Total Eclipse of the Sun 1878

Total Eclipse of the Sun 1878

The solar eclipse on the 21 August 2017 was the first of its kind over the United States of America for almost 100 years and a major astronomic event that sparked world-wide interest. Such events have since the dawn of mankind filled us with awe & wonder, as evidenced by this wonderful large-format lithograph by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot of the total eclipse of the sun from July 29, 1878, that passed across northeastern Asia, Alaska, western Canada, and the United States from Montana through Texas before tracking across Cuba and and ending over southwestern Hispaniola.

This astronomical study of the total eclipse of the sun is one of 15 chromolithographs by Trouvelot that we are currently offering for sale, other celestial subjects including suns spots, solar flares, the aurora borealis, lunar eclipses, comets and representations of planets including Jupiter and Saturn, all carefully observed and depicted by Trouvelot, whose ambition and attention to detail brought these subjects splendidly to life:

During a study of the heavens, which has now been continued for more than fifteen years, I have made a large number of observations pertaining to physical astronomy, together with many original drawings representing the most interesting celestial objects and phenomena … While my aim in this work has been to combine scrupulous fidelity and accuracy in the details, I have also endeavored to preserve the natural elegance and the delicate outlines peculiar to the objects depicted; but in this, only a little more than a suggestion is possible, since no human skill can reproduce upon paper the majestic beauty and radiance of the celestial objects.

Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, 1882

Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (1827-95) is a somewhat controversial figure, historically… His interest in astronomy was apparently aroused in 1870 when he witnessed several auroras, and he was subsequently appointed to the Harvard Observatory in 1872 after the then director had seen his original pastel illustrations. The complete set of these 15 pastel illustrations was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1881, and it is the rare, complete set we have for sale here. He returned to France in 1882 and joined the Meudon Observatory where he continued his worked via the medium of photography, but became engaged in a bitter rivalry with his boss, the astronomer Jules Janssen. It was however his amateur interest in entomology that leads many to apparently curse his name, as his enthusiasm for lepidoptera larvae reportedly led him to unintentionally releasing some European Gypsy Moths into the woods behind his house in North America, which led to their spread as an invasive species, to this day causing an estimated $868 million in annual damages… Despite this however Trouvelot has had a crater both on the moon and Mars named after him.

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