The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris, for the year 1767.

MASKELYNE Nevil editor (1766.)

£7500.00  [First Edition]

DETERMINING LONGITUDE

First edition. 8vo. [viii], 167, [1]pp. London, W. Richardson and S. Clark, 1766. [Bound with:] COMMISSIONERS OF LONGITUDE. Tables Requisite to be used with the Astronomical and Nautical Ephemeris... First edition. 2 folding tables. 8vo. Period-style quarter calf over marbled boards, red morocco label to spine, gilt. 16, 162, [2index], [2errata]pp. London, W. Richardson and S. Clark,

Scarce on the market, this important almanac was compiled at the behest of Nevil Maskelyne, who had been appointed Royal Astronomer in 1765. The Royal warrant (8 Feb 1765) included specific instructions to attack the problem of Longitude: "forthwith to apply yourself with the most exact Care and Diligence to the rectifying the Tables of the Motions of the Heavens, and the Places of the fixed Stars, in order to find out the so much desired Longitude at Sea, for perfecting the Art of Navigation."

 

The Longitude Act of 1714 offered "to reward anyone who could provide a method for determining longitude at sea within certain prescribed limits" (ODNB). Competing methods of calculating longitude, such as Harrison's chronometer, were trialled on voyages to Jamaica and later on Capt. James Cook's voyages. In fact, the method of calculation on Cook's first voyage was based on Dr Maskelyne's Method where: "certain observations of lunar position which could be compared, by means of the Nautical Almanac (which first appeared [as here] in 1767) with corresponding positions predicted for Greenwich, and so give the number of degrees from that centre" (Beaglehole).

 

"The annual Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris and its companion Tables Requisite were undoubtedly Maskelyne's greatest contribution to the improvement of navigation and astronomy and to science as a whole. It was almost entirely through his efforts and persistence that they came to be published in the first place—for the year 1767—and he was the first editor. As such he superintended the complex calculations, the precision of which was improved year by year as a result of work by mathematicians and astronomers throughout Europe with whom, despite the bellicose state of that period, Maskelyne kept in touch. He was entirely responsible for the first forty-nine issues of the almanac, from 1767 to that for the year 1815, published in 1811, the year of his death; and for three editions of the Tables Requisite, published in 1766, 1781, and 1801. He also had to oversee the production of some eighteen other works published by the board of longitude" (ODNB)..

Stock Code: 231019

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