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Quotations About Eclipses

Compiled by David Le Conte

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This collection of quotations concentrates on solar eclipses, but a few referring to lunar eclipses are included. Some are from literary sources, while others are predictions and records. I have avoided scientific reports, preferring to include descriptive accounts. The quotations are in chronological order. Dates are generally in the Julian Calendar until 1582, and in the Gregorian Calendar thereafter. Some links are provided to maps of historic eclipses by Fred Espanak, Goddard Space Flight Center.

The compiler is grateful to those organisations which have given permission to use copyright material for this web page. The compiler grants general permission to use the page for educational purposes, subject to appropriate credit being given. However, users should note that reproduction of some material may require specific copyright clearance.

Additional quotations and comments on this page are welcome, and should be sent to: David Le Conte.

Last updated 6 December 1998, when there were almost 200 quotations. Further quotations, which have been referenced but not quoted, will be added if and when copyright clearance is received.

"Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi,
Whose fate, though sad, is risible;
Being slain because they could not spy
Th' eclipse which was invisible."

Author unknown
Said to refer to the Chinese eclipse of 2136 BC or 2159 BC.

"On day kuei-yu (the 10th day of a 60-day cycle), it was inquired (by divination): 'The Sun was eclipsed in the evening; is it good?' On day kuei-yu it was inquired: 'The Sun was eclipsed in the evening; is it bad?'"

From: the An-yang oracle bones of the Shang dynasty, China (c. 1550-1050 BC).
Quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"On the day of the new moon, in the month of Hiyar, the Sun was put to shame, and went down in the daytime, with Mars in attendance."

One of the earliest written records of an eclipse of the Sun, on 3 May 1375 BC, found in the city of Ugarit in Mesopotamia.
(Reprinted, from Chasing the Shadow, copyright 1994 by Joel K Harris and Richard L Talcott, by permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co. Also appears in Total Eclipses of the Sun by Zirker. In Guide to the Sun, Phillips says that this might refer to the eclipse of 1223 BC.)

". . . and the Sun has perished
out of heaven,
and an evil mist hovers over all."

Said to refer to a total solar eclipse of 16 April 1178 BC.
From: Homer (Greek), The Odyssey (8th century BC).

"Insurrection in the city of Ashur. In the month Sivan, the Sun was eclipsed."

Refers to the solar eclipse of 15 June 763 BC.
From: The Assyrian Chronicles.
Quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98, and in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 125.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"On that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight."

Said to refer to the solar eclipse of 15 June 763 BC.
From: Amos, Chapter 8, verse 9 (Old Testament)
Quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"The Sun was eclipsed, a thing of very evil omen. Then the Moon became small, and now the Sun became small. . . . For the Moon to be eclipsed is but an ordinary matter. Now that the Sun has been eclipsed - how bad it is!"

Refers to successive eclipses (one lunar, one solar) in the 8th century BC. The solar eclipse is said to have occurred on the day hsin-mao, which was the first day of the 10th lunar month. This may have been in 735 BC.
From: the Shih-ching ("Book of Odes") (China, 8th century BC).
Quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98, and in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 222.

"Duke Huan, 3rd year, 7th month, day jen-ch'en, the first day (of the month). The Sun was eclipsed and it was total."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 17 July 709 BC.
From: Ch'un-ch'iu, book I (Chinese). Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 226.
Stephenson says: "This is the earliest direct allusion to a complete obscuration of the Sun in any civilisation. The recorded date, when reduced to the Julian calendar, agrees exactly with that of a computed solar eclipse." Reference to the same eclipse appears in the Han-shu ('History of the Former Han Dynasty') (Chinese, 1st century AD): ". . . the eclipse threaded centrally through the Sun; above and below it was yellow."

"[In Iy]yar (month II) . . . the night of the 14th day, is the [da]y of the watch (to be held), and there will be no eclipse. I guarantee it seven times, an eclipse will not take place. I am writing a definitive word to the king."

Tab-silli-Marduk (Babylonian astrologer), nephew of Bel-nasir. Period 709 to 649 BC.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 124.

"The eclipse of the Moon which took place in Marchesvan (month VIII) began [in the east]. That is bad for Subartu. What [is wrong]? After it, Jupiter ent[ered] the Moon three times. What is being done to (make) its evil pass? . . ."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 675 BC.
Bel-suma-iskun (Babylonian scribe).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 125.

