This beautiful and extremely rare star chart depicts several constellations, including Hydra, Felis (the Cat), Sextens (the Sextant), and the Compass, amongst others, and comes from Kornelius Reissig’s Созвѣздія представленныя на XXX таблицахъ… [Translation: Presentation of Constellations in 30 Tables…] (St. Petersburg, 1829), the first Russian Celestial atlas. Each of the constellations is depicted in an elegant pictorial fashion, with their names labelled in Russian Cyrillic. Impressively employing various symbols, the chart also gives an idea as to the magnitude of each of the stars.
Kornelius Khristianovich Reissig (1781 – 1860) was a polymath Russian scientist and educator of Baltic German decent. A member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a university professor, he published widely on a variety of topics ranging from physics, barometries, statics, and even a treatise on painting.
The Созвѣздія представленныя на XXX таблицахъ… [Presentation of Constellations in 30 Tables…] was Reissig’s most impressive work, being the first Russian celestial atlas, consisting of 30 star charts (of which the present chart was Тав. XXVI). While Reissig based his charts on those within the 1806 edition of Johann Bode’s atlas, the engraving and presentation of Reissig’s work is far superior. While the present chart was simply printed in black on normal white paper, certain deluxe editions of the atlas featured 29 of the 30 charts printed in gold on black, with punched holes representing the major stars. Other examples of the atlas simply featured all of the charts printed in black on normal white paper.
Please see a link to a lovely example of the complete atlas in the collections of the Linda Hall Library (Kansas City, Mo.):
While Reissig, an educational reformer, noted that he intended that his celestial atlas was “composed for educational institutions and amateur astronomers”, in reality both the normal and deluxe editions were extremely expensive items affordable only to the Russian nobility and the highest echelons of the merchant class. As such, only very few examples were ever printed. Only a couple of examples of the complete atlas have appeared on the market during the last generation, and we cannot trace and instances of any of the individual charts being offered by dealers or at auction over the same period. Thus Reissig’s charts are amongst the rarest of all the important printed star charts.