than his own. Whilst Fauth's approach to Lunar Cartography was in the traditional manor of hand drawn representations, Krieger favoured a different method. He obtained, through Klein, negatives of the Moon taken at the Lick and Paris observatories. These low resolution images were enlarged and formed the basis of Krieger's drawings, thus ensuring an unparalleled level of proportion and positional accuracy. Krieger added the details he observed at the telescope over a number of observing sessions and used the drawings as the basis for his superb charcoal, ink and graphite pencil drawings. These drawings were "superior" to any which had previously been produced. Fauth was quick to deride Krieger's work, presumably fearing that his own work would be overshadowed by this new method of preparing observational drawings.

In order to bring some continuity to his observations Krieger "standardised" his equipment by continually using a power of 260 and stopping down the aperture of his instrument to six and a half inches. He worked frantically to produce the drawings for his proposed atlas of the Moon, however he paid a high price for his long hours at the telescope and in his study and after a few short years Krieger's health deteriorated and he died in 1902.

Krieger completed 28 plates for the publication of volume 1 of his atlas, which he lived to see published in 1898. The remaining plates, from finished drawings to rough sketches, were collated and published some 10 years after his death in 1912, by the respected Austrian selenographer R.Konig.

Philipp Fauth continued to rise in the esteem of the astronomical community, particularly in Germany, his 600 page treatise (Our Moon) was published in 1936, and remains his best known work outside Germany. His Lunar Atlases of 1895 and 1936 are testimony to his skill and perseverance as an observer. However one wonders if there would have been a different history if Krieger had lived a long and productive life.

As well as the books left by Krieger his memory lives on in the numerous new names he gave to the Lunar features he observed, such as Lamont, Prinz and Yerkes which are still in use to this day.

Joh. Nep. Krieger's "Mond Atlas" volume 1, in the possession of the Manchester Astronomical Society.

Cover of "Mond Atlas" Volume 1
Krieger's drawing of the area
Around Schroeter's valley


The M.A.S. owns volume 1 of a three volume set, (its hardly surprising that there is not a full set of three volumes considering the latter two were published some 14 years after the first). The book measures 260 mm x 320 mm approx. and includes a plate showing Krieger's observatory, 20 pages of text (in German) and 28 plates showing various areas of the Lunar surface in detail drawn by Krieger. The original heavy card covers survive, with an attractive "crocodile" skin texture finish with fabric spine and corners, unfortunately this finish was not repeated on the second two volumes, which seem to have a plain blue cloth cover.

Unfortunately the Atlas is in rather poor condition, although appears to be complete. The card covers are scratched and worn and the corners bumped. The binding to the spine has almost disintegrated making many of the pages loose.

The plates though are in quite good condition, helped I suppose by the fact that each plate is covered with a transparent overlay, which in every case seems to have become discoloured with age. The overlays carry the nomenclature relating to the plate underneath and this allows the drawings to be viewed, when the overlay is peeled back, without the usual cluttering of text. This feature has to some extent "protected" the drawings beneath and so they appear quite fresh.
Despite its condition there can be no doubt this is an important historical document and at the very least should be protected from further damage.

Post script

When I was driving home on the evening of Thursday December 2nd, with the books carefully bagged up on the seat next to me, I could not help wondering, what were four of the most important books ever written about the Moon, in a historical context, with their text in German, doing in an amateur astronomy society in Manchester!

During my research I have tried to find some sort of connection, it appears that at least in the case of Krieger he may have actually had a tentative connection with the North West of England and more so to the Liverpool Astronomical Society. In its beginnings the Liverpool society was an "international" group with members scattered across the globe. It was at the AGM in 1886-1887 that the then president T.G.Elger proposed (because the society had become so large), ordinary meetings should be held in different towns throughout the country. In 1890 the B.A.A. was formed, fragmenting the troubled Liverpool Society making it shrink to a "local" society serving Liverpool and its immediate surroundings. The B.A.A. grew from strength to strength, and Elger went on to become director of the Lunar Section of the B.A.A. Elger still holds the great respect he did at the time. A dedicated Lunar observer this Liverpool engineer published his own book entitled "The Moon" in 1895. In the introduction to the book he mentions whilst he was not only able to consult the growing archive of the B.A.A. Lunar section during preparation of his work, he was also privileged to have sight of pencil drawings from numerous noteworthy observers, one of which was J.N.Krieger. As Krieger's Atlas was not published until 1898, some three years after Elger's book one can only assume the two men kept in contact by personal correspondence, and probably exchanged observations much as Lunar observers tend to do today. Elger passed away in 1897, before publication of Krieger's Atlas, however Elger must have made some sort of impression on the Bavarian amateur, as Krieger mentions referring to Elger's book whilst compiling his own observations. Krieger gave Elger the ultimate honour of naming a crater after him, which still applies to this day. Situated on the edge of the Palus Epidemiarum a little South of the crater Capuanus, and included on plate 28, the last in volume one of his "Mond Atlas".

The observations of Krieger are mentioned many times in the early volumes of the Memoirs of the B.A.A. Lunar Section, however I cannot find his name listed as being a "member" of the Lunar Section. The publication of the "Mond-Atlas" was mentioned, by the section director at the time, Walter Goodacre, in volume four of the memoirs stating of the drawings, that "they will repay careful study by all those interested in selenography".

It would appear, despite its German origins, the book must have been widely available, and considered worthy of special note.


In addition to having the pleasure of studying the above mentioned books themselves, the following have been consulted during the preparation of this brief history:

The latter three volumes are a must for anyone interested in the history of Lunar observation.

Finally my thanks go to Kevin Kilburn for his information in relation to the "characters" associated with the Manchester Astronomical Society and for his comments on the text of this paper, and last but not least to Tony Cross without who one can only guess how long these books might have lay hidden in that "cupboard in the back room" !

Article © Copyright 2005 Nigel Longshaw

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