"If the Sun at its rising is like a crescent and wears a crown like the Moon: the king wll capture his enemy's land; evil will leave the land, and (the land) will experience good . . . "

Refers to a solar eclipse of 27 May 669 BC.
Rasil the older, Babylonian scribe to the king.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 125.

"On the 28th day, at 2-1/2 double hou[rs of the day . . .] in the west [. . .] it also cover[ed] 2 fingers towards [. . .] it made [an eclipse], the east wind [. . .] the north wind ble[w. This is its interpretation] . . . "

Refers to a solar eclipse of 15 April 657 BC.
Akkullanu (Assyrian scribe).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 125.

"Zeus, the father of the
Olympic Gods, turned
mid-day into night, hiding the light
of the dazzling Sun;
and sore fear came upon men."

Archilochus (c680-c640 BC), Greek poet
Refers to the total solar eclipse of 6 April 648 BC.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight, and . . . fear has come upon mankind. After this, men can believe anything, expect anything. Don't any of you be surprised in future if land beasts change places with dolphins and go to live in their salty pastures, and get to like the sounding waves of the sea more than the land, while the dolphins prefer the mountains."

May refer to a total solar eclipse of 6 April 648 BC.
Archilochus, Greek poet (c680-640 BC)
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 338. Partly quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"Nothing there is beyond hope, nothing that can be sworn impossible, nothing wonderful, since Zeus, father of the Olympians, made night from mid-day, hiding the light of the shining Sun, and sore fear came upon men."

Archilochus (Greek poet, c680-640 BC)

"Duke Hsuan, 8th year, 7th month, day chia-tzu. The Sun was eclipsed and it was total."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 20 September 601 BC.
From: Ch'un-ch'iu, book VII (Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 226.

"His defeat is like an eclipse of the Sun or Moon; does it harm the brightness (of these bodies)?"

Extract from a speech made in 597 BC, in support of a general who had recently suffered defeat, and was in danger of execution. He was reinstated!
From: Tso-chuan (Chinese, about 300 BC).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 223.

"When, in the sixth year they encountered one another, it so fell out that, after they had joined battle, the day suddenly turned into night. Now that this transformation of day (into night) would occur was foretold to the Ionians by Thales of Miletus, who fixed as the limit of time this very year in which the change actually took place."

Herodotus (c485-c420 BC) History I, 74.
Refers to the solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC, when the Lydians and the Medes were fighting a war.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"The original discovery (of the cause of eclipses) was made in Greece by Thales of Miletus, who in the fourth year of the 48th Olympiad (585/4 BC) foretold the eclipse of the Sun that occurred in the reign of Alyattes, in the 170th year after the foundation of Rome (584/3 BC)"

Probably refers to the total solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC.
From: Pliny, Naturalis Historia, II, 53.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 342.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

". . . there was war between the Lydians and the Medes five years. . . . They were still warring with equal success, when it chanced, at an encounter which happened in the sixth year, that during the battle the day turned to night. Thales of Miletus had foretold this loss of daylight to the Ionians, fixing it within the year in which the change did indeed happen. So when the Lydians and Medes saw the day turned to night, they ceased from fighting, and both were the more zealous to make peace."

Probably refers to the total solar eclipse of 28 May 585 BC in Asia Minor.
Herodotus, (c485-c420 BC) History I, 74.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 242. Also in Greek Astronomy by Heath, and in Total Eclipses of the Sun, by Zirker, and referred to in The Fontana History of Astronomy and Cosmology by North. The Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98 says that this eclipse must have been predicted by means of the Saros and the eclipse of 18 May 603 BC.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"Duke Hsiang, 24th year, 7th month, day chia-tzu, the first day of the Moon. The Sun was eclipsed and it was total."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 19 June 549 BC.
From: Ch'un-ch'iu, book IX (Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 226.

"Beam of the Sun! O thou that seest from afar, what wilt thou be devising? O mother of mine eyes! O star supreme, reft from us in the daytime! Why has thou perplexed the power of man and the way of wisdom by rushing forth on a darksome track? Art thou bringing a sign of some war, or wasting of produce, or an unspeakably violent snow-storm, or fatal faction, or again, some overflowing of the sea on the plain, or frost to bind the earth, or heat of the south wind streaming with raging rain? Or wilt thou, by deluging the land, cause the race of men to begin anew? I in no wise lament whate'er I shall suffer with the rest!"

