Catalog Archive
Auction 195, Lot 57

Selenology with 12 Woodburytypes

"The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite",

Subject: Moon

Period: 1874 (published)


Color: Black & White

8.8 x 11.4 inches
22.4 x 29 cm
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This fascinating selenology was created by James Nasmyth in collaboration with James Carpenter and features 23 plates depicting the moon, including 12 Woodburytypes and one tinted plate. Patented in 1864 by English inventor and photographer Walter Bentley Woodbury, the woodburytype photomechanical reproduction process became widely used in fine book illustration in the latter part of the 19th century as the only commercially successful method of replicating the details of a photograph. Nasmyth was a British engineer and passionate amateur astronomer who spent several decades making observations of the moon. The images included in this work are based on Wilhelm Beer and Johann Heinrich Mädler's 1834 map of the moon, updated based on Nasmyth and Carpenter's observations and enhanced to reflect the topography of the surface of the moon. Nasmyth was intent on creating images that better reflected how the moon looked through a telescope; however, astrophotography was not yet advanced enough at the time to capture crisp, detailed images through a telescope. Nasmyth resolved this issue by creating plaster-of-Paris models of certain regions of the moon, placing them in front of black backgrounds, and then photographing them with light illuminating them to mimic the sun. The result was realistic-looking photos that portrayed the surface of the moon in great detail, albeit with slightly exaggerated features.

This is the second edition, published in the same year as the first edition; the second edition is more desirable as it includes more Woodburytypes than the first edition. A smaller, third edition was published in 1885. Quarto; frontispiece; title page; dedication; preface (vii-ix); table of contents; list of plates; 189 pp.; 23 plates; advertisement (2 pp.). Hardbound in contemporary blue cloth covers; embossed frame with black and gold embossed lunar volcano on front cover; gilt titling on spine.


Condition: B+

The plates are in very good condition with occasional soiling, foxing, and dampstaining along the top edge, with most imperfections confined to the margins. Plate III is loose. The binding is a bit shaken and loose. The front cover is nearly detached and the back hinge is starting. The covers have bumped corners and light soiling, and there are some abrasions on the embossed lunar volcano on the front cover. The spine has darkened due to light exposure and has some chipping at top and bottom.

Estimate: $900 - $1,100

Sold for: $650

Closed on 11/15/2023