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Catalogue of nebulae observed by William Herschel, compiled by Caroline Lucretia Herschel

Reference number: MS/279

Date: 1800


Tables of nebulae organised in zones by degrees of North Polar distance. The nebulae are numbered and classified, their observation by William Herschel is dated, and locations are provided in relation to neighbouring stars, including right ascensions and polar distance.

Headed: 'A Catalogue of the Nebula which have been observed by Wm. Herschel in a Series of Sweeps; brought into Zones of N.P. Distance and order of R.A. for the year 1800, by applying to the determining stars the variations given in Wollaston's of Bode's Catalogues.' Below this, a later inscription by Sir John Frederick William Herschel: 'By Carolina Lucretia Herschel (JFWH)'. The volume is prefaced by a key to the information contained in the tables with comments on how the observations were originally compiled.

The data has been checked and annotated in pencil throughout by John Frederick William Herschel, each page corrected where necessary and initialled. This document is referred to in Sir John Herschel's explanation of Herschel family manuscripts on nebulae. See pp.6-7 of 'Catalogue of nebulae and clusters of stars', by John Frederick William Herschel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, v.154 (1864) pp.1-137. 'In presenting to the Royal Society this Catalogue, it will be accompanied by the following series of records and documents...6th. A catalogue in zones of P.D. of all the said nebulae and clusters, arranged in each zone in order of R.A., and reduced to the year 1800 by Miss C.L. Herschel, exhibiting the reduced result of each separate observation of each nebula; together with the determining star or stars in each case, and the differences in R.A. and P.D from each star, with references to the current number of the sweep in which the observation is contained.'

The volume contains a loosely inserted circular letter, Charles Richard Weld, Royal Society, Somerset House, to Sir John Frederick William Herschel, Collingwood, Hawkhurst, Kent, 6 July 1847, requesting his attendance at a meeting of the Society's Committee on Mathematics.The letter is annotated verso with a table, '30 years Precession in RA'.

Custodial history

Presented by Sir John Frederick William Herschel. On 4 October 1863, Sir John Herschel noted in his diary that he had 'Added the final sentences to the introduction of my nebulae catalogue and prepared a letter for Stokes presenting my Father's sweeps & Register sheets & my Aunt's Catalogue to R.S.' These were taken by his son William for delivery to Somerset House on 15 October [MS/583/29]. The donation was acknowledged in the Royal Society's Council Minutes of 28 January 1864, where the packages of papers are listed. Council noted 'That the best thanks of the President and Council be returned to Sir John Herschel for his interesting and valuable present…and that these MSS be preserved in the Archives of the Royal Society.' [RS Council Minutes, Printed, v3 1858-69, p.177].

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Earliest possible date
Physical description
On paper. Half bound in brown leather, brown marbled paper boards. The spine has been inscribed in ink: 'Caroline Herschel''.
Page extent
128 pages. [pp.106-126 blank] and 2 pages.

Creator name

William Herschel

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William Herschel, Catalogue of nebulae observed by William Herschel, compiled by Caroline Lucretia Herschel, 1800, MS/279, The Royal Society Archives, London,, accessed on 27 May 2024

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    Science in the Making presents selected items from the 'Manuscripts General' series, notably astronomical observations, investigations of discrete topics, and indices and registers of papers read before the Royal Society.

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