Lot #60
James Curley and Georgetown Observatory

This lot has closed

Estimate: $500+


Irish-American priest and astronomer (1796-1889) who planned and superintended the building of the Georgetown Observatory in 1844, then served as its first director. ALS signed "James Curley S. J.," one page both sides, 7.75 x 9.75, May 11, 1843. Letter to Rev. F. De Nico in Rome, written from Georgetown College, outlining the equipment to be housed in Georgetown's Astronomical Observatory. In part: "We intend to build during the present Summer an Astronomical Observatory the form of which you have enclosed. We have ordered and will receive this year a fine Passage Instrument 6 feet long & 4 1/2 inch aperture from Ertel & Son of Munich, and which is to be fitted up in the Western room of the Observ. We intend to get a Circle of 40 inches for the meridian observation of declination &c to be placed in the Eastern room. I have not yet determined whether the Circle will be a Transit-Circle of London or a Meridian-Circle of Erel, or a Mural Circle. We intend to get an achromatic Telescope of 8 inch aperture, mounted on an Equatorial Stand. I wrote to Rossin of Paris last year but it appears he could not supply it. We have received an Astronomical clock a chronometer from Molyneux of Russell Square London; we have a Theodolite from Ertel giving altitudes and azimuths to 10 seconds, we have a reflecting circle from London, and two Telescopes giving powers from 40 to 180. So much we have done towards the Observatory, I hope it will do good for Religion & Society." Includes the pencil sketch of the proposed exterior of the observatory building references in the letter ("an Astronomical Observatory the form of which you have enclosed"), a bound collection of Donohoe's Magazine with a piece on the observatory, a Harper's New Monthly Magazine article about the observatory, and a reprinted copy of the first issue of Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Georgetown College. In fine condition, with somewhat irregular toning.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autographs and Artifacts
  • Dates: #602 - Ended February 10, 2021