Picturing the moon: Hevelius's and Riccioli's visual debate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article investigates the maps of the moon produced in the mid-seventeenth century by Jesuit Giambattista Riccioli (1598-1671) and Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687), whose cartographic projects competed for widespread acceptance. Although Hevelius's Selenographia (1647) was applauded for its many detailed, self-engraved pictures of the moon, his cartography and proposed nomenclature were supplanted by Riccioli's as offered in Almagestum novum (1651), in spite of the latter's simplistic pictures and promotion of geocentric cosmology. Exploring this paradox through pictorial analysis, three types of images common to both Selenographia and Almagestum novum are compared, employing an analytical tool developed by Svetlana Alpers in The art of describing (1983). A focus on this debate exposes the tensions evoked by new technologies of vision and competing cultures of visual epistemology in seventeenth-century astronomy. As both selenographers grappled with questions about the role of representation and what kinds of knowledge could be generated visually, the successes and failures of their competing projects present implications for the course of visual astronomy, as well as for our understanding of the use of 'visual technologies' in a period of controversy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-421
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Astronomy
  • Early modern
  • Giambattista Riccioli (Giovanni Battista)
  • Images in science
  • Johannes Hevelius
  • Moon maps
  • Svetlana Alpers
  • Visual culture


Dive into the research topics of 'Picturing the moon: Hevelius's and Riccioli's visual debate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this