Dr John Bevis, FRS (1695–1771), entered the history of astronomy in 1731 when he discovered what we now call the Crab Nebula. Bevis's second most important achievement was, and still is, the only recorded observation of the eclipse of one planet by another: that of Venus eclipsing Mercury.

Early in 1738, Bevis began work on an ambitious project, the compilation of a grand star atlas to rival and surpass those of Bayer and Flamsteed, on which it was based. Setting up an observatory in Stoke Newington, he observed and timed the transits of up to 160 stars a night between March 1738 and March 1739. These observations were added to those already catalogued by John Flamsteed and those derived from Edmond Halley's observations of the southern hemisphere.

Bevis's great British star atlas, Uranographia Britannica, was never published in the normal sense. John Neale, the would-be publisher, became bankrupt before the project could reach completion. However, a number of printing plates had been created and impressions taken before Neale's bankruptcy. These were later sold and made into 'complete' volumes. Chatsworth's Bevis Uranographia is therefore exceedingly rare – one of only 17 volumes known to exist – and is one of the most complete copies of this 'forgotten' star atlas.

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