Exhibition tells story of astronomical Renaissance

A new exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science tells the story of the developments in astronomical observation which led up to Copernicus’ proposition that the earth is in motion.

'The Renaissance in Astronomy' brings together 16th-century books, instruments and globes to mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of cartographer Gerard Mercartor, whose world map projections we use to this day.

Highlights of the exhibition include a pair of Mercartor’s terrestrial and celestial globes; Mercartor’s annotated copy of Copernicus’ book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium; illustrated books from the library of the Royal Astronomical Society; and a newly-acquired celestial globe by Johannes Schöner.

Professor Jim Bennett, museum director, said: 'This exhibition demonstrates the importance of craftsmanship even in so cerebral a subject as astronomy. The objects are wonderful - they are 'stellar'. The famous instruments from our own collection, such as Elizabeth I's astrolabe, are seen with, for example, two copies of the first edition of Copernicus.

'The globe by Schöner is one of only two surviving examples of the earliest extant printed celestial globe. It's almost impossible to select a star object – this is simply the finest exhibition ever in the UK on Renaissance Astronomy.'

The exhibition runs until 9 September 2012 and is a collaboration with the Royal Astronomical Society.