Lacaille’s Mensa

Nicolas Louis de Lacaille’s original depiction of Mensa on his planisphere of 1756 showed it under the French name Montagne de la Table. This illustration comes from a copy of the planisphere published in the Atlas Céleste of Jean Fortin. Because of the orientation of the map, the mountain appears upside down, with its base at the top and the Large Magellanic Cloud, here called ‘le Gd. [i.e. Grand] Nuage’, below it. To the left is the Small Magellanic Cloud, named ‘le Pt. Nuage’. Lacaille Latinized the constellation’s name to Mons Mensae on the second edition of the map in 1763, and the Magellanic Clouds became Nubecula Major and Nubecula Minor. Other surrounding constellations are Octans, at top of the picture, Hydrus at the left, Volans at right, and Reticulum and Dorado at bottom.

(Image: Author’s collection)

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