“Picturing the Sky” – An Exhibit of Rare Maps at the Southwest Collection

4259This winter and spring the Southwest Collection’s Rare Books collection is proud to display its new exhibit, “Picturing the Sky.” Our Rare Books collection is phenomenal to say the least, containing over 37,000 items, including one of (if not the) largest collection of author Joseph Conrad’s works. It also preserves texts concerning science, religion, philosophy, and a host of other topics printed from the 15th century onward. This exhibit showcases one of its little-known but unique features: over 500 years’ worth of star charts and celestial maps!

The illustration above is the constellation Ursa Major, hand-drawn and colored in 1490. It is emblematic of the end of an era in which scientific accuracy played a secondary role to artistic expression. It emphasizes the forms of the constellations rather than accurately representing the locations of individual stars. Even the seven prominent stars of the Big Dipper, the most familiar stellar pattern in the northern sky and a hallmark of the constellation, are nowhere to be found.

2-Albrecht DurerOnly 25 years later in 1515, the German artist Albrecht Dürer produced this star chart, the first of its kind to be printed in Europe. Not only was the Big Dipper correctly represented, but twelve radiating lines at 30 degree intervals, corresponding to the twelve signs of the zodiac, helped position all 35 constellations depicted. So accurate was Dürer’s 1515 chart that it could actually be used to find the positions of stars.

4-Apian, Peter

Dürer’s chart was of such importance that Peter Apian (aka Petrus Apianus), a prominent 16th century mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, copied much of it verbatim in his own star charts of 1540, shown above. While Apian added additional figures to his chart, such as a pack of three dogs to the right of Ursa Major, its chief feature was that it could be revolved to show how the sky would look at any date between 7,000 BCE to 7,000 CE. This was managed through 21 volvelles, which are a layered series of intricately produced paper discs which can be freely spun. The volvelles shown here move the North Star through roughly half of its 25,000 year precession, which is caused by a slight wobble in the earth as it spins on its axis.

3. Schickard, Wilhelm

Wilhelm Schickard’s star chart of 1623, above, was one of the first to employ a conical section in a celestial map. That being said, his simplistic chart lacked the zodiac and instead incorporated Biblical references for the constellations. In another chart published in 1655, he changed the Big Dipper into Elijah’s fiery chariot while transforming the constellation Perseus into King David by replacing Medusa’s severed head with the giant Goliath’s.5. Bode, Johann

Lastly we have Johann Bode’s 1782 depiction of Ursa Major. Astronomy and scientific illustration had clearly advanced in 300 years. Derived from earlier charts, Bode’s detailed drawing included a classification of stellar magnitude based on the Greek alphabet. The precise system of coordinating lines that bisects the constellation located celestial objects relative to the Earth’s equator as if it were projected out to infinity.

All the images in this exhibit are facsimiles reproduced from books found in our Rare Books collection. For assistance in locating and using this material, please visit the Holden Reading Room or contact our ever-helpful Reference Staff.

– Bruce Cammack


“A Resilient Symbol of West Texas: The Texas Tech Dairy Barn” – An Exhibit from Our University Archives

title shotFor the first few months of 2015, the University Archives at the Southwest Collection is hosting “A Resilient Symbol of West Texas: The Texas Tech Dairy Barn,” an exhibit about the almost 90-year-old structure that has weathered storms and near-endless nearby construction to become a symbol of Texas Tech’s history.long shot ttuFinished in 1927, the original Dairy Barn could accommodate up to 40 cattle, and had three miles of wire fencing surrounding it for grazing animals paired with a 120-ton concrete silo. Equipped to sanitarily produce whole milk and cream, it soon saw the Department of Dairy Manufactures extend the milking room at the south end of the building due to proceeds from its sales. It then added butter, ice cream and cheese to its product line. But take a look at the photo above: this was all happening on the Texas Tech campus back when cattle grazed a few hundred yards in front of the Administration Building, Agricultural Pavilion, Agriculture Building, and in the far distance the Home Economics Building!dairy truckWhen the new college opened, agriculture students were allowed to bring their dairy cattle to reside in the barn. The money earned by selling the milk to others and by working in the dairy facility helped pay for these students’ education. The Student Dairy was organized by six students in the summer of 1926 and, until it was dissolved in 1935, delivered milk and other dairy products by a horse-drawn wagon and a truck.1A fire on January 29, 1930, and a lightning strike in 1958 both resulted in the deaths of some of the cows and damage to the building, but operations continued until 1965, when the barn closed its doors. From then on it was used only as storage, and even then the section for the Dairy Manufacturing Department was removed in 1966 to make room for the construction of the Foreign Language Building. The young men above, observing the final stages of processing, bottling, and inspecting the milk products in the 1950s, had to find lactose-based educational opportunities elsewhere.goes with 1[All the milk bottles and cheese produced at Texas Tech also sported a proud Double T.] (ca. 1950)

The Dairy Barn has been a part of the Texas Tech landscape for 89 years. It weathered tornadoes, dust storms, encroaching buildings, and heavy foot traffic as the campus continued to grow, and as its useful functionality was placed on hold. Yet although it experienced periods of neglect, it has ultimately received its share of recognition. The Barn was even registered in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic places on April 2, 1992, after extensive campaigns of support by various alumni and campus organizations. Some still lobby diligently for the barn’s restoration and repurposing so that it may remain a part of the TTU landscape for decades to come.

– by Lynn Whitfield & our Texas Tech University Archives