Episodic Survey of the History of the Constellations

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Q: Amateur Western Constellation Studies

34: Title page of Carl Swartz's book on the origin of the constellations

Carl Swartz, a Swedish amateur astronomer and correspondent of Charles Dupuis, Jean Delambre, and Jean Bailly, wrote a treatise in Swedish on the origin and meaning of the constellations, which was translated into French and went through several editions. Peter Doig (A Concise History of Astronomy (1950) - borrowing from Edward Maunder (JBAA, 1909) - reinforced the error that Carl Swartz was, for several years, the Swedish consul at Baku on the Caspian Sea. (It was also taken up earlier by Claude Conder: "This observation was first made by the Swedish astronomer, Carl G. Schwartz, residing at Baku, near, the Caspian, at the end of the eighteenth century." (The First Bible by Claude Conder (1902, Page 155).)

Title page (above) of the second edition of Carl Swartz's book on the origin of the constellations. Schwartz's first treatise on the antiquity of the constellations was published in Paris in 1807. Carl Gottlieb Swartz (born 30-9-1757-died 5-11-1824) was born in Norrköping, Sweden (the 2nd son of Petter Swartz (1726-1789) and died in Paris, France. His father, Petter Swartz, was a prominent snuff manufacturer and patron of the arts and sciences. In about 1770 Petter Swartz started large-scale production of snuff in Norrköping. (To my knowledge 3 copies of the above book by Carl Swartz have appeared on the European antiquarian book market between circa 2004 and 2008 (variously priced between approximately Euros 300 and Euros 600). A digital copy has been freely available on the internet since early 2008 at least.) Initially Carl Swartz chose to publish anonymously.

Carl Swartz attended the University of Uppsala as did both his brothers. In 1774 Carl enrolled at the University of Uppsala. (Uppsala Universitets Matrikel på uppdrag av universitetets rektor utgiven, Tredje Bandet 1750-1800, utg. av A. B. Carlsson (Uppsala 1925-1946) p 191, Octob. 14. The source was located by Robert H. van Gent. The section seems to start at page 190 and is headed: Quartum Rectore Academiæ Upsaliensis Johanne Ihre Prof. Reg. Et Skyttiano. Entry details: Octob. 14. Carl Gottl. Swartz, Ostrogoth. 1757. See also: Upsala Universitets Historia : Delarna I-III jamte bihang I-V, 1477-1792, register utarbetadt af Elof Colliander by Claes Annerstedt  (1931, Page 75).)

In 1778, after presumably completing university, Carl obtained his first job as a civil clerk. This position does not appear to have been with the Swedish Government Offices. In 1781 Carl then obtained employment with the Kanskollegium (Swedish Government Offices) as a secretary or clerk (kopyist). In 1782 he was a clerical officer keeping office records or accounts (presumably still with the Swedish Government Offices). When Carl left (presumably resigned) his employment at the Swedish Government Offices (date unknown) his position title was prot.-sekreterare ((Protokollsekreterare) meaning 'Protocol-Secretary'  (clerical officer (= civil servant)) = person who takes the minutes. This seems to be all that is known of his career in the Government offices.

In 1787 (at least) he was the secretary (sekreteraren) for one of the numerous Swedish scientific societies that were coming into existence during the 18th-century. In August 1787 he purchased an important mineralogy collection (mineral cabinet) belonging to Johan Gottschalk Wallerius. It was planned/hoped that Johan Gottschalk Wallerius' mineral cabinet would be given to Uppsala University. (See: "Upsala universitets historia: d. 1719-1792, förra afdelningen, Universitetets öden" (Volume 3, Issue 2 of Upsala universitets historia), by Claes Annerstedt (1914, Page 448).) In 1795 he married 24 year old Catherina Arosenius (1771-1816) and in 1796 they divorced. (She married again to Joackin Almgren in 1799. Carl Swartz did not remarry. Nothing is now known regarding why the marriage failed. Perhaps she did not wish to travel or live outside Sweden. Nothing is known of Carl Swartz's personality.) Carl Swartz was a frequent traveller in Europe (but not Asia Minor) and also a keen amateur astronomer (and amateur philologist). He corresponded with, and was a personal friend to, Charles Dupuis, Jean Delambre, and Jean Bailly. He appears to have settled in Paris circa 1805.

