Life, Letters, Journals — Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell was the first female astronomer in the United States, and in 1847, she became the first person to discover a comet via telescope. During her lifetime, Mitchell fought for women’s right to an education, and promoted a more creative and zestful approach to science and learning. This text consists of Mitchell’s letters and diary entries (compiled by her sister), providing insights into her everyday life as a professional astronomer, and showing how her lifestyle deviated significantly from the stereotypical gender roles during the 19th century.

Poetry was an important aspect of Mitchell’s life and upbringing, and she argued that it should also form a central part of research. She talks about a specific poem that has followed her throughout life, namely The Spacious Firnament on High by Joseph Addinson. I chose to print an excerpt of this poem on the edges of the book’s pages, so that it runs through the book just as it followed Mitchell through her career. Furthermore, I chose to cut the fore-edge in steps so that the poem is the first visible detail to reach the reader when the book cover is opened. This contributes to a moment of surprise, something unexpected, as I wanted the book to transmit a sense of new discoveries.

A notion of curiosity is also brought along in the form of the book cover. The black book jacket conceals the book’s inner gold-glitter cloth cover, referring to the vast, endless, unexplored night sky.

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