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RGO Archives contains:
<-- See earlier
RGO 18 Greenwich Observations
RGO 180 The Nautical Almanac from 1960
RGO 181 Apparent Places of Fundamental Stars
RGO 182 Astronomical Phenomena
RGO 19 Separate publications of the RGO
RGO 2 Papers of Edmond Halley
RGO 20 Royal Observatory Annals
RGO 202 Ely Observatory Solar Plates Contact Prints: from Canon William Selwyn's observatory
RGO 205 Edward Walter Maunder and Annie Scott Dill Maunder: papers
RGO 21 Royal Observatory Bulletins
RGO 22 Greenwich Time Reports
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Papers of Edmond Halley

Title Papers of Edmond Halley
Reference GBR/0180/RGO 2
Creator Halley, Edmond
Covering Dates circa 1670–1767
Extent and Medium 15 volumes + 4 folders
Repository Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives
Content and context

Edmond Halley (1656-1742) was born at Haggerston, Shoreditch, London. After attending St Paul's School, he entered Queen's College, Oxford, in 1673 (M.A., 1678), where he carried out astronomical observations and began to correspond with John Flamsteed. In 1676 he travelled to the island of St Helena, where he made observations during 1677 and 1678, and observed the transit of Mercury in October 1677. He published his findings in 'Catalogus Stellarum Australium' in 1679, which included details of 341 southern stars.

Halley was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1678. He edited the Society's 'Transactions' during 1685-1693, and became its secretary in 1713. After receiving the command of HMS 'Paramore' in 1698, he made observations of the magnetic declination in the Atlantic Ocean during 1698-1700, publishing his findings in a 'General Chart of the Variation of the Compass' (1701), and surveyed the tides and coasts of the British Channel in 1701. In 1703 he succeeded John Wallis as Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford. He published 'Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae' in 1705, which argued (accurately) that the sightings of 1456, 1531, 1607 and 1682 related to the same comet, and that it would return in 1758. He also played a leading role in the publication of two other important works: Newton's 'Principia' (1687), which he published at his own expense, and Flamsteed's astronomical findings, the 'Historia Coelestis', which appeared in 1712, in the face of fierce opposition from their author.

Halley was appointed Astronomer Royal in 1720 in succession to Flamsteed. Despite his age, he began a major project to observe the moon over the eighteen years of the saronic cycle. He completed the work shortly before he death, which took place at Greenwich on 14 January 1742, and his lunar and planetary tables were published in 1749.

The collection comprises observations, calculations, computations, tables and letters. The text is mainly in English, but also includes Latin and some French.

Halley's papers were presented to the Royal Society in 1765 by his daughter, Mrs Catherine Price, and deposited at Greenwich.

Access and Use

In English, French, Latin

Please cite as Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives, Papers of Edmond Halley, RGO 2

Further information

A word-processed handlist is available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Indexed

This description was created by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Edmond Halley in Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, eds, 'Dictionary of National Biography', Vol. VIII (London, 1908), pp. 988-993. It was emended in January 2009 by Zoe A. Rees.

RGO 36/1 contains microfilms of the whole of this series in its original arrangement. Consult the hard copy catalogue of this series (available in the Manuscripts Reading Room) to obtain the classmark in use at the time of filming.