"God can cause unsullied light to spring out of black night. He can also shroud in a dark cloud of gloom the pure light of day"

Both these quotation probably refer to the solar eclipse of 30 April 463 BC, which was nearly total at Thebes.
Pinder (Greek poet) Ninth Paean, addressed to the Thebans.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 344, and, in part, in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"The moon shuts off the beams of the sun as it passes across it, and darkens so much of the earth as the breadth of the blue-eyed moon amounts to."

Empedocles (Greek, 493-433 BC) Fragment (ca. 450 BC)

"The same summer, at the beginning of the new lunar month (the only time by the way at which it appears possible), the Sun was eclipsed after noon. After it had assumed the form of a crescent, and some of the stars had come out, it returned to its natural shape."

Refers to an annular solar eclipse of 3 August (29 July) 431 BC.
Thucydides (Greek historian, c460-400 BC) History of the Peloponnesian War.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 346, and, in part, in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"Duke Li (of the Chinese dynasty), 34th year. The Sun was eclipsed. It became dark in the daytime and stars were seen."

Refers to an annular solar eclipse of 24 October 444 BC.
From: Shih-chi (Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 227. Stephenson points out that as only 93 percent of the Sun was obscured, the allusion to darkness must be exaggerated, and that this eclipse is the earliest in any civilisation for which the stars is reliably reported. Venus and Mercury were well placed for visibility.

". . . the sun assumed the shape of a crescent and became full again, and during the eclipse some stars became visible."

Thucydides (Greek, c460-400 BC).
Refers to an annular solar eclipse of 3 August (29 July) 431 BC.

"The moon is eclipsed through the interposition of the earth, and sometimes also of the bodies below the moon. The sun is eclipsed at the new moon, when the moon is interposed. . . . Anaxagoras was the first to set out distinctly the facts about eclipses and illuminations."

Euripedes (Greek) Hippolytus I, 8 (431 BC)

"In addition to this, there is evidence for the truth of what I have stated in the observed facts with regard to total eclipses of the sun; for when the centre of the sun, the centre of the moon, and our eye happen to be in one straight line, what is seen is not always alike; but at one time the cone which comprehends the moon and has its vertex at our eye comprehends the sun itself at the same time, and the sun even remains invisible to us for a certain time, while again at another time this is so far from being the case that a rim of a certain breadth on the outside edge is left visible all round it at the middle of the duration of the eclipse. Hence we must conclude that the apparent difference in the sizes of the two bodies observed under the same atmospheric conditions is due to the inequality of their distances (at different times)."

Aristotle (Greek, 384-322 BC) Metaphysics.

"On a "paradoxical" eclipse of the moon

"These facts having been proved with regard to the moon, the argument establishing that the moon suffers eclipse through falling into the earth‘s shadow would seem to be contradicted by the stories told about a class of eclipses seemingly paradoxical. For some say that an eclipse (sometimes) occurs, even when both the luminaries are seen above the horizon. This should make it clear that (in that case) the moon does not suffer eclipse through falling into the earth‘s shadow, but in some other way, since, if an eclipse occurs when both sun and moon appear above the horizon, the moon cannot suffer eclipse through falling into the earth‘s shadow. For the place where the moon is, when both bodies appear above the horizon, is still being lit up by the sun, and the shadow cannot yet be at the place where the moon gives the impression of being eclipsed. Accordingly, if this be the case, we shall be obliged to declare that the cause of the eclipse of the moon is a different one. Such being the story, the more ancient of the mathematicians tried to get rid of the difficulty in this way. They argued that it is not impossible, even when both luminaries are above the horizon, for the moon to fall into the earth‘s shadow and to be exactly opposite to the sun. On the assumption that the shape of the earth is flat and plane, this could not happen; but seeing that the figure formed by it is spherical, it would not be impossible that the two divine bodies should be seen above the horizon, while being exactly opposite to each other. They will not, it is true, be in sight of one another while diametrically opposite to one another, because of the prominences formed by convexities on the earth‘s surface; but persons standing on the earth would not be prevented from seeing them both, provided they stood on the convexities of the earth, which are no obstacle to those standing thereon seeing both bodies above the horizon, through the convexities do intervene between the bodies diametrically opposite to one another. The bodies will not be in view of one another; but we shall not be prevented from seeing them both if we are standing on the convexities of the earth, which intervene between the bodies themselves, being, as they are, in the depresssions about the horizon, while the convexities on which we stand are more lofty.

