Once the shift in focus to unpublished observing books and the abundant graphical inscriptions found therein occurs, some factors of ordinary scientific practice begin to be underscored and made salient. Take for instance the clear shift that occurs from Sir William Herschel’s late eighteenth century general representations of whole classes of nebulae in one single image, to the abundantly pictorial representations of specific, individual objects visualized around the early to mid nineteenth century. This significant move might be explained by proposing that some general change in attitude took place during the relevant period, perhaps a shift from what has been called «truth to nature» to «mechanical objectivity.» [3]

But when we begin to focus on the commonplace materials and tools used in the observing books, the shift in the way nebulae were visualized and presented may in part be modestly explained by, for instance, the introduction and availability of greatly improved graphite pencils of varying hardness from 1790 onwards. Along with the introduction of new kinds of paper (e.g., wove paper), Joseph Meder explains that in the case of such improved pencils, «we have true simplicity in means of expression: a sharp but sensitive pencil, and well-sized white paper. The maturing of this technique led to a new school of drawing.» In further clarifying the importance of these new set of instruments, Meder cites the German artist Adrian Ludwig Richter who recollects that as a result of the new graphic means made available in the early part of the nineteenth century, «we paid more attention to drawing than to painting. The pencil could not be hard enough or sharp enough to draw the outline firmly and definitely to the very last detail. Bent over a paintbox no bigger than a small sheet of paper, each sought to execute with minute diligence what he saw before him. We lost ourselves in every blade of grass, every ornamental twig, and wanted to let no part of what attracted us escape … in short, each was determined to set down everything with the utmost objectivity, as it were in a mirror.» [4]

There can be little doubt that Sir John F. W. Herschel too was a part of the same ethos that is represented by this «new school of drawing» initiated by technical advances in the production of improved graphite and paper. With the aid of a camera lucida, which went in to enhancing the precision and exhaustive detail included in pencil drawings, Herschel spent the early part of the nineteenth century making exceedingly detailed drawings of monuments, landscapes, and buildings during his travels through the Continent. [5] When one compares some of these exquisite graphite pencil drawings [fig. 1] made by Herschel with those pencil drawings he was to later make of the nebulae [fig. 2], one instantly recognizes a continued enthusiasm for minutiae; for an abundant, individual, and detailed depiction. 

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