Index Terms
Halley, Edmond (1656-1742) astronomer
RGO Archives/RGO 2 contains:
1 Observations of transits. A rough copy of observations and calculations primarily on the transits of the planets, 11 April 1719 - 7 August 1724, written in Latin. The entries include the lunar eclipse of 1722; a second eclipse of 1722, observed by D. Graham at Fleet Street, London; and a description of a comet, observed 10-13 October 1724, with an account of the comet's passage printed in English on a separate sheet. There is also a brief note of James Bradley's observations at Wanstead, Essex, June 1724.
1 volume.
2 Observations of transits. A rough copy of observations and calculations primarily on the transits of the planets, 8 August 1724 - 19 March 1727. The volume includes a table to convert the divisions of the quadrant (96 parts) into 90 degrees, minutes and seconds, and an observation of the occultation of Mars by the Moon, 1726.
1 volume.
3 Observations of transits. A rough copy of observations and calculations primarily on the transits of the planets, 19 March 1727 - 30 September 1734, including an observation of a lunar eclipse, 1 August 1729.
1 volume.
4 Observations of transits. A rough copy of observations and calculations primarily on the transits of the planets, 7 October 1734 - 31 December 1739.
1 volume.
5 Observations of the Moon. Observations and computations of the Moon for 1623-1693, with laws to find the generation of a parabola, and associated sketches and equations. There are calculations of the Moon's place by the 'Tychowich Theory' and from Copernicus's observations. There is also an undated Latin account of a comet, from which the trajectory and orbit of Halley's Comet is deduced.
1 volume.
circa 1670–1693
6 Observations of Moon's position. Observations and calculations of the Moon's position.
1 volume.
7 Observations of Moon's position. Observations and calculations of the Moon's position.
1 volume.
8 Observations of Moon's position. Observations and calculations of the Moon's position divided chiefly into two periods: 11 July 1690 - 7 January 1694 and 29 June 1726 - 18 June 1728. The volume also includes a computation for an eclipse of the Sun, 14 September 1726.
1 volume.
9 Calculations, observations and tables. Various calculations and observations, with tables of the Sun, Moon and planets. 1. Laws of reduction. 2. Laws on numeration. 3. Laws on addition. 4. Laws on addition of weight. 5. Laws on subtraction. 6. Multiplication tables. 7. Laws on multiplication. 8. Laws on division. 9. Sketch of the paths of unknown comets. 10. Calculations for a comet of 1661. 11. Observations of comets, 1661-1679. 12. Calibrated time chart, circumstances unknown. 13. Tables of declination. 14. Table on the position of major stars. 15. Table of the Sun's position based on quadrant observations. 16. The way of referring the longitude and latitude of any star to the right ascension and declination from Mr Oughtrod's observations. 17. Chart of star observations, 1681. 18. Astronomical observations at Islington, 1680-1682. 19. Calculations of the stars for the period 1679-1723, with a drawing of an equatorial dial serving all latitudes and a table of unknown computation for an unspecified year. 20. Calculations, 1668-1720. 21. Logarithmic distances of Venus to the Sun. 22. Table of observations of Venus. 23. Table of unspecified observations. 24. Table for latitudes of Mercury. 25. Logarithmic distances of Mercury from the Sun. 26. Table on Mercury's position. 27. Annual table for the position of an unspecified body, likely to be Mars. 28. Table of observations for the position of an unspecified body, probably Mars, 1601-1720. 29. Logarithmic distances of Mars to the Sun. 30. Table of observations for the centre of Mars. 31. Annual table of the position of an unspecified body. 32. Rough calculations on a piece of paper. 33. Table of reduced observations, 1601-1720. 34. Logarithmic distances between the Sun and the Earth. 35. Table on the Sun's position. 36. Sun's position throughout the year. 37. Table of the Sun's meridian, 1601-1770. 38. Calculations of stars, 1724-1725. 39. Table of calculations based on Kepler's work. 40. Table on lunar distance. 41. Table on the eccentricities of the lunar orbit based on Tycho's work. 42. Table on lunar equations based on Tycho's observations. 43. Table of astronomical positions based on Ptolemy's epicycle theory. 44. Observations by Halley at Islington, 1682-1684. 45. The elements of the 1652 comet. 46. The elements of Cysali's 1618 comet. 47. The elements of Kepler's 1607 comet. 48. The elements of Tycho's 1590 comet. 49. The elements of Tycho's 1585 comet. 50. The elements of Tycho's 1577-1578 comet. 51. The elements of the 1532 comet. 52. The elements of the 1531 comet. 53. The elements of the 1472 comet.
1 volume.
circa 1680-circa 1725
10 Computations for the Moon and stars. Computations, chiefly on the Moon's longitude and appulses of stars, without order of time. The volume includes a table of star positions and a list of the observations of Francesco Bianchini at Rome, 1721-1728.
1 volume.
11 Computation of the Moon's longitude. Computations, chiefly of the Moon's longitude, with an observation of a lunar eclipse, 5 April 1707.
1 volume.
12 Tables of the Moon. A collection of tables, some computed by Halley but in the handwriting of James Bradley. 1. Table of observations for the right ascension of the Moon, 13 January 1722 - 4 December 1725. 2. Tables of the observed longitude of the Moon, 5 December 1725 - 11 April 1745. 3. Table of the observed longitude and latitude of the Moon, 7 June 1737 - 23 March 1747. 4. Right ascension, zenith distance, longitude and latitude of the Moon observed at Greenwich, 13 September 1750 - 1 September 1760.
