Nasmyth & Carpenter: The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, 1874

One of the earliest, most influential, and still-startling collections of lunar imagery – The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite – was published in 1874. With three decades of “assiduous observation” behind them, British scientists James Nasmyth and James Carpenter not only summed up lunar knowledge to date, but cleverly exploited photography’s descriptive powers to work around the medium’s late nineteenth century technical limitations. While highly detailed close-ups of the moon’s surface were yet to be taken, based upon notes and drawings they made while looking through telescopes, Nasmyth and Carpenter crafted accurate plaster models of the moon’s surface, which when “placed in the sun’s rays, would faithfully reproduce the lunar effects of light and shadow,” and once photographed would “produce most faithful representations of the original.” The twenty-four woodburytypes images produced are, to contemporary eyes, beautiful and audacious, in light of photo fakery charges that would bedevil images shot by America’s Apollo astronauts who orbited and walked on the moon, a century later.

To see a PDF of The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite, click here.