An Observer of Observatories: The Journal of Thomas Bugge's Tour of Germany, Holland and England in 1777

An Observer of Observatories: The Journal of Thomas Bugge's Tour of Germany, Holland and England in 1777

An Observer of Observatories: The Journal of Thomas Bugge's Tour of Germany, Holland and England in 1777

An Observer of Observatories: The Journal of Thomas Bugge's Tour of Germany, Holland and England in 1777

Excerpt

When Thomas Bugge (1740–1815) was appointed professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Copenhagen in January 1777, he became responsible for the observatory, which in the seventeenth century had been built on top of the Round Tower. Later that year he travelled to Holland and England to acquaint himself with the state of astronomy and instrument-making in these countries. After his return four months later, he began to renovate the observatory.

During his tour he kept a journal in which he noted what he saw, whom he met and which books and instruments he bought. It comprises five quarto notebooks with a total of 94 folios, filled on both sides with text and drawings. In 1969, this journal was discovered in the Royal Library in Copenhagen by the first editor of the present volume, associate professor Kurt Møller Pedersen. He brought it to the notice of Cdr Derek Howse (1919–1998), then head of the department of Navigation and Astronomy at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Howse flew to Denmark especially to study the manuscript and judged it of such historical interest that he advised publication. In 1975, on the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, Bugge’s journal was exhibited there for several weeks and received much attention from the hundreds of historians of science gathered for this important event.

This positive response was encouraging for Pedersen. Together with his secretary, Mette Dybdahl, he made a transcription of the Danish manuscript and an English translation. Soon copies began to circulate among scholars, who quoted and used it in their publications. In 1997, a modestly produced edition was issued by the History of Science Department of the University of Aarhus, entitled: Thomas Bugge, Journal of a Voyage through Holland and England, 1777. This was emphatically no more than a preliminary edition, and in his preface Pedersen expressed the hope that ‘someone more qualified than I will undertake to improve the English translation and provide annotations of the instruments described and drawn by Bugge, so that a proper scholarly edition of this valuable source for 18th century astronomy may eventually be available.’

In 2001 the second editor, Dr Peter de Clercq, came forward and offered his assistance. He began to make textual improvements and annotation, a prolonged process that at times came to a standstill as there was no clear prospect of publication. This editorial work was greatly facilitated when, in 2006, the Royal Library in Copenhagen made a scan of the manuscript available on its website: www.kb.dk/permalink/2006/ manus/659/dan.

In the spring of 2008, Aarhus University Press agreed to publish the book, on condition that financial support would be found. Proposals were sent to the Aarhus University Foundation and the Carlsberg Foundation. It was a great moment for the editors when, in the autumn of 2008, both funds agreed to supply the necessary funding, and they deserve gratitude for this contribution to a better understanding of the history of science in Europe.

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