John Bevis (1695-1771) was a medical doctor and an astronomer. In 1731, he discovered what we now call the Crab Nebula, and in 1737 he made the only recorded observation of the eclipse of one planet by another – Venus eclipsing Mercury – an event which will not be observable again until 2133. By 1738, he had built his own observatory at Stoke Newington, from which he discovered many new stars. 

He subsequently planned an ambitious publication to be called Uranographia Britannica – a great star atlas comprising 51 star charts with explanatory text, showing the constellations and planets as observed by other astronomers like Edmund Halley and John Flamsteed, and augmented with his own discoveries. His publisher was to be John Neale, who raised funds for the work through subscription and had copper plates engraved for the publication in the late 1740s, some of which were printed. However, Neale was declared bankrupt in 1750 and the plates were sequestered by the Courts of Chancery. This meant that the atlas never saw publication during Bevis’s lifetime. If it had his name would be far better known today.

Copies that survive today are made up of the sheets that were printed before the plates were seized, and are therefore in varying states of completeness. Chatsworth’s Uranographia is one of the three most complete known copies.  

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