Such is the solution which the more ancient of the mathematicians give of the difficulty alleged. But we may feel doubt of the soundness of the line taken by them. For, if our eye were situated on a height, the effect might be stated, if, I mean, we were raised far away from the earth into the air, but it could not possibly happen if we stood on the earth. For, though there may be some convexity on which we stand, our sight itself becomes evanescent owing to the size of the earth. Hence we should altogether refuse to admit or believe that the thing is possible, I methat an eclipse of the moon can occur when both bodies are seen above the horizon by us standing on the earth and at a lower level.

First, we must take a fundamental objection, and maintain that this story has been invented by some persons who desired to cause perplexity to the astronomers and philosophers who concern themselves with these things. For, while there have been many eclipses, both total and partial, and all have been recorded, history knows, at all events down to our own day, of no person having noted any eclipse of this sort, no Chaldaean, no Egyptian, no other mathematician or philosopher; nay the story is pure fiction. Secondly, if the moon had suffered eclipse in any other way, and not through falling into the earth‘s shadow, it would also at times have suffered eclipse when it was not full moon, and when it was, more or less, in advance of the sun, and again when, after the full moon, it again approached the sun and waned. But, as it is, although very many eclipses of the moon have occurred (for the eclipse is not even a rare phenomenon), it has never suffered eclipse without being full and without being diametrically opposite to the sun, and it has only been eclipsed when it was possible for it to come into the earth‘s shadow. Moreover, nowadays all lunar eclipses are foretold by authorities on the Canon, because they know that, whenever it occurs, the moon is found to be full and to be, either in whole or in part, directly under the midmost circle of the zodiac, thus making the eclipses partial or total, as the case may be. It is, therefore, impossible for eclipses if the moon to occur when both luminaries are seen above the horizon.

Nevertheless, having regard to the many and infinitely various conditions which naturally arise in the air, it would not be impossible that, when the sun has just set, and is under the horizon, we should receive the impression of its not yet having set, if there were cloud of considerable density at the place of setting and the cloud were illuminated by the sun‘s rays and transmitted to us an image of the sun, or if there were " anthelium." Such images are indeed often seen in the air, especially in the neighbourhood of Pontus. The ray, therefore, proceeding from the eye and meeting the air in a moist and damp condition might be bent, and so might catch the sun although just hidden by the horizon. Even in ordinary life we have observed something similar. For, if a gold ring be thrown into a drinking cup or other vessel, then, when the vessel is empty, the object is not visible at a certain suitable distance, since the visual current goes right on in a straight line as it touches the brim of the vessel. But, when the vessel has been filled with water up to the level of the brim, the ring placed in the vessel is now, at the same distance, visible, since the visual current no longer passes straight on past the brim as before, but, as it touches, at the brim, the water which fills the vessel up to the brim, it is thereby bent, and so, passing to the bottom of the vessel, finds the ring there. Something similar, then, might possibly happen in a moist and thoroughly wet condition of the air, namely that the visual ray should, by being bent, take a direction below the horizon, and there catch the sun just after its setting, and so receive the impression of the sun‘s being above the horizon. Perhaps, also some other cause akin to this might sometimes give us the impression of the two bodies being above the horion, though the sun had already set, But the observed phenomena make it as clear as day that the moon is not eclipsed otherwise than by falling within the earth's shadow. So much for eclipses."

Cleomedes De motu circulari.

"On the first Mercury rises.
On the third the Equinox.
Night of the 15th 40 minutes after sunset,
an eclipse of the moon begins.
On the 28th occurs an eclipse of the sun."

Inscriptions on a clay tablet, part of an ancient Chaldean astronomical almanac. The dates quoted are Chaldean. Some sources date these two eclipses to 9 (4) October 425 BC and 23 (18) October 425 BC.

"And the moon in haste eclipsed her,
and the Sun in anger swore
He would curl his wick within him
and give light to you no more."

Said to refer to a lunar eclipse of 425 BC, and an annular solar eclipse of 424 BC.
Aristophanese (Greek, c450-385 BC) Chorus of Clouds (423BC)

"On the nones of June the Sun was covered by the Moon and night."

