The following is a short excerpt from a long introduction in my Habilitationsschrift, entitled: Observing by Hand. It examines hundreds of hand drawings of the nebulae found in the private and unpublished observing books of six nineteenth century nebular observers: Sir John Herschel (1792–1871), William Parsons, the third Earl of Rosse (1800–1867), William Lassell (1799–1880), Ebenezer Porter Mason (1819–1840), Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821–1889), and to a lesser extent George Phillips Bond (1825–1865). The book aims to develop an empirical and theoretical basis for dealing with «handedness» in astronomical observation, by emphasizing the diverse roles played by the stylus and the notebook. For the sake of readability and inclusion for this issue, I’ve dramatically reduced the number of footnotes and references.

Considering that in many cases published images constituted what most scientists regarded to be their finished, stabilized, visual results worthy of the kind of attention they continue to receive as «immutable mobiles,» the widespread privileging of public visualizations of scientific phenomena in visual studies is justifiable and understandable. [1] After all, it was the published images of a phenomenon that were reproduced in scientific journals and newspapers, to be widely distributed, used, and discussed. It is no wonder, then, that the privileging of the published scientific representation in the visual studies literature (particularly in relation to the history and sociology of science) has tended to place a considerable amount of prominence on the notion of visual or non-verbal communication.

While issues of visual communication will play a part in our story, Observing by Hand will have for its chief purpose to bring to center stage the ways in which hand sketches and drawings were gradually made bit by bit within the private and unpublished observing books of an astronomer. When turning to the internal contexts of an observational program one encounters, for instance, a multiplicity of techniques that were exploited in order to enhance the possibilities of what had been seen, might be seen, or will be seen. No matter how different the panoply of preliminary sketches of one and the same object within the observing books were, they never indicated nor were ever used to indicate actual or apparent change in an object. This is in sharp contrast with the published images of a nebula. The drawings found within the privacy of the observational program functioned in ways that were different from the published images. Observing by Hand will be a detailed exploration of the ways in which the former operated and functioned.

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