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Atlas Designed to Illustrate Burritt's Geography of the Heavens


The impressive atlas was created to accompany the book Geography of the Heavens (1833), by American mathematician, astronomer, and school teacher Elijah H. Burritt (1794 — 1838).

Title: Atlas designed to illustrate Burritt's Geography of the heavens

By: Mattison, Hiram (1811 — 1868), Burritt & Elijah H. (1794 — 1838)

Published: New York, Madison Brothers (1856?)

Summary: Front cover image of Galileo demonstrating his system. Inside are maps and plates of the constellations, the relative magnitude of the planets, the inclination of the orbits of the planets, and illustrations of clusters, nebulae, and comets."

The first of ten children, Elijah Hinsdale Burritt was born in New Britain, Connecticut. Little is known about his youth, but, according to various sources, he was likely a product of public education. When Burritt turned eighteen years old, he began training to become a blacksmith, at the same time, he pursued the study of astronomy and mathematics. Finding his passions, the young man dedicated all of his free time to learning, which greatly impressed his friends, who were determined to give him the chance to obtain a higher education.

He entered Williams College in 1816. Because his family was poor, and there were nine other kids to feed, Burritt decided to obtain further funds for his education by going to work. He joined Sanderson Academy in Ashfield Massachusetts and began to teach. Although he briefly returned to Williams College in 1818, he left shortly thereafter and never officially graduated. By 1819, Burritt moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, where he taught, worked as an editor for a weekly newspaper, and dabbled in civil engineer work. He also married Ann W. Watson, which led to the birth of five children. Although things seemed to be going well for sometime, the family encountered trouble in 1829, when anti-slavery pamphlets were spotted in his office. Much of his possessions were confiscated and he was forced to return to New Britain and start over.

According to A. J. Brooks:

"Back in New Britain, Burritt had to begin a new life. He owned some property known as the 'Stone Store.' He remodeled the building for a school, turned the upper floor into an observatory, purchased a telescope and other apparatus and opened a Boarding and Day School, where 'instruction was given in the higher English studies and in the ancient and modern languages."

Sadly, Burritt's life ended tragically. In 1937, a year after Texas seceded from Mexico, Burritt and 30 other colonists decided to go on an expedition to Houston, intending to permanently resettle there. The party encountered numerous obstacles, including getting shipwrecked and contracting Yellow Fever; most of the colony perished. "At the time of his death Burritt was not quite forty-four years of age," wrote A.J. Brooks. Still, in his short but eventful lifetime, Elijah H. Burritt wrote one of the most influential astronomy text books in the world, and created an incredible atlas to go with it.

Relative Magnitudes of the Planets

The Constellations (March, February, January & December, November, October)

The Constellations (September, August, July & June, May, April)

The Constellations (South Pole & North Pole)

Double Stars and Clusters & Clusters, Nebulae, and Comets

Back Cover: The Great Refracting Telescope

Note* All images are sourced from the Library of Congress and are in the public domain.

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