It’s ours to keep

A generous grant has helped Bath’s Herschel Museum of Astronomy to acquire Caroline Herschel’s visitor book for its permanent collection.

The book has been on long-term loan to the city museum since 1996 and forms an important part of the display within the house.

The Friends of the National Libraries generously supported the museum with its £6,000 acquisition, donating £5,000. Museum reserves were used to fund the remaining amount, preventing the book leaving public display and going into a private collection.

The Herschel Museum of Astronomy is in New King Street, the very place where self-taught amateur astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in March 1781. In doing so, he doubled the size of the known universe.  His sister Caroline was also a talented astronomer and the first woman to discover a comet.

Caroline Herschel

The book is a vellum-bound volume, compiled by Caroline Herschel from the mid-1780s when she and her brother were living in Datchet near Windsor.  Written in Caroline’s own hand, it lists over a hundred names of people who came to see them – often including the King and Queen, attended by members of Court – to look through William’s telescopes.  Scientists, writers, artists, politicians, and foreign royalty all feature.  Joseph Haydn, Benjamin Franklin, and Fanny Burney are listed among the guests.