Cornelius Tiebout Engravings

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Part 15. Ferguson's Lectures (Astronomy, Mechanics, Optics, etc.)

Among the influential British astronomers of the eighteenth century was James Ferguson (1710-1776), who, "despite never receiving formal training, became famed for his travelling lectures and easy-to-understand works on the basics of astronomy. Ferguson learned mechanics at a very early age and developed an interest in stargazing while working as a shepherd in the Scottish highlands." (Quoted from Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton's principles and made easy to those who have not studied mathematics), first published in 1756 , accessible at the Royal Collection Trust.
Frontispiece of Ferguson's Astronomy Explained: orrery made and drawn by Ferguson

Pictures of Ferguson's orrery appear in many websites. Most of them, including the picture shown above, were copied from a London edition of Astronomy Explained in which the engraving was signed by G. Child. Tiebout's engraving in the first American edition of the book is not as well preserved as Child's engraving. For a history of the orrery, see Wikipedia.

James Ferguson's rise from humble beginnings to his stature as a Fellow of the Royal Society is documented by Patricia Rothman, "'The Light of His Own Mind': The Story of James Ferguson, Astronomer", Notes and Records of The Royal Society of London, 54, no. 1 (Jan. 2000), 33-45), the article (JSTOR). See Wikipedia.

Cornelius Tiebout engraved plates for the first American editions of two of Ferguson's books, both published by Mathew Carey in 1806:

1. Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles, and Made Easy to Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics. The plates in this book were published separately in 1817 by Abraham Small, Philadelphia, under the title Plates Illustrative of Ferguson's Astronomy; and of the Twelve Supplementary Chapters. The 1806 book includes a Supplement and an Appendix, both of which are in the London edition on which the 1806 American edition is based. See the first American edition.

An excellent transcription of the London Second Edition of Astronomy Explained is available: Project Gutenburg. The engravings here, by British engravers, provide images nearly identical to the Tiebout engravings in American editions of Astronomy Explained.

2. Ferguson's Lectures on Select Subjects: in Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Optics, Geography, Astronomy, and Dialling; a New Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, with Notes and an Appendix, Adapted to the Present State of the Arts and Sciences, two volumes. As in (1), this book is essentially a copy of a London edition, including corrections, enlargments, notes, and appendix. The plates in this book were published separately in 1814 by Mathew Carey, Philadelphia, under the title Plates Illustrating a New Edition of Ferguson's Lectures…. (Once again, "New Edition" refers to the material that had been new in London before the American edition first appeared.) See the 1814 edition of first American edition of second (British) edition..

Promissory note
Promissory note, Tiebout (New York) to Carey (Philadelpha).
Hist. Soc. of Pennsylvania, Coll. 227B, Lea & Febiger Records, Box 54

An examination of the images in the carousel below shows that Tiebout's signature does not appear on the plates. Most of the engravings are attributed to him in the Catalogue of American Engravings because of entries in the Mathew Carey Account Book, vols 20 and 21. Two of these handwritten entries are included in the carousel. The absence of signatures on the plates may result from the fact that Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) started some of the plates that had to be reworked by Tiebout. This possibility calls for further comment—In Amos Doolittle: Engraver of The New Republic (Oak Knoll Press, The American Historical Prints Society, 2008), Donald C. O'Brien, having described (p. 41) inferiority of Doolittle's Josephus plates (see Part 5 of this website) to those of Tiebout, quotes from a letter that Carey wrote Doolittle regarding his plates for Ferguson's Lectures (p. 50): "The proofs that I have [received] are very coarse and rough. The plates required a good deal of touching and additional work, to do them justice. I request your attention to this point" (Account Book v. 20, Item 12). O'Brien continues, "Carey apparently accepted eleven plates, because the account books reveal that he paid Doolittle $135 for these on June 28, 1806. Yet Carey had already paid Cornelius Tiebout on February 3, 1806, nearly $260 for engraving forty plates, but with two impressions on the same plate and some were actually duplicates of Doolittle's work. Perhaps the publisher simply lost track of where he placed his orders" (p. 50). For insights regarding exactly which plates are attributed to Tiebout, search the Catalogue of American Engravings for "Ferguson's Lectures". No attribution is made for the final 10 results. All the others are attributed to Tiebout except for one attributed to Doolittle and supplementary Plate 7, the Large Map of the Moon, signed by engraver H. Anderson.

To keep a good match between the listings on the two pages captioned "Explanation of the Plates"—which are essential for describing the various Figures on the Plates—the carousel includes, in the same order, all the plates, regardless of the engraver.

Several plates in Ferguson's Astronomy Explained are, in both the 1806 and 1817 editions, on two pages. In those cases, the left side and right have been carefully merged from a copy of the 1817 edition, courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

Ferguson 1806 title page From Carey Acct. Bk. vol. 20 Explanation of the Plates (1 to 8) Explanation of the Plates (9 to 17 and Supplement, 1 to 7) Ferguson's Orrery Plate 1 Plate 2 Plate 3 Plate 4 Plate 5 Plate 6 Plate 7 Plate 8 Plate 9 Plate 10 Plate 11 Plate 12 Plate 13 Plate 14 Plate 15 Plate 16 From Carey Acct. Bk. vol. 21 (Supplement) Explanation of the Plates (9 to 17 and Supplement, 1 to 7) Plate 1 of the Supplement Plate 2 of the Supplement Plate 3 of the Supplement Plate 4 of the Supplement Plate 5 of the Supplement Plate 6 of the Supplement Plate 7 of the Supplement Ferguson 1814 title page Ferguson 1814 plate index, vol 1 Ferguson 1814 plate index, vol 2 Ferguson 1814 Plate 6 Ferguson 1814 Plate 12 Ferguson 1814 Plate 14 Ferguson 1814 Plate 15 Ferguson 1814 Plate 16 Ferguson 1814 Plate 17 Ferguson 1814 Plate 18 Ferguson 1814 Plate 19 Ferguson 1814 Plate 20 Ferguson 1814 Plate 21 Ferguson 1814 Plate 22 Ferguson 1814 Plate 23 Ferguson 1814 Plate 24 Ferguson 1814 Plate 25 Ferguson 1814 Plate 26 Ferguson 1814 Plate 27 Ferguson 1814 Plate 28 Ferguson 1814 Plate 29 Ferguson 1814 Plate 30 Ferguson 1814 Plate 31 Ferguson 1814 Plate 32 Ferguson 1814 Plate 33 Ferguson 1814 Plate 34 Ferguson 1814 Plate 35 Ferguson 1814 Plate 36 Ferguson 1814 Plate 37 Ferguson 1814 Plate 38 Ferguson 1814 Plate 39 Ferguson 1814 Plate 40 Ferguson 1814 Plate 41 Ferguson 1814 Plate 42 Ferguson 1814 Plate 43 Ferguson 1814 Plate 44 Ferguson 1814 Plate 45 Ferguson 1814 Plate 46 Ferguson 1814 Plate 47 Ferguson 1814 Plate 48