Textiles, Recent acquisitions, Popular Astronomy, 2. Astronomy in the lecture theatre

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Wall hanging


Object details:

Object ID ZBA4554
Description This is one of nine wall hangings, all on astronomical themes, that were among many produced by the Working Men's Educational Union in the 1850s. They were printed lithographically on cotton, probably to avoid paper duty. The hangings would have been used in lectures, held at various locations, to illustrate the latest advances in knowledge. The Working Men's Educational Union (f. 1853) was a philanthropic society with the object of “the elevation of the working classes, as regards their physical, intellectual, moral, and religious condition”. Their chief means of achieving this was to encourage popular literary and scientific lectures “by preparing suitable Diagrams and other aids to lecturers” and to promote lending libraries and “mutual instruction classes”. This example depicts two comets, dated 20 August and 28 August, both of which may be views of Donati's Comet of 1858, now formally designated C/1858 L1 and 1858 VI. Named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati, who first observed it on 2nd June 1858, the comet's closest approach to Earth occurred on 10th October, 1858.
Date made 1850-1860

Artist/Maker Working Men's Educational Union
Place made London, England
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials brass; cotton
Measurements 875 x 1190 mm
  • Wall hanging (ZBA4554)
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