Account of a Comet J. Nichols; In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 71. William Herschel.
Account of a Comet J. Nichols; In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 71.
Account of a Comet J. Nichols; In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 71.
Account of a Comet J. Nichols; In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 71.

Account of a Comet J. Nichols; In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 71.

London: J. Nichols, 1781. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition, 1st printing anywhere of Herschel’s paper (read April 26, 1781) announcing his sighting of Uranus, the first new planet to be discovered since antiquity. Herschel thought that what he had seen was doubtless a planet, but since he was an amateur, and not a member of The Royal Society, he modestly titled his article with reserve, and in his paper, he referred to the object as a comet. However, he included extensive specifics on its location in the solar system and assumed that other, more experienced, astronomers could find it and determine what it was with certainty, and they did so quickly, and confirmed it was no comet but a new planet. The public was exhilarated, telescope sales increased twentyfold, Herschel became a rock star, and George III appointed him “The King’s Astronomer.” Our book is the entire, 582–page vol. 71 of the Royal Society’s Transactions, with his paper on pages 492–501, and it’s complete with the 3 folding plates. Contemporary calf, ornately gilt decorated spine (a beautiful book, and a giant copy, with boardwalk margins, the sheets 10 13/16” tall), rebacked in the 19th century, with 19th century endpapers, the original spine preserved and laid down, some petty scuffs and wear else very good. Ex–Henry Beaufoy. See Printing and the Mind of Man number 227, who exhibited (and cataloged) a later paper by Herschel (On the Proper Motion of the Sun and Solar System, published in the 1783 volume of the Royal Society’s Transactions), but the PMM entry is headed “A New Planet,” and it focuses on his 1781 discovery, and it details how he accomplished it, but it is our book, not theirs, that contains the paper proclaiming it. And our book is rare. ABPC lists no copies as having sold at auction since 1975, and only 1 entry for the 1781 paper, a fragment of torn out pages, missing 2 of the 3 plates, and even apprentice collectors know that torn out pages are not comparable to complete books. What seems improbable, despite that rarity, is that PMM could not locate a copy of the 1781 Account of a Comet when they assembled the books for their exhibition, yet the alternative (that the 1783 book they did exhibit was just a poor choice) would have been such an obvious mistake that it seems equally improbable. Regardless of the cause, their 1783 book was a placebo. Our book is not. And though it isn’t The Starry Messenger, it is a something. A huge something. Very good. Item #730

Price: $15,000.00

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