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Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Back’s engravings of two celestial maps, “l'Hemisphére Celeste Austral”, 1732

Back (possibly in collaboration with Pierre Bourgoin [fl. 1740–1780])

Two celestial maps, “Premiere Partie de l'Hemisphére Celeste Austral” and “Seconde Partie de l'Hemisphére Celeste Austral”, 1732, initially published in 1732 in Paris by chez la veuve Estienne & Fils as (folded) pages 318 and 320 to Noël-Antoine Pluche’s (aka abbé Pluche) (1688–1761) “Le spectacle de la nature, ou entretiens sur les particularités de l'histoire naturelle qui ont paru les plus propres à rendre les jeunes-gens curieux, & à leur former l'esprit” ([transl.] “The spectacle of nature, or interviews on the peculiarities of natural history which seemed the most suitable to make young people curious, and to train their minds), vol. 4. offers an online view of these celestial maps in their context in the publication: see &

Regarding explanatory text to these celestial maps, the following description extracted from page 583 may be helpful: (Google Transl.) “… pages. 318; & 320, represent the constellations of the other hemisphere from the Equator to the Southern pole, which is the centre. As soon as we are sure to know a single constellation, or even a single star, like the Polar, which is very close to the Arctic pole, one can by comparing in a beautiful night the neighbouring stars which are in the planispheres, with those which one sees in the sky, to disentangle little by little these, & to call the principal ones by their names.”

Two engravings on fine laid paper abutted as a single composition on a support sheet.

Size: (backing sheet) 47.7 x 42.9 cm; (each sheet with small variations) 16.5 x 29.7 cm; (image borderline of each sheet with small variations) 14.5 x 28.5 cm.

Lettered in upper plate: (upper left) “PREMIERE/ L'HEMISPHÉRE”; (upper right) “Tom. IV. Pag. 318./ PARTIE DE CELESTE AUSTRAL”; (lower left) “Back Sc.”

Lettered in lower plate: (lower left) “SECONDE/ DE L'HEMISPHÉRE”; (lower right) “PARTIE CELESTE AUSTRAL”.

Condition: both engravings are strong and well-printed (near faultless) impressions that have been flattened, abutted and mounted on a larger sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper as a composite celestial map. Beyond minor imperfections in the mounting, both engravings are in a near pristine condition.

I am selling this visually arresting sky map from the early 1700s, showing the constellations and their names, for the total cost of AU$372 (currently US$267.89/EUR238.87/GBP200.77 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world, but not (of course) any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries.

If you are interested in purchasing this spectacular composite of two very rare engravings, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

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