John Flamsteed

John Flamsteed, First Astronomer Royale, Signed Doc, 1695

John Flamsteed, First Astronomer Royale, Signed Doc, 1695


Rare financial document signed. Dated "29 June 1695", and signed by John Flamsteed as "John Flamsteed", single page 7.5" x 7".  Original folds faintly present; fine condition with strong vibrant ink.


Flamsteed was an English astronomer and the first Astronomer Royal. His main work was collecting improved observations and position measurements for stars, which led to the compilation of a large 3,000-star catalogue, Historia Coelestis Britannica, and an atlas of stars, Atlas Coelestis. Included in his careful observations were some interesting discoveries and unrecognized pre-discovery observations, such as a pre-discovery sighting of Uranus in December 1690. He also laid the foundation stone for the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Signed material from Flamsteed is exceedingly rare.



The document reads in full: 


"Mr. Snapes - We desire you to pay unto the Reverend Mr. John Flamsteed the sum nine pounds one shilling & dispense for your service above said & it shall be allow'd you upon your monthly acct. Mr. Littleton... Rec'd 29th of June 1695 of Edward Snapes the sum of nine pounds one shilling and six pounds in full of this order. John Flamsteed. "



Detailed Historical Background:

Flamsteed accurately calculated the solar eclipses of 1666 and 1668. He was responsible for several of the earliest recorded sightings of the planet Uranus, which he mistook for a star and catalogued as '34 Tauri'. The first of these was in December 1690, which remains the earliest known sighting of Uranus by an astronomer. On 16 August 1680 Flamsteed catalogued a star, 3 Cassiopeiae, that later astronomers were unable to corroborate. Three hundred years later, the American astronomical historian William Ashworth suggested that what Flamsteed may have seen was the most recent supernova in the galaxy's history, an event which would leave as its remnant the strongest radio source outside of the Solar System, known in the third Cambridge (3C) catalogue as 3C 461 and commonly called Cassiopeia by astronomers. Because the position of "3 Cassiopeiae" does not precisely match that of Cassiopeia A, and because the expansion wave associated with the explosion has been worked backward to the year 1667 and not 1680, some historians feel that all Flamsteed may have done was incorrectly note the position of a star already known.


In 1681 Flamsteed proposed that the two great comets observed in November and December 1680 were not separate bodies, but rather a single comet travelling first towards the Sun and then away from it. Although Isaac Newton first disagreed with Flamsteed, he later came to agree with him and theorized that comets, like planets, moved around the Sun in large, closed elliptical orbits. Flamsteed later learned that Newton had gained access to his observations and data through Edmund Halley (second Astronomer Royal in Britain, succeeding John Flamsteed in 1720.)


As Astronomer Royal, Flamsteed spent some forty years observing and making meticulous records for his star catalogue, which would eventually triple the number of entries in Tycho Brahe's sky atlas. Unwilling to risk his reputation by releasing unverified data, he kept the incomplete records under seal at Greenwich. In 1712, Isaac Newton, then President of the Royal Society, and Edmund Halley again obtained Flamsteed's data and published a pirated star catalogue. Flamsteed managed to gather three hundred of the four hundred printings and burned them. "If Sir I.N. would be sensible of it, I have done both him and Dr. Halley a great kindness," he wrote to his assistant.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.



Item: 66934

Price: $1,500.00
John FlamsteedJohn FlamsteedJohn Flamsteed
John Flamsteed
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