It can be assumed that Carl Swartz inherited considerable wealth with the death of his father, enabling him to travel and live independently. He perhaps first travelled between the years 1789-1794. His next opportunities would lie between 1796-1824. The period of the Napoleonic regime is usually given as 1792-1819. The period of the French Revolution is usually given as 1792-1799.

In 1807 his ideas on the origins of the constellations were first published in his Recherches sur l'origine et le signification des Constellations de la Sphčre greque (1807). The (shorter) revised (standard) edition was published as Le Zodiaque expliqué (1809). Swartz appears to be familiar with all the relevant literature on the origin of the constellations that was known at that time. Unlike Charles Dupuis and others he identified a recent date for the constellations and the zodiac. (His (flawed) methods for exclusion of fabulous ancient dates for the origin of the constellations and zodiac still constituted an important step.) In the first and second editions of his book Carl Swartz proposed that the unconstellated area of the southern sky gave an approximate date for the formation of the constellations. Specifically he: (1) identified the unmapped space in the southern sky as significant for determining the origin of the constellations; (2) argued a case for the essential unity of the constellations as a single set; (3) estimated that the radius of the "void zone" was about 40 degrees; (4) deducted from the "void zone" that the date of origin of the constellations was 1400 BCE; (5) argued a case that astronomy arose with a seafaring people and navigational requirements; and (6) identified the port city of Baku (north latitude 40 degrees) as the place of origin of the constellations. He speculated that the city of Baku was the centre/capital of an ancient empire. Carl Swartz thought that the whole system of the constellations referred to the geography of the Caucasus (Caucasia) (a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and the Caspian seas), and the borders of the Caspian. Swartz endeavoured to prove that the constellations were nothing but a sort of symbolical geography of the west shore of the Caspian Sea. This idea is the most fanciful part of his publications. There is no evidence that Swartz ever visited or came near to Baku. All of his information is based on the reports of other travellers (who he carefully identifies).

Included amongst his anonymously published works is his short monograph: Mémoire explicatif sur la sphère caucasienne et spécialement sur le zodiaque by C. G. S. (1813). According to the BNF catalogue (when looked at in 2000) the French mathematician and astronomer Jean-Baptiste Delambre (1749-1822) was "part author" by way of making annotations to the text. The BNF catalogue (when looked at in 2015) has "Note : Attribué par Barbier ā Schwartz, mais une note ms., figurant sur l'ex. qui porte la cote 4-V-5036, attribue cet ouvrage ā Stéphens, Suédois." A draft translation is: Note: Attributed by Barbier to Schwartz, but a manuscript note marked 4-V-5036 that is enclosed with the work attributes the authorship to Stephens, a Swede.

One source indicates that he gave a public presentation of his constellation ideas in 1817 in Paris.

Carl Swartz's ideas for the origin of science and culture in the Caucasus region were based on Von den kaukasischen [kaukcasischen] Völkern der mythischen Zeit, ein abermaliger Beytrag zur Historie und Geographie der Mythologie by Theodor Ditmar (1789). (Theodor Ditmar (1734-1791) was a Prussian historian and geographer, Prof. für Geschichte und Geographie am Gymnasium. He has also been mistakenly described as an archaeologist.) The Royal Observatory, Greenwich sun spot specialist Edward Maunder discovered a copy of Le Zodiaque expliqué in the observatory library and in a series of articles from 1898 to 1913 reintroduced many of the ideas of its author. The copies may have been donated by Carl Swartz. He presented copies of his publications to the Royal Society of London.

