ASTRONOMY An album associated with the Gill family, most notably the Scottish astronomer, Sir David Gill, with views of the observatory at the Cape of Good Hope and Acension Island, [c.1877-1880]; together with 8 related and loosely inserted photographs (9)
Lot 1
ASTRONOMY An album associated with the Gill family, most notably the Scottish astronomer, Sir David Gill, with views of the observatory at the Cape of Good Hope and Acension Island, [c.1877-1880]; together with 8 related and loosely inserted photographs (9)
Sold for £1,000 (US$ 1,564) inc. premium

Lot Details
ASTRONOMY
An album associated with the Gill family, most notably the Scottish astronomer Sir David Gill, with views of the observatory at the Cape of Good Hope and Ascension Island, upwards of 40 albumen and gelatin silver prints, captioned in manuscript on the mount, predominantly mounted one per page on recto only, 165 x 215mm. or smaller, bookplate of A.J. Mitchell-Gill, half morocco, rubbed, folio, [c.1877-1880]; together with 8 related and loosely inserted photographs (9)

Footnotes

  • A FASCINATING RECORD of the Gill family and Sir David Gill (1843-1914). Born and educated in Aberdeen, under the tutelage of James Clerk Maxwell, Gill began a brief career in horology before taking a more active interest in astronomy in 1863. He went on to attract the attention of professional astronomers after taking acclaimed photographs of the moon using his own long-exposure astronomical camera. Advocated by leading scientists, Gill was appointed Her Majesty's Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope in 1879, and a photograph of him in the observatory working equipment is included in this album. Other images of astronomical interest include four views on Ascension taking during Gill's expedition to the island in 1877 to measure the distance of Mars (after it came exceptionally close to earth during that year) using a heliometer, an instrument he went on to master. A view of Gill's heliometer can be see in this album (illustrated), in addition to a portrait of Gill's wife, Bell, outside a tent, at the aptly named Mars Bay. Gill used the heliometer to calculate the distance to the sun and other stars; his "value of the solar distance, determined to 1 part in 1000, was adopted as definitive for half a century" (ODNB).

    Other images include observations on the life of one of the Gill ancestors, Patrick Gill of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, with images of his home; approximately 15 views in Victoria, Australia, of family, friends and acquaintances and four playful group portraits of what appear to be a "family fun day" at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, including children atop elephants, and women and children dressed as gypsies.
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