The manuscript observations of the first four Astronomers Royal


Page under construction


RS MS 372/98, letter, 1713 re Flamsteed's observations
RS MS 600/1, 1763, Maskelyne's address to Royal Society meeting. (Minutes)
RS MS 372/101, 1764, Bliss dead, removal of obsrvations etc from Observatory (letter from his assistant)
RS MS 372/102, 1764, comunication re removal of Bradley's Obs. Dallaway
RS MS 372/103, 1764, Memorial to King re. regulations (copy)
RS MS 372/105. 1765, letter from Maskelyne to RS about moving in to obs and adoption of regulations
RS MS 372/107, 1765 Regulations, copy of 371/3
RS MS 372/109, 1765, reimbursment of Maskleyne for fees paid in receiving new regs
RS MS 372/119, 1767, Dallaway



’AT length the long expected observations of the late Rev. Dr. James Bradley, Astronomer Royal Greenwich and Savilian Professor of Astronomy in the University of Oxford are brought forth to light. The public, who have been taught to look for considerable advantages from the publication of them, may be curious to know what has retarded it so long: and the Editor can venture to testify, that whoever may be chargeable with the delay, the blame has not properly rested with any of those in whose possession the originals have been since the authors death. Upon the Author’s demise in 1762, his Executors and Representatives, who thought themselves legally intitled to dispose of these valuable remains, were fully minded, both from motives of good will to mankind, and out of respect to the memory of their ingenious and learned Friend and Relation, to make them public as soon as possible, and were actually concerting measures for that purpose, when they were surprised by a demand of the Observations on the part of the Royal Society, who pretended a right property in them. This claim however was soon given up as groundless; but was presently succeeded by a similar one on the part of the crown, made at the instance of the Commissioners of the Board of Longitude. The merits of this latter claim were founded on the Doctor’s having been appointed to the office of Astronomical Observator at the observatory at Greenwich, with a salary of one hundred pounds a year, and directed to “apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying the Tables of the Motions of the heavenly Bodies, and places of the fixed stars, in order to find out the so much desired Longitude at Sea.” That the Doctor did so apply himself, as was required of him, and that with consummate skill and attention, till the time of his death, the observations made by him do abundantly testify. But that the property of these invaluable labours should have departed from him in consideration of the small and inadequate salary he had received, or of a pension afterwards granted him by his late Majesty King George the Second, in 1751, not as an increase of salary, but as a gratuitous acknowledgement of his personal merit, and of certain services performed by him independent of his office, was what his Executors and Representatives could not conceive to be consonant with reason and equity, as it was not with the practice and usage with which had been before observed upon the decease of his Predecessors in office.

It is not however the business nor design of the Editor to discuss the merits of this question, but simply to state, that it furnished matter for a law-suit, which was commenced on the part of the crown in 1767, and continued till the year 1776, when it was abandoned; and the right to the Observations thereby admitted to vest in those who were legally intitled to them by the Author’s will. No sooner was this right allowed, then Rev. Samuel peach, who had become possessed of the Observations in right of his Wife, the only child of the late Dr. Bradley, made a free and voluntary offer of them to the late Earl of Guilford, then Lord Nord, first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, to be presented by his Lordship to the said University, in order for publication from the Clarendon Press. The offer was graciously accepted by his Lordship, and the donation made to the University, who lost no time in preparing to print the Observations under the care and conduct of the present Editor. With how much is a assiduity and unremitted diligence he has laboured in the prosecution of this arduous and important undertaking, is well known to many who have seen and can witness it: and the work would have been long ago completed, had it not been unfortunately interrupted by the Editor’s ill health, owing perhaps in some measure to the intenseness of his application. Nor has he since omitted any single day, in which it was possible for him to resume his labours. It has been said, that he ought to have resigned the business into other hands, when he found himself unable to go on with it. But his generous Employers thought otherwise; nor does it become him to question the propriety of their termination; who, considering his disqualification as temporary only, thought it most advisable that the same person, who had long managed the labouring oar to their satisfaction, should be allowed, if able, the honor of bringing the vessel into the desired port.

Thus much being premised respecting the causes of the delay, which has censured with such unjust and acrimonious obloquy; it seems necessary to proceed in the next place to give some account of the Instrument with which the Observations were made and a manner of using them.’