Polophylax and Columba on Plancius’s World Map of 1594

Polophylax and Columba on a small celestial hemisphere of 1594 by Petrus Plancius

Petrus Plancius (1552–1622), the Dutch cartographer, first introduced the constellations Polophylax and Columba in small celestial hemispheres that decorated his world map of 1592. They appeared again in this map from 1594. Polophylax (here spelled Polophilax) represented a pole-watcher, the southern equivalent of Boötes which the Greeks termed Arctophylax or bear-watcher. He is shown as a blue-robed figure above left of centre, in the area where Tucana, Hydrus, and Phoenix will now be found. It is placed next to an imaginary Southern Cross. At that stage, Plancius did not realize that the celestial cross reported by explorers consisted of stars that the Greeks had regarded as part of the feet of Centaurus. The large southern triangle adjacent to Argo was equally misplaced. Columba is shown to the south of Orion next to the hind legs of Canis Major, but is not labelled. This, incidentally, is a view of the sky as would be seen on a globe, so constellations appear back to front from the way we see them in the sky.

(Image courtesy Leen Helmink Antique Maps.)