Posted by: whipplelib | February 25, 2013

White’s Ephemeris

Title page from 1794

Title page from 1794

Towards the end of last year we received a donation of five volumes of White’s Ephemeris running from 1794 to 1845. (For its full title see photo of title page). First published in 1750 and continuing well after the original author’s death, the main feature of the Ephemeris was its astronomical tables but over the years other content was added. This included the dates when the law courts sat, birthdays of members of the royal family, list of the ruling heads of Europe, tide tables, and the longitude and latitudes of places around the globe. By looking though these volumes you can chart the history of England and science as they include changes in monarch and the discovery of new planets. The volumes we have cover the discovery of Uranus which is referred to as the Georgian or Hershel planet.

Little seems to be known of Robert White, according to the title pages he was a mathematics teacher at Grantham in the 1750’s. After his death in 1773 the Ephemeris continued and in 1831 became “White’s celestial atlas” edited first by Olinthus Gregory (1774-1841) and then by Wesley Stoker Barker Woolhouse (1809-1893). Both of these men were editors of similar almanacs (Gentleman’s and the Ladies Diaries). Perkins mentions that from 1775-1870, along with two others, they “dominated almanac compilation”.

Bequest note

Bequest note

Although we know little of the original author we do know more about the history of the volumes themselves. They were gifted to Alfred John Pearce (1840-1923) from Frederic Willis of Huddersfield around 1894. Sadly I’ve been unable to find any information about Willis. Pearce is more known as Zadkiel, the author of a self named almanac. This pseudonym “is the Cabbalistic name of the angel of Jupiter, the planet of wisdom” (Curry). Taking up such names was common practice in the world of almanacs, especially those that contained astrological information. Raphael was another name used and Raphael V (R.V. Sparkes) became the second Zadkiel for a brief time.  Capp comments that “almanacs founded by ‘Zadkiel’ and ‘Raphael’ sold together roughly 300,000 copies each year by 1900”. So that we have the full set: Zadkiel I was Richard James Morrison (1795-1874). Pearce became Zadkiel III, editing the almanac from 1875 for 47 years. The volumes we have do contain either full or parts of Zadkiel’s Almanac from 1840-1846 bound next to the White’s Ephemeris for the same year. Both Zadkiel I and III had events in their lives involving the law. Zadkiel I was personally involved in a libel case in which he was accused of being an imposer and of gulling the public. He went on to win the case. Zadkiel III’s father, who believed in the use of homoepathy, was put on trial for manslaughter after one of his patients died through no connection to this belief. He was acquitted and both he and his son went on to work together in medicine. Pearce’s profile in the DNB states that he changed the character of Zadkiel’s Almanac “..demonstrating a combination of moral integrity and seriousness, unmistakably high-Victorian in tone, with an absolute conviction that astrology was a mathematical science of corresponding probability”.

Zadkiel's Almanac

Zadkiel’s Almanac



All five volumes have annotations written by both previous owners. These scribblings including the date and time of birth of Napoleon III, birth date of Ada Byron (who became Ada Lovelace, mathematician who worked on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine) and a note on the publishing history of Morrison (see photo). Most of the other almanacs we have in the library are nautical so these volumes are a nice addition to our collection.



Capp, B. Astrology and the popular press: English almanacs 1500-1800

Perkins, M. Visions of the future: almanacs, time, and cultural change 1775-1870

Curry, P. A confusion of prophets: Victorian and Edwardian astrology



  1. Thank you for a fascinating post. Alfred John Pearce (incorrectly given here as Alfred James), ‘Zadkiel III’, was my 3+great grandfather.

    • Thank you for the correction, now implemented.

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