The "void zone" argument, though popular since its reintroduction by Edward Maunder, has multiple problems. The chief premise of the "void zone" is that the classical Greek constellations (i.e., the Aratean constellations) were designed at one definite time and in one place, according to a preconceived plan. The argument for establishing the time and place of the Aratean constellations is based on the extent of the vacant space left around the south pole of the celestial sphere when all but the Aratean constellations are removed; and the apparent movement of the stars due to precession. The further assumption made is that the area of the globe that was not constellated in the description of Aratus was centred on the south celestial pole at the date when the constellations were fixed.

The size of the "void zone" is taken as a clue to the latitude at which the constellation inventors lived. A date is found when, by allowing for precession, the centre of the "void zone" on the globe is in the position of the south celestial pole.

The subjectivity of the method is demonstrated by the varying estimates of the radius of the "void zone" (30 degrees to 40 degrees) and the varying estimates of the date of origin given by precession (1400-2800 BCE). Anyway the boundaries of the "void zone" cannot be accurately defined as we lack the understanding of the original boundaries of the classical Greek constellation figures. Due to our lack of knowledge of the boundaries of the Aratean constellations the "void zone" method is inherently subjective and its use can lead to no real agreement (as it has failed to do) regarding the latitude and date for the constellations being designed at one definite time and place.

Many of the Aratean constellations show a similarity with Babylonian constellations. The Greek constellation scheme of Aratus of Soli (3rd-century BCE) contains a mix of both Babylonian constellations and non-Babylonian constellations. The Babylonian component of the Aratean constellations is traceable to both Babylonian "star calendar" constellations of the 2nd millennium BCE and also to Babylonian constellations listed in the later Mul.Apin series (circa 1000 BCE). (The few known 8th-century BCE constellations of Homer mirror the constellations already existing in the Babylonian scheme.) The Babylonian scheme of constellations has always been a mix of constellations mentioned by Aratus and other constellations outside the Aratean scheme. A definite Babylonian influence on the later Greek scheme of constellations is reasonably indicated. It is obvious that the Greeks borrowed certain constellations from the Babylonians and it is obvious that the constellations could not have originated, or been adopted, as a single devised scheme by either the Babylonians or the Greeks.

If the constellations originated as a set circa 2000-2800 BCE, as commonly claimed by the proponents of the "void zone" method, then they cannot have originated with the Greeks. However, the latitude at which the constellations were believed to have originated as a single scheme cannot refer to Mesopotamia because their earliest scheme of constellations, though dating to the 2nd millennium BCE, was a mix of constellations mentioned by Aratus and other constellations outside his scheme.

Crediting the Minoans, as some like to do, as the makers of the classical constellations and offering explanations based on the destruction of Minoan civilization and the later ineptitude of the Greeks as observers are also not convincing. There is no evidence that the classical Greek scheme of constellations existed anywhere prior to its evolvement in Greece circa 500 BCE. This includes the fact that there is no evidence that the particular Greek scheme of 12 zodiacal constellations existed anywhere prior to its evolvement in Greece circa 500 BCE. The difficulty with maintaining an ancient zodiac is how can a late Mesopotamian zodiac (developed circa 500 BCE) and comprised of 12 constellations (and 12 equal divisions), and substantially borrowed by the Greeks, have been in use by anybody hundreds of years earlier. (Or even thousands of years earlier, prior to the existence of the Babylonian civilization which demonstrably created it.)

The flawed "void zone" argument has become a common tool for maintaining that a Neolithic zodiac (and fully constellated sky) can be reasonably be proposed. The "void zone" argument can hardly substitute for the lack of clear evidence (which tends to fall under the murky heading of "tradition"). Even if the "void zone" argument were correct it has never offered support for the idea that the constellations could have existed as a deliberately planned set extending back some 6000-8000 years BCE (or further). The use of the "void zone" argument controls the feasible range for the dating of the constellations if they are considered to have originated as a deliberately planned scheme. Interestingly, Edward Maunder, a committed proponent of the "void zone" argument, in his later articles on the topic attempted to overcome this limitation by implying a very slow developmental period for the final scheme of constellation design (see: "Origin of the Constellations." The Observatory, Volume 36, 1913, Page 330).

