Astronomy Manuscripts in Special Collections

The History of Science Collection at BYU contains manuscript material by several prominent astronomers of the 17th and 18th centuries, including correspondence, treatises, and observations.   The largest collection is the Jean-Baptiste Joseph Delambre Collection, VMSS 458.  Delambre (1749-1822) was a French astronomer and mathematician who helped develop the metric system and wrote one of the first major histories of astronomy.  The Delambre collection contain manuscript observations of comets, sunspots and the planets Uranus, Jupiter, and Venus.  The collection also contains portions of the manuscript of his Histoire de l’astronomie ancienne.

Special Collections also holds a collection of correspondence by Delambre’s teacher, Joseph Lalande (VMSS  530).  The letters shed light on the astronomer’s professional and personal life, including the political situation in post-revolution France.

Another important manuscript is Johannes Hevelius’ fixed star catalog (Vault Collection 091 H489), which was acquired by the Harold B. Lee Library as its one millionth volume in the 1970’s.  Hevelius (1611-1687), a Polish astronomer, compiled this manuscript catalog of his stellar observations between 1660-81.  The library also owns several letters written by Hevelius and his wife, Elizabeth.

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