1 volume.
13 Works on stars and comets. Miscellaneous works on stars and comets, including: . 1. Some results for the constellation Hercules and a table of corrections to the observations. 2. Observations and discovery of the 1723 comet, with an account of its position and path through the heavens; written by James Bradley. 3. Calculations made in 1746 to ascertain the 1744 comet's latitude. 4. Calculations on the positions of the 1744 and 1748 comets.
1 folder.
1723-circa 1748
14 Printed lunar tables. Printed book of lunar tables, including:. 1. Tables for the right ascension of the Moon, with the computed error for 1722-1725 inclusive. 2. Tables of the Moon's longitude, 1725-1739. Various years have been duplicated and copied. There is also a small grocery bill. 3. Computations concerning a hyperbola, in Latin. 4. Letter covering the computations undertaken by Gael Morris on Halley's observations, 25 December 1739. 5. Laws and equations relating to the hyperbola, written in Latin, missing part of the transcript. 6. Table and calculations of an eclipse of the Sun.
1 volume.
circa 1722–1739
15 Calculations on observations. Rough calculations on observations.
1 volume.
16 Astronomical tables. Various astronomical tables, including:. 1. A letter from John Senex of London, 16 May 1715, requesting information on a comet and a meeting with Halley. A list of observations and calculations is on the reverse. 2. Table of the different declinations of the stars in the eclipse. 3. Logarithm tables. 4. Annual ephemeris for the Sun. 5. Table on the Sun's declination. 6. Table of angles of the stars from the ecliptic. 7. List of angles of the meridian from the horizontal. 8. Table of the altitude of the Sun, with equations and calculations. 9. Table of the nonagesimal at the Greenwich latitude 0°-360°. 10. Table of the nonagesimal at the latitude 55° 54', 0°-360°. 11. Table of the nonagesimal at the latitude of St Helena 0°-360°. . 12. Table of the nonagesimal at the latitude of 54° 23', 0°-360°. 13. Observations and computations of the Sun based on Ptolemy's findings at Alexandria.
1 volume.
circa 1715
17 Letters. A miscellaneous collection of letters. . 1. Invitation from the Royal Society, 4 February 1736. 2. Letter from the Office of Ordnance stating the whereabouts of a parcel from Peru, 26 October 1739. 3. Notice that there is a package from Peru awaiting Dr Halley, 12 October 1739. 4. Letter from the Admiralty Office calling a meeting of the Judges of the Board of Longitude, 21 November 1739. 5. Letter from Philip Miller, of Chelsea, requesting the India Company bring back specimens of plants, 21 December 1739.
1 folder.
18 Computations, tables and observations. Computations, tables, observations and miscellaneous papers. Nos 19-43 are bound together in the form of an exercise book. 1. Observations of the planets, 17-18 May 1737, in Latin. 2. Observations and calculations for 23-24 July 1739. . 3. Observations at Stoke Newington, London, 1738. . 4. Observations by J.N. Lillee of the passage of the Moon at Petersburg, 2-3 January 1738. 5. Lunar observations at Paris, 1729-1723. 6. French account of an eclipse during 1736. . 7. Note on a comet and an observation of an eclipse at Edinburgh. . 8. Observations undertaken on 26 December 1739. . 9. Observations at Greenwich, 6 March 1740. 10. Notes on Capricorn and Aquarius. . 11. Table of star positions, 1734-1735. 12. Observation, in Latin, of an eclipse at Covent Garden, London, in 1736. 13. Major star positions, 1740. 14. Rough calculations of unknown provenance. 15. Letter from Nevil Maskelyne, 16 February 1767, outlining the work done by Halley, with notes on his errors and his observational method, and a key to Maskelyne's own abbreviations. 16. Note of observations performed 1735-1736. . 17. Note referring to specific dates during 1732-1738. . 18. Rough calculations of unknown provenance. 19. Table of reductions of unknown stars. . 20. Table of solar observations, 1601-1720. 21. Annual table of the Sun's position. 22. Table of measurements of the Earth. . 23. Logarithm tables. . 24. Table of computations associated with the stars in the constellations of the Zodiac. . 25. Table of refractions of angles in degrees. 26. Observations of the Moon, 1581-1687. . 27. Annual position of the Moon, 1 January - 31 December. . 28. Times of the Moon's position. . 29. Latin note on how to calculate the Sun and the Moon's position and distance. . 30. Table on the eccentricities of the Moon's orbit. . 31. Table of the Moon's reflection of the Sun. . 32. Table of different angles when the Moon is in the ecliptic. 33. Table of parallaxes between the Sun and Moon. . 34. Lunar positions in the ecliptic. 35. Table of lunar positions. 36. Table of movement between the Sun and Moon. 37. Observations of stars, 1675-1711. . 38. Position of Mercury, 1581-1700. 39. Annual position of Mercury, 1 January - 31 December inclusive. . 40. Equations and calculations. 41. Account, in pencil, of observations of Mercury, with latitudes of various towns and places written in ink. . 42. Calculations and observations of stars and planets, 1676-1711. . 43. Table of positions of the Sun and Moon for an eclipse. 44. Observations of spots on the Moon, 1718-1722. . 45. Pencil calculations on the error in clocks.
1 folder.
circa 1718–1767
19 List of southern stars. A list of southern stars compiled by Halley, an algebraic equation, and observations and faults in the telescope during 1732-1733.
1 folder.

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