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The German astronomer Johann Bode introduced this constellation on his Uranographia star atlas of 1801 to commemorate Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press some 350 years earlier. It lay in what is now the northern part of Puppis, the stern of the ship Argo, between Canis Major and the hind legs of Monoceros. The constellation’s brightest star was the present-day 16 Puppis, magnitude 4.4, labelled C by Bode, lying on the lower part of the type case.

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Officina Typographica, depicting a printer’s workshop, was invented by
Johann Bode and shown on Chart XVIII of his Uranographia atlas of 1801.
Above it can be seen part of the hind quarters of Monoceros, the unicorn.



As depicted by Bode (above), Officina Typographica consisted of a case of movable type with composing stick; the frisket, a frame with four windows that folded over the printing paper; the tympan, on which the paper was placed; two inking pads to ink the type; and stacks of paper in the background. Oddly, the printing press itself, which pressed the inked type against the paper, was not shown by Bode.

The whole process in operation is seen in this 17th-century engraving, which might have served as the model for Bode’s illustration:

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A 17th-century woodcut depicting a printer’s workshop by Abraham van Weerdt (also known as von Werdt), a Dutch engraver who worked 1636–80 in Nuremberg, Germany. In the background, a compositor is hand-setting type. At right, a man called a beater is inking the type, while next to him a puller is removing a printed sheet from the tympan, to be placed on the stack in front of him.


According to the French astronomer Joseph Jérôme de Lalande in his Histoire Abrégée de l’Astronomie, he and Bode agreed in 1798 to create two new constellations, ‘la Presse de Gutemberg [sic] et la Globe de Montgolfier’, thereby commemorating two great inventions of Germany and France respectively. The Montgolfier balloon became Globus Aerostaticus.

Both these new Franco–German figures made their debuts on Bode’s Uranographia in 1801. Although subsequently shown on many popular maps they were not eventually accepted, perhaps because the motives for their invention were too overtly nationalistic.



© Ian Ridpath. All rights reserved


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