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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p191  Custos Messium, the Harvest-Keeper,

is the German Erndtehüter, and the Italian Mietitore. La Lande published this on his globe of 1775, forming it from some inconspicuous stars not far from the pole, between the Camelopard, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus.

His alternative title, Le Messier, Smyth said was "in poorish punning compliment to his friend, the 'Comet ferret,' " as King Louis XV had  p192 called him, who for thirty years had been the gatherer and keeper of the harvest of comets, and the discoverer of twelve between the years of 1794 and 1798. This title also may have been induced by the fact that the two neighboring royal personages were rulers of an agricultural people, and the Giraffe an animal destructive to the grain-fields; all perhaps selected because the Phoenicians are said to have imagined a large Wheat Field in this part of the sky.

Its inventor was the enthusiastic astronomer who would spend nights on the Pont Neuf over the Seine, explaining the wonders of the variable Algol to all whom he could interest in the subject, and whose seclusion in his observatory, amid the turmoil of the French Revolution, enabled him to "thank his stars" that he had escaped the fate of so many of his friends.

Custos has now passed out of the recognition of astronomers.

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Page updated: 28 Dec 07