Hevelius’s depiction of Mons Maenalus,
and a confusion of identity

Boötes stands on Mons Maenalus on this plate, Fig. F, from the Firmamentum Sobiescianum star atlas of Johannes Hevelius published in 1690. However, even its inventor seemed uncertain as to what the new constellation should actually be called.

For a start, in some copies of the atlas there is a version of the Boötes chart in which the name of the mountain is spelled Menalis (see illustration below).

Evidently there must have been an initial printing of the charts with this spelling, probably in 1687 when the frontispiece of the atlas is dated. This was then caught and changed for subsequent printings, accounting for the odd-looking ‘Æ’ and ‘U’ in the engraving at the top of the page, clearly modified from the original ‘Menalis’. Most extant copies of the atlas contain the amended version of the Boötes plate.

Yet another variation is found on Hevelius’s charts for Canes Venatici and Virgo, where the name is written with a so-called caudate e, an e with a tail (ę), which was an archaic way of representing the ligature æ. Again, in both cases, the name was originally engraved with an ‘i’ in Menalis which has later been changed to a ‘u’.

Adding to the confusion, Hevelius was inconsistent in the spelling of the name throughout his accompanying text, for example using Mons Mœnalus (rather than Mænalus) in the index to the constellations shown on the charts, while in his star catalogue itself (where its stars are listed as part of Boötes) he uses the æ ligature rather than œ.

On Hevelius’s northern hemisphere chart, which is dated 1686, the year before the rest of the atlas, the name of the constellation is given as Mænalus (see above), so it is difficult to understand why it was written differently on the various individual charts and in the accompanying text.

Note, incidentally, that Hevelius showed his figures as though drawn on a globe, so they appear reversed from the way we see them in the sky.

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