Appendix 1: Petter Swartz

In the 16th-century, Swedes began to mix tobacco leaves with salt and water to place behind the upper lip. (Initially, nasally inhaled snuff was practiced.) In the early 1800s, maybe somewhat earlier, Swedish consumers switched to placing a pinch of snus under the lip. Many farmers, who had their own tobacco plantations, made their own snus. They ground the tobacco in their coffee grinders or in snus mills that they had carved themselves. During the 1800s, Swedish manufacturers began to produce local varieties of the moist snus. Some popular suppliers include Petter Swartz with Röda Lacket and J.A. Boman with General snus. However, the largest brand was Ettan, Ljunglöfs Ettan. Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf's plant at Badstugatan, today Sveavägen in Stockholm, traces its roots to a tobacco company founded around 1695. Jacob Fredrik Ljunglöf took over the company in 1822 and turned it into the leading snus plant in Europe and the world.

Petter (Peter) Swartz (father of Carl Gottlieb Swartz) was born 17 May 1726 and was a son of mine owner Olof Persson Swartzången in Kroppa in Värmland. His family had farmed there for generations. Petter Swartz moved to Norrköping in 1751 from Stockholm. In the same year he was employed as accountant/bookkeeper with the Gripen sugar mill in Norrköping. (In the 1740s, Norrköping had three sugar refineries.) He was the first to introduce the Italian double-entry bookkeeping method to Norrköping. Prior to this he had served as 'boddräng/husdräng' [shop hand/house servant] for 6 years with the French merchant Jean Crescs trading business at Köpmansgatan 11 in Old Town in Stockholm. In connection with this service he got in touch with the French who introduced the manufacture of Spanish snuff in Sweden. From them he learned the technique of manufacturing snuff and some sources state he started his own production of snuff in Stockholm. No evidence for this claim has been found.

In 1753 Petter Swartz was given a licence (privilege) to manufacture snus (snuff) in Norrköping. On November 12, 1753, he gave an invitation to his brother, Olof (1728-1768) to join him in producing Spanish snuff in Norrköping. (Olof S(ch)wartz 1728-1768 married and had one child.) According to one source both brothers had received a licence ['privilegium'] to produce snus (snuff). According to Tobaks Tändsticks Museum: "In 1753, two brothers, Olof and Petter Swartz, were granted a licence to manufacture snus in the town of Norrköping. They soon went separate ways, but Petter Swartz continued to make snus. By the late 1800s, the company was one of the biggest snus manufacturers in Sweden." It seems likely it was Petter Swartz who was granted the licence and he established the business with his brother Olaf Swartz. The brothers bought a plot of land in the neighborhood of Linden where they started their snuff manufacturing (beginning 1753), and where Petter Swartz had established his residence. In 1761 either the brothers or Petter Swartz purchased property next to 'Knäppingeborg invid Motala ström i Norrköping' [Knäppingeborg adjacent to the Motala River in Norrköping], which was developed as a snuff mill that, over time, become one of the largest in Sweden. Finally, the entire block 'Nya Strömmen' [New Stream] was purchased and in 1767 the first stone building was built on the corner of 'Knäppingeborgsgatan och Gamla Rådstugatan.'

Circa 1770 Petter Swartz started large-scale production of snuff in Nörrkoping. When snus production was at its peak, the tobacco fields had expanded to cover an area of almost 395,000 square meters – or just above 1500 tennis courts. Petter and his brother, Olof Swartz, transformed the initially small business by implementing an efficient manufacturing process. They also paid low wages to their workers. Olof Swartz left the company in 1762 (other strong sources state 1768) to take over the 'Törnqvists privilegium' [Törnqvist privilege] on 'kardustllverkning' [Kardus manufacturing] in Norrköping. This left Petter Swartz the sole owner of the business, Norrköpings Snusfabrik (Snusfactory). The business also included a flour mill until 1853, when it became a separate business taken over by John Gustav Swartz (1819-1885). Snus usage increased steadily during the 1800s.

