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Eclipse fever, 18th century style

 Manchester eclipsed? Panic rising? A dastardly scheme by Liverpool? Surely not! Only partially eclipsed, and this was the view from the Library roof around 9 o’clock:

But today’s eclipse put us in mind of the total eclipse of 1715, known as Halley’s eclipse thanks to Edmond Halley’s remarkably successful predictions. His predicted timings were off by only four minutes.

Not quite 300 years ago (22 April 1715, in the Old Style Julian year Britain used then), eclipse fever was building, and then as now a great deal of material was published about it. Here at Chetham’s we collected not only a sheet published under his signature predicting the path of the eclipse, Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, over England, but also his later Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, which triumphantly showed how well the predictions had worked.

  The mathematics may have eluded the masses, but as we learn (thank you, OU!) from the Penny London Post or The Morning Advertiser, issue 753, March 4, 1748, in which another panic was being run for its own times: ‘In 1715, was a great ECLIPSE of the SUN, and was presently followed by the rebellion at Preston.’

We urge readers to calm their nerves and not to worry – until the next eclipse …

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