Refers to eclipse of 21 June 400 BC.
Cicero.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"Consequently inhabitants of the East do not perceive evening eclipses of the Sun and Moon,nor do those dwelling in the West see morning eclipses, while the latter see eclipses at midday later than we do. The victory of Alexander the Great is said to have caused an eclipse of the Moon at Arbela at 8 p.m. while the same eclipse in Sicily was when the Moon was just rising . . . this was because the curve of the globe discloses and hides different phenomena for different localities."

From: Pliny, Natural History.

"But about the first watch the Moon in eclipse, hid at first the brilliance of her heavenly body, then all her light was sullied and suffused with the hue of blood."

From: Curtius, History of Alexander.
These quotations refer to a lunar eclipse at moonrise in Sicily and at Arbela, of 20/21 September 331 BC.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 372.

"Agathocles, who was already at the point of being overtaken and surrounded, gained unhoped for safety as night closed in. On the next day there occurred such an eclipse of the Sun that utter darkness set in and the stars were seen everywhere; wherefore Agathocles' men, believing that the prodigy portended misfortune for them, fell into even greater anxiety about the future. After they had sailed for six days and the same number of nights, just as day was breaking, the fleet of the Carthaginians was unexpectedly seen far away."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 15 August 310 BC.
From: Diodorus Siculus (Greek historian, 1st century BC), Library of History. Agathocles was a tyrant who had made his escape, with a fleet of sixty ships, from a blockade at Syracuse harbour by the Carthaginians.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 348, and, in part, in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"[D]iary for year 65 (SE), king Antiochus . . . [month V]. The 28th, 74 deg after sunrise, solar eclipse (at) 5 months' distance; when I watched I did not see it."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 7 September 247 BC, predicted to take place in Babylon, but which was actually far north of Babylon.
Babylonian tablet in the British Museum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 122.

"Year 121 (SE), King An(tiochus), month XII, 29 solar eclipse beginning on the north-west side. In 15 deg day [. . .] over a third of the disk was eclipsed. When it began to become bright, in 15 deg day from north-west to east it became bright. 30 deg total duration. [During this eclipse] east (wind) went. During this eclipse [. . .], Venus, Mercury and Saturn [stood there]. Towards the end of becoming bright, Mars rose (?) The other planets did not stand there. (Began) at 30 deg (= 1) beru after sunrise."

Refers to a partial solar eclipse of 14 March 190 BC. Babylon.
Babylonian tablet in the British Museum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 121 and 135.

"Emperor Hui, 7th year, 5th month, day ting-mao, the last day of the month. The Sun was eclipsed; it was almost complete. It was in the beginning of (the lunar lodge) Ch'i-hsing"

Refers to a partial solar eclipse of 17 July 188 BC.
Pan Ku Han-shu (AD 58-AD76).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 234.

"Before the new magistrates departed for their provinces, a three-day period of prayer was proclaimed in the name of the College of Decemvirs at all the street-corner shrines because in the daytime at the third hour darkness had covered everything."

Probably refers to the solar eclipse of 17 July 188 BC.
Livy, Roman.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"Empress of Kao-tzu, 7th year, first month, day chi-ch'ou, the last day of the month. The Sun was eclipsed; it was total; it was 9 deg in (the lunar lodge) Ying-shih, which represents the interior of the Palace chambers. At that time the (Dowager) Empress of Kao-[tzu] was upset by it and said, 'This is on my account'. The next year it was fulfilled."

Pan Ku Han-shu (AD 58-AD76).

"On the day chi-ch'ou, the Sun was eclipsed, and it became dark in the daytime. The Empress Dowager was upset by it and her heart was ill at ease. Turning to those around her she said, 'This is on my account.'"

Szu-ma Ch'ien Shih-chi

Both of these quotations refer to a total solar eclipse of 4 March 181 BC. The Empress died on 18 August 180 BC.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 234.

"SE 175, month XII. The 29th, solar eclipse. When it began on the south-west side, in 18 deg daytime in the morning it became entirely total. (It began) at 24 deg after sunrise."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 15 April 136 BC.
Babylonian tablet in the British Museum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 129.

"The Sun was eclipsed; drums were beaten and oxen were sacrificed at the temple."

Record of several eclipses.
Szu-ma Ch'ien, Shih-chi (Chinese 'Historical Record'), 104 to 87 BC.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 223.

