History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Inv. 11523 - a broadside by Charles Leadbetter

An unrecorded broadside print of the daily positions of the satellites of Jupiter, by Charles Leadbetter, London, 1734

Prints became a major feature of life in 18th-century London. Print shops sprang up catering for a new middle-class market hungry for engravings of Old Master paintings, landscapes, celebrities and political satires (Clayton, 1997). But science was also part of this fashionably image-conscious world, and large-scale prints were produced to illustrate and explain notable events such as solar eclipses and the Transits of Venus in the 1760s (Walters, 1999; Armitage 1997).

The Museum of the History of Science has a number of rare and indeed unique survivors in this genre. This example was conceived by the mathematical practitioner Charles Leadbetter (1681 '1744). Leadbetter taught mathematics at the Hand and Pen in Cock Lane near Shoreditch from 1717 to 1742 and wrote several successful works on astronomy, gauging and dialling. The print is a large folio copperplate engraving titled 'A Scheme of the true Appearances of the Satellites of Jupiter at Ten a Clock every Night in May, June, and July Anno 1734; a Work entirely new, and very useful for all those that make Telescope Observations. By Charles Leadbetter Teacher of the Mathematicks. ' The imprint is 'Printed for the Author in Cock Lane Shore Ditch and Sold at the Optical Shops in LondonÂ?; the engraving is by Emanuel Bowen.

The sheet graphically depicts the nightly positions of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter as visible in the London sky. Leadbetter had earlier published his "Astronomy of the satellites of the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn: grounded upon Sir Isaac Newton's theory" in 1729, and this work provided tables and numerical examples to calculate the motions of each of Jupiter's satellites. The broadside was evidently intended to provide a more accessible and intuitive visual complement to his textbook treatment.

It was previously known that Leadbetter had ventured into broadside publishing. An earlier example is noted in his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but that is a letterpress sheet rather than a copperplate engraving (Bryden 2004; Leadbetter 1722). Copperplate was a step up in ambition, cost and sophistication.

The Jupiter broadside is not listed in the English Short Title Catalogue, or in any account of Leadbetter. It is both unique and very attractive and comes indirectly from the Macclesfield sale.

While researching the print for acquisition a further remarkable discovery was made which underlined the value of bringing the broadside to the Museum in Oxford.

The Oxford DNB article notes that there is only one place with any archival holdings relating to Leadbetter - the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. It turns out that we have a single letter, from Leadbetter to an amateur astronomer, Samuel Rouse, mercer of Market Harborough, Leicestershire. The letter is dated 20 Mar 1734 [ie 1735 New Style] and is a response to a request for the times of solar eclipses seen in London from 1715 to 1733. However there are several PSs, the first of which is:

"In May next I shall publish a Curious scheme of the Apparences of [Jupiter symbol] Satellites, during the time of his Visibility this year 1735 p[rice] 18d, which I recomend [sic] to all Students in Astronomy." (MHS MS Museum 95, p. 13)

The only surviving manuscript trace of Leadbetter was already in Oxford and refers to this very print!

(Admitttedly the letter is dated 1735, the print 1734. Can we be sure they refer to the same item? In 1735 Leadbetter could have been issuing a revised version of a print from the previous year. Alternatively, if it was engraved early in the year, the 1734 date of the print could have been Old Style, though since it refers to the summer months when the year would have changed this seems less likely. If the detail is not quite clear, the overall point is undiminished.)


G. Armitage, The Shadow of the Moon: British solar eclipse mapping in the eighteenth century (Map Collector Publications, Tring, 1997)
D. J. Bryden, 'Leadbetter, Charles (1681'1744)Ă‚?, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16233, accessed 26 Aug 2008]
Timothy Clayton, The English Print, 1688-1802 (New Haven & London, 1997)
Charles Leadbetter, 'A most curious and exact calculation and description of the triple conjunction, of the three superiour planets, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, in December 1722' (London, 1722).
Alice N Walters, "Ephemeral events: English broadsides of early eighteenth-century solar eclipses", History of Science, 37, (1999), 1-43

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