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Treasures of the RAS

The Library and Archives of the Royal Astronomical Society contain books, images and documents significant in the development of scientific thought in astronomy, geophysics and related disciplines. In this series of articles and videos RAS Librarians display some of the gems of the collection.

Treasures of the RAS: The woman in the Moon - Cassini's lunar map

In this edition of Treasures of the RAS, Librarian Jenny Higham introduces the first scientific map of the Moon, made by Giovanni Cassini in 1679.

This detailed engraving of the surface of the Moon was based on Cassini's own observations made with a telescope.

The features are an accurate representation of the Moon as Cassini saw it -- apart from a mysterious woman's head, which is hidden among the mountains and craters on the engraving.

 
Treasures of the RAS: Copernicus puts the Sun at the centre of the Solar System

In this edition of Treasures of the RAS, Librarian Jenny Higham introduces De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium by Nicolaus Copernicus, one of the most important works in the history of astronomy.

In this book published in 1543, Copernicus proposed that all the planets orbit around the Sun, rather than around the Earth, as had previously been assumed.

The RAS holds a first edition of the book, one of 276 surviving copies worldwide. But why does our copy of the book look so unusual?

The title translates as On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. The book revolutionised astronomy and cosmology, but was controversial with religious leaders and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Catholic Church.