Additional images of Argo

  Whatever Johann Bayer’s Uranometria atlas of 1603 may have lacked in strict positional accuracy it more than made up for in artistic merit. Here the Argo is seen passing between the Clashing Rocks at the mouth of the Black Sea. Bayer depicts some of the ship’s oars splintering on the rocks, and the yard arm with the furled sail also appears to have snapped. The brilliant star Canopus lies on the blade of the port-side steering oar, as described by Ptolemy. Bayer’s labelling of the stars with Greek and Roman letters was comprehensively revised by Lacaille a century and a half later.

  Johannes Hevelius depicted an even more elaborate Argo in his Firmamentum Sobiescianum of 1690. As with all the constellations on his charts, Hevelius showed Argo as a mirror image, as it would appear on the surface of a globe. Here, the spar around which the sail is furled is slanted at an angle to the main mast. Such an arrangement is termed a lateen rig and was common in the Mediterranean. Again, Canopus is prominent on the large steering paddle at the stern. The Clashing Rocks seen in Bayer’s representation have been replaced by Edmond Halley’s recent invention Robur Carolinum, here named Robur Caroli.

  In Johann Bode’s 1782 star atlas Vorstellung der Gestirne, a smaller forerunner of the giant Uranographia, Argo made only a partial appearance on one chart. Bode showed it with its sail furled to a lateen-type yard arm, as had John Flamsteed in his Atlas Coelestis of 1729. Compare this with Bode’s later depiction of Argo in Uranographia, shown on the previous page, where there is no main mast and the yard arm appears to emerge from the sternpost like a spar. (Image: Author’s collection.)

  Nicolas Louis de Lacaille’s version of Argo on his planisphere of the southern skies published in 1756, as seen in a copy from Jean Fortin’s Atlas Céleste. Lacaille showed the ship’s mast as either bent or broken; alternatively, perhaps the vertical part is intended to be the main mast and the horizontal part the yard arm. Lacaille referred to it as ‘the horizontal mast, or the spar on which the sail is reefed’. Above the sails Lacaille introduced a new constellation, la Boussole, representing a marine compass; this is now known as Pyxis. In the catalogue accompanying this chart Lacaille split Argo into three parts: Carina (Corps), Puppis (Pouppe), and Vela (Voilure), although there is no indication of this on his chart. In the second edition of the planisphere, published in 1763, the French names were replaced by Latin ones. For a zoomable version of the 1763 chart, see here. (Image: Author’s collection.)

  At the end of the 16th century the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman reimagined Argo as a three-masted galleon in full sail, without oars, and with Canopus positioned on the ship’s rudder, which is not at all what Ptolemy or the mythologists had in mind – see, for example, the globe above made in 1602 by the Dutch cartographer Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571–1638). At the left you will see a sailor dangling a lead weight on a line off the stern to plumb the depth of the surrounding waters, another non-Ptolemaic feature. A full description of the redesigned ship can be found in de Houtman’s catalogue published in 1603. However, most chart makers stuck to the classical depiction of the ship. (British Library)

  Flying a red ensign from the stern and the Cross of St George from its topmast, Argo appears to have become an English merchant ship in its depiction on Edmond Halley’s southern star chart of 1678. These flags were doubtless a tribute to the East India Company whose ships had transported him to and from St Helena from where he observed the southern sky in 1677–8. Halley’s newly invented constellation Robur Carolinum is at the bottom. (Bibliothèque nationale de France)

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Argo in Johann Bayer's Uranometria
Argo from Hevelius's Firmamentum Sobiescianum
Argo from Bode's Vorstellung der Gestirne
Argo from Jean Fortin's version of Lacaille's southern chart
Argo Navis on Blaeu's celestial globe of 1602
Argo on Edmond Halley's southern star chart