The Eidouranion

William Berry's theatrical lectures on popular astronomy, 1811, advertised in the Mercure.

Positively the last Night.

On Thursday the 9th May, 1811.
By Permission of the Royal Court.



Mr. BERRY begs leave to acquaint the Ladies and Gentlemen of Guernsey that, as the Machinery must shortly be taken down and removed, his fourth and last Night of Exhibiting his Eidouranion or large transparent Orrery will positively take place on Thursday the 9th May (after which it cannot be exhibited in this Island) when he will for the last time deliver his LECTURE on the SOLAR SYSTEM, explaining by large Transparencies and Telescopic views the interesting particulars of the several Planetary Worlds, the Changes of the Moon, Seasons, Tides, with the causes of Eclipses and other necessary information upon Comets, Constellations &c. The whole forming an Entertainment Instructive and Amusing: and

The large ORRERY which has been prepared at a great expense, and occupies the whole front of the Stage; exhibits by transparent GLOBES in actual Motion the SUN, EARTH, and MOON, performing their Diurnal and Annual Revolutions, in the same manner as these Worlds actually float in immensity of Space, alone sustained by the All-powerful hand of the Great Creator.

This Scene which is awful grand and the wonderful particulars of the Surrounding Worlds treated upon in the Lecture; give an impressive and proper idea of the Almighty power that Created them.

Tickets and places to be had of Mr. Masters, Stationer, High Street.Boxes 3s. Pit 2s. Gallery 1s.Doors to be opened at half past 6 and to begin precisely at 7 o’clock.

William Berry,1 writer, publisher, and genealogist, announced his intention to display his Large Transparent Orrery in the March editions of the local Gazette de Guernesey and Mercure of 1811. He had, he said, constructed it 'at considerable trouble and expense,' and explained that it was similar to that 'now exhibiting by Mr Walker with so much applause at the Haymarket Theatre, London.' This was William Walker, one of two astronomer sons of the Eidouranion’s inventor, Adam Walker (c. 1731-1821), who both gave theatrical lectures. Adam Walker, a self-taught scientist and inventor, made a living mainly out of lecturing; he was nevertheless a friend of Joseph Priestley and other members of the Lunar Society, and his family portrait was painted by Romney. He published an account of his Orrery in 1782, and judging by the number of reprints it must have been very popular; it was updated by his son in 1793. He wrote several books, amongst which were the 1776 Syllabus of a Course on Natural Philosophy which may may well have been of interest to Berry as a private schoolmaster, and An Epitome of Astronomy (1798).

Walker's Eidouranion was the heart of his public lectures or theatrical presentations. Walker's son describes this 'Elaborate Machine' as 'twenty feet high, and twenty-seven in diameter: it stands vertically before the spectators, and its globes are so large, that they are distinctly seen in the most distant parts of the Theatre. Every Planet and Satellite seems suspended in space, without any support; performing their annual and diurnal revolutions without any apparent cause.' This description is echoed by Berry, whose machinery 'occupies the whole front of the stage,' and implies Berry had a copy of Walker's book. There are no pictures of the Orrery, other than this one of a Walker lecture at the Royal Opera House in 1817, which does not show the machine. Berry seems to have followed Adam and William Walker in using some kind of transparent backlit projections to illustrate his lectures. Berry was far from the only man to copy the Walkers' example:

Other lecturers promoted their own devices: R E Lloyd advertised his Dioastrodoxon, or Grand Transparent Orrery, and by 1825 William Kitchener was offering his Ouranologia, which was 42 feet (13 m) in diameter. These devices most probably sacrificed astronomical accuracy for crowd-pleasing spectacle and sensational and awe-provoking imagery (Wikipedia).

1 For a biography of Berry, see Clark, R., 'William Berry and his History of Guernsey,' Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise, XXII (2) 1987, pp. 258 ff. Berry was proud of his scientific prowess, and advertised the range of scientific equipment he could offer to prospective pupils at his school; we learn that a rival schoolmaster, the Rev. Thomas Grut, when advertising his own school, pointed out that 'neither the distinguished abilities of a Parisian, nor the concussions of an Electrical Machine, nor the excellence of a Telescope, nor the magnifying powers of the Microscope,' were necessary to support the reputation of his school, which had been established for at least fourteen years.