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Lists of nebulae and star clusters, in order of discovery, with observational descriptions and some drawings. Numbered 1-2508.

The data contained within these volumes was extracted from the sweep books of nebulae, usually the day after observation, and was ultimately used in Herschel's series of Royal Society papers on nebulae, including the following.

Observations for 1783-1785: 'Catalogue of one thousand new nebulae and clusters of stars' by William Herschel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, v.76 (1786) pp.457-499.
Observations for 1785-1788: 'Catalogue of a second thousand of new nebulae and clusters of stars; with a few introductory remarks on the construction of the heavens' by William Herschel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, v.79 (1789) pp.212-255.
Observations for 1788-1799: 'Catalogue of 500 new nebulae, nebulous stars, planetary nebulae,and clusters of stars; with remarks on the construction of the heavens', by William Herschel, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, v.92 (1802) pp.477-528.

This set of documents 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...1st. A series of "register sheets", in which are entered up all the observations of each nebula or cluster copied verbatim from the sweeps, the nebulae, &c., being arranged in the order of their date of discovery. These are the "register sheets" referred to in the notes of this Catalogue, and cited by their general (i.e. current number, as H,1; H,2;...H,2508.'

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].

Reference number
Earliest possible date
Physical description
On paper. Each gathering originally pressed between wooden boards, which have been removed and retained separately.
Page extent
5 volumes

Creator name

Sir William Herschel

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Sir William Herschel, Registers of nebulae by William Herschel and Caroline Herschel, 1783-1807, MS/339, The Royal Society Archives, London,, accessed on 27 May 2024

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  • Manuscripts General

    Dates: 1551 - 1951

    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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