"Hipparchus tries to demonstrate the Moon's distance by guessing at the Sun's. First he supposes that the Sun has the least perceptible parallax, in order to find its distance, and then he uses the solar eclipse which he adduces; at one time he assumed that the Sun has no perceptible parallax, at another that it has a parallax big enough [to be observed]. As a result, the ratio of the Moon's distance came out different for him for each of the hypotheses he put forward; for it is altogether uncertain in the case of the Sun, not only how great its parallax is, but even whether it has any parallax at all."

From: Ptolemy, Almagest, V, 11.

"So Hipparchus, being uncertain concerning the Sun, not only how great a parallax it has but whether it has any parallax at all, assumed in his first book of 'On Sizes and Distances' that the Earth has the ratio of a point and centre to the Sun [i.e. the Sun's sphere]. And at one time using the eclipse he adduced, he assumed that it had the least parallax, and at another time a greater parallax. Hence the ratios of the Moon's distances came out different. For in Book 1 of 'On Sizes and Distances' he takes the following observation: an eclipse of the Sun, which in the Hellespontine region was an exact eclipse of the whole Sun, such that no part of it was visible, but at Alexandria in Egypt approximately four-fifths of the diameter was eclipsed. By means of the above he shows in Book 1 that, in units of which the radius of the Earth is one, the least distance of the Moon is 71, and the greatest 83. Hence the mean is 77. . . Then again he himself in Book 2 of 'On Sizes and Distances' shows from many considerations that, in units of which the radius of the Earth is one, the least distance of the Moon is 62, the mean 67-1/3 and the Sun's distance 490. It is clear that the greatest distance of the Moon will be 72-2/3."

From: Pappus, Commentary on the Almagest

"Moreover, such an observation has been made in the case of an eclipse of the Sun. Once the Sun was wholly eclipsed in the Hellespont, it was observed in Alexandria to be eclipsed except for the firth part of its diameter, which is, according to the sight, except for two digits and a little more. . . Now since it is 5000 stades from Alexandria to Rhodes; besides, proceeding hence to the Hellespont, this will also decrease in proportion, since when the Hellespont is reached, it will entirely vanish."

From: Cleomedes, De Motu Circularis Corporum, II, 3.

These three quotations probably refer to a total solar eclipse of 20 November 129 BC.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 351.

"In the same way you must understand that various causes may account for eclipses of the sun and the moon‘s occultations. If the moon can cut off sunlight from the earth, uprearing its obstructive head between the two and planting an unseen sphere in the path of the glowing rays, why should we not picture the same effect as produced by another body that glides round for ever lustreless? Or why should not the sun periodically fail and dim its own fires and afterwards rekindle its light when it has passed through a stretch of atmosphere uncongenial to flame, which causes the quenching and quelling of its fire? And again, if the earth in turn can rob the moon of light by screening off the sun that shines below while the moon in its monthly round glides through the clear-cut cone of shadow, why should not some other body equally well pass under the moon or glide over the solar orb so as to interrupt the radiant stream of light? And, supposing that the moon shines by its own lustre, why should it not grow faint in a determinate quarter of the heavens while it is passing through a region uncongenial to its particular light?

. . . I have shown how both may suffer eclipse through the obscuration of their light and plunge the unexpecting earth in gloom, as though they blinked and then with reopened eye surveyed the world, aglow with limpid radiance."

Lucretius The Nature of the Universe 1st century BC.

"Whenever we want to watch an eclipse of the Sun we set out basins filled with oil or pitch, because the heavy liquid is not easily disturbed and so preserves the images it receives."

From: Seneca (Roman, 1st century AD). Naturales Quaestiones, I, 11.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 54.

"As for the other Matthias who had stirred up the sedition, he (Herod) had him burned alive along with some of his companions. And on that same night there was an eclipse of the Moon. But Herod's illness became more and more severe. . . ."

Refers to a partial CD 98lunar eclipse of 13 March 4 BC, or possibly a total lunar eclipse of 23 March 5 BC.
From: Flavius Josephus (Jewish, 1st century AD.)
Quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"And Phlegon also who compiled the Olympiads writes about the same things in his 13th book in the following words: 'In the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (AD 32-33), and eclipse of the Sun took place greater than any previously known, and night came on at the sixth hour of the day, so that stars actually appeared in the sky; and a great earthquake took place in Bithynia and overthrew the greater part of Niceaea."

