Through the years, many members of MIT’s faculty have donated materials and resources to help build the Libraries’ collections. This volume was presented to the Libraries by Professor Charles R. Cross, an early head of the Physics Department. Cross was the individual who invited Alexander Graham Bell to use MIT’s facilities for research that would result in Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1876. Cross was also a major academic innovator, having developed MIT’s electrical engineering curriculum, the first in the nation.
An early MIT graduate, Cross taught at the Institute from 1870 to 1917. He donated Le Ciel to the Physical Library toward the end of his time at MIT, as evidenced by the accession stamp on the title page, which is dated November 13, 1912.
The author, Amédée Guillemin, wrote numerous popular works on the physical sciences. The MIT Libraries own a dozen of his titles on telegraphy, railroads, electricity and magnetism, physics, the Sun, and this volume on astronomy, with its beautiful color plates. Le Ciel was a commercial success: it was printed in five French editions, of which this is the fourth, and MIT also owns two editions in English translation.
We can’t know precisely how Cross came into possession of this copy, but labels inside, from the Boston booksellers Schoenhof & Moeller (formerly located on Winter Street), suggest that he may have purchased it there in the 1870s.