Visitor Guides and material for non-professionals

The pamphlet issued in about 1930

The 1960 booklet

The 1967 Isaac Newton Telescope Leaflet

The published output of the Royal Observatory falls into six categories: 

Observations and associated catalogues, Annals, Bulletins and Circulars
Annual Reports
Scientific Papers
The Nautical Almanac and associated tables, along with the later spin off volumes
Notes, Reports, Manuals, house journals, etc
Visitor Guides and material for non-professionals

This section deals with Visitor Guides and material for non-professionals.


Visitor Guides (Greenwich)

Although members of the public were not generally admitted to the Greenwich site, large numbers of visitors came to view the time-ball, the gate-clock and the standard measures by its entrance. From the 1930s onwards, they were able to buy postcards that had been produced by the Observatory from the adjacent Porters’ Lodge. Although the cards remained on sale until the 1950s, the images were never updated. It would appear that an eight page illustrated pamphlet was also available for purchase. Titled: The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, a brief History of the Observatory and its work, the pamphlet is undated. It contains the same images used for the postcards. Copies are extremely rare. Click here to read it.


Visitor Guides (Herstmonceux)

Although the grounds and gardens were first opened to the public in 1950, the earliest guide book that has been located has the title Royal Greenwich Observatory Herstmonceux and was written by the Chief Assistant R. d’E Atkinson. Consisting of 14 printed pages bound within a manilla cover, it was published in June 1960. Click here to read it. Although written for the layman, it was probably only intended for distribution to official visitors. With the opening of the Isaac Newton Telescope’s public viewing gallery in 1967, a fully revised guide book was published under the title The Royal Greenwich Observatory Herstmonceux. A small four page leaflet titled The Isaac Newton Telescope was published at the same time. Click here to read it.

At the time of the tercentenary in 1975, further parts of the Observatory site were opened for the first time to the general public. To coincide with this, the Observatory published a new guide book: Royal Observatory Greenwich Illustrated. A series of free leaflets about different aspects of the work of the Observatory were produced for visitors at about this time. The guide book was updated in about 1982, and the cover changed from orange and red to blue. It was superseded by Royal Greenwich Observatory Herstmonceux Castle in 1987. This had a red cover, and was edited by Paul Murdin & Chas Parker.

A small booklet: The history of Herstmonceux Castle by David Calvert was published in 1982 and the Royal Greenwich Observatory Nature Trail at some point after 1972.


Publications from the Cambridge years.

In 1999, the the UK experienced the first total eclispe of the Sun visible from mainland since 1927. The eclipse created much public interest. Because of this, the Observatory produced a popular guide which ran to two editions:

A Guide to the 1999 Total Eclipse of the Sun, Nautical Almanac Office, 1996
The RGO Guide to the 1999 Total Eclipse of the Sun. Steve Bell, Royal Greenwich Observatory, 1997 (pp. 28)

In 1997, it also produced Star Pack, Exploring the final frontier, consisiting of a small ring binder filled with loose leaf sheets aimed at primarily at readers of secondary school age.

Also published were a series of information leaflets on a diverse range of topics, which were aimed at an adult audience. Click here for a list produced by the RGO archives. Click here for a second list.

The Guide Book issued in 1967. It contained over 30 black and white photographs and engravings