Celestial atlas star of Scottish charity book sale

Thu May 7, 2009 7:50am EDT
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - An 1822 celestial atlas by Scottish amateur astronomer Alexander Jamieson is a star item at this year's Christian Aid charity book sale in Edinburgh, one of the largest sales of its kind in the world.

The second-hand book bonanza, held annually for the last 35 years at the Church of St Andrew's and St George's in the city center, opens on Saturday and then runs through from May 11 to 15. It has raised some 1.7 million pounds ($2.58 million) for the charity over the years.

Thousands of donated books ranging from rare antiquarian editions to popular paperbacks are on sale. Other items include pictures, music, records and a variety of ephemera ranging through maps, photographs, letters and post cards from two world wars, and a signed photograph of the German-born actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.

Ried Zulager, an American company secretary for a technology firm in Washington who has spent his holidays working at the fair for some 18 years, described the handsomely bound Jamieson star atlas -- which was anonymously donated -- as a gem.

"It's a lovely artistic object as well as an actual accurate description of all the stars the eye can see (in the northern hemisphere) in a scientific manner," he said showing off the volume dedicated to King George IV.

The 30 original hand-colored maps are intact and are accompanied by tables showing the relative brightness of each individual star and other astronomical details.

Jamieson's occupation is not clear -- he lived in London -- but Zulager said he obviously had a knowledge of science and physics.

Other first editions at the sale include the 1793 Outlines of Moral Philosophy by Scottish Enlightenment figure Dugald Steward, professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University from 1785 to 1810, and several first editions from the Waverly novels of one of Steward's most famous pupils, Sir Walter Scott.

The modern age is represented by a pristine first edition Richard Adam's 1972 novel Watership Down.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)