In 1754 Peter Swartz was married to Brita Ryy (born Norrköping 23 August 1725 - died Norrköping 17 December 1783).  Parents of Brita Ryy: Father: Jacob Jakobsson Ryy born 1687 in Visby, Gotland County, title: 'Bokbindare & tullbesökare,' died 1759 in Norrköping, married Katarina Öjarsdotter Scherelia in 1716, in Visby; Katarina Öjarsdotter Schereli born in 1688, died 1759 in Norrköping. Petter Swartz died 14 February 1789.

Some sources indicate that that Petter Swartz and Brita Ryy had 4/5 (?) children; 3/4 (/) sons and 1 daughter. However, other sources indicate they only had 2 children - 1 son and 1 daughter! Correctly, it appears they had 3 sons and 1 daughter. One son, Petter Jacob Swartz, was born 1755 and died 1819. He married Anna Charlotta Erling who died in 1784; he then married Catharina Charlotta Wallström (1759-1820). The other 2 sons were John Swartz and, of course, Carl Gottlieb Swartz. The daughter, Johanna Elisabet Swartz, was born 1766 and died 1808. In 1786 she married Karl Gustav Pereswetoff-Morath (born Torpa, E., 1755-died Söderköping, E., 1812; title: Hovjägmästare) and they had 3 daughters. They resided in Norrköping.

The Petter Swartz tobacco factory was passed down for generations, for a total of 160 years. Seven different recipes for snus comprised the backbone of the Swartz empire. Its most famous brand was Röda Lacket (The Red Seal) snuff. In its early days, the snus was mostly popular in the southern Swedish province of Småland. Sons Peter Jackob (title: Grosshandlare, tobaksfabrikör), 1755-1819, (in 1785 married Katarina Chalotta Wallström), and Daniel Frederick, 1765-1828, had in 1784 entered the firm. Daniel Frederick left the firm in 1808 to take over J. G. Nyberg kardusfabrik in Norrköping. The Swartz firm was passed on to any subsequent children and grandchildren: John Swartz, born 1790, Eric Swartz, born 1817, Carl Swartz, born 1858.

The Swartz family became very wealthy and made generous financial contributions to the development of the town of Norrköping, most notably through financing the public library and the town's arts museum. In 1772, Petter Swartz founded (financed) a private school where students were taught both double-entry bookkeeping and carpentry - skills that were needed in the snus business. Petter Swartz was a prominent patron of the arts and sciences. The family and descendents of Petter Swartz played an important part in the industrial (and cultural) history of Norrköping. The family and descendents of Peter Swartz and Brita Ryy also held different kinds of public offices, culminating with Carl Swartz (1858-1926), industrialist and right-wing politician, who was a member of the first chamber of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdagen), 1900-1926, and several of its most important committees, minister of finance 1906-1911, and prime minister of Sweden in 1917 (30 March-19 October). Interestingly, it is indicated by one source that in 1876 Carl Swartz had his own firm and founded a new snuff manufacturing mill. The establishment of the Norrköping Museum of the Arts at the turn of the 20th-century was due to a donation from Pehr [Per] Swartz, a famous snuff manufacturer and patron of the arts. Also, a 6000 kroner donation by Pehr Swartz enabled an observatory dome to be constructed (1911-1912) at the Louis De Geer Gymnasium (Norrköping) and a large (122 mm diameter) Merz refracting telescope to be purchased from Germany.

The most detailed study of the Swartz family was published by the Swedish businessman and cultural historian Edward Ringborg (1857-1929), who resided in Norrköping, the son of Ludvig Ringborg and Catarina Elisabeth Swartz. See: Till Norrköpingskrönikan (2nd edition, 1920). Note: Comprised of multiple volumes concerning Norrköping. Also, Svenska ättartal, Volume 3, 1886.


[I am indebted to Dutch astronomer Robert H. van Gent for generously sharing his biographical knowledge of Carl Swartz.]

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