Possibly refers to a total solar eclipse of 24 November AD 29, the reference to AD32-33 being incorrect.
From: Phlegon, Olympiades, fragment 17.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 359.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"I will show portents in the sky and on earth,
blood and fire and columns of smoke;
the sun shall be turned into darkness
and the moon into blood
before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes."

Joel, Chapter 2, verses 30, 31 (Old Testament).

"And I will show portents in the sky above, and signs on the earth below - blood and fire and drifting smoke. The Sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before that great, resplendent day, the day of the Lord, shall come."

Peter in Acts of the Apostles
This reference to a blood-red Moon, and the following references in the Gospels to a darkening sky, have been interpreted as placing the date of the crucifixion to 24 November AD 29, when there was an eclipse of the Sun, or Friday, 3 April AD 33, when there was a partial eclipse of the Moon over Jerusalem.

Click here for Fred Espenak's larger scale map of the eclipse of AD 29.

"From midday a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted until three in the afternoon; and about three Jesus cried aloud, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?', which means, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'"

The Gospel According to Matthew (New Testament)

"At midday a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted till three in the afternoon; and at three Jesus cried aloud, 'Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?', which means, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'"

The Gospel According to Mark (New Testament)

"By now it was about midday and a darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted until three in the afternoon; the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus gave a loud cry and said, 'Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit'; and with these words he died."

The Gospel According to Luke (New Testament)
(The Gospel According to John does not mention the midday darkness.)

"As there was going to be an eclipse on his birthday, through fear of a disturbance, as there had been other prodigies, he put forth a public notice, not only that the obscuration would take place, and about the time and magnitude of it, but also the causes that produce such an event."

Refers to solar eclipse of AD 45, on the birthday of the Roman Emperor, Claudius.
From: Dion Cassius.

"(Lucies) smiled thereat and said . . . 'Now grant me that nothing that happens to the Sun is so like its setting as a solar eclipse. You will if you call to mind this conjunction recently which, beginning just after noonday, made many stars shine out from many parts of the sky and tempered the air in the manner of twilight. If you do not recall it, Theon here will cite us Minnermus and Cydias, Archilochus and Stesichorus besides, and Pindar, who during eclipses bewail "the brightest star bereft" and at "midday night falling" and say that the beam of the Sun [is sped] the path of shade."

"Even if the Moon, however, does sometimes cover the Sun entirely, the eclipse does not have the duration or extension; but a kind of light is visible about the rim which keeps the shadow from being profound and absolute."

Both these quotations probably refer to a total solar eclipse of 20 March AD 71.
From: Plutarch, Greek philosopher and biographer, The Face of the Moon.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 360, and, in part, in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

". . . about this time while he was pursuing his studies in Greece, such an omen was observable in the heavens. A crown resembling Iris surrounded the disc of the Sun and darkened its rays."

Refers to solar eclipse of 3 September AD 118, or possibly AD 96.
From: Philostratus, Greek (died between AD 224 and 229).
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"On the day wu-wu, the 1st day of the 12th lunar month, the Sun was eclipsed; it was almost complete. On the Earth it became like evening. It was 11 degrees in the constellation of Hsu-nu [the Maid]. The woman ruler [ie the Empress Dowager] showed aversion to it. Two years and three months later, Teng, the Empress Dowager, died."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 18 January AD 120.
From: the Hou-Han shu ("History of the Later Han Dynasty"). (China).
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98, and in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 237..

"It was almost total and was in Chueh. Whenever an eclipse covers a small portion of the Sun the calamity it brings will be relatively small, but when it covers a large portion of the Sun the consequences will be much more serious. Chueh forms the 'Celestial Entrance', and hence misfortune would fall upon the Head of State - the next year the Emperor died."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 28 August AD 360.
From: Chin-shu ('History of the Chin Dynasty', Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 232 and 241.

"Yuan-chia region period, 6th year, 11th month, day chi-ch'ou, the first day of the month. The sun was eclipsed; it was not complete and like a hook. During the eclipse, stars were seen. At the hour of fu (= 15-17 h), then it disappeared (i.e. ended). In Ho-pei (province) the Earth was in darkness."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 12 December AD 429.
From: Sung-shu (Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 242.

"Even the Sun appeared hideous, so that scarcely a third part of it gave light, I believe on account of such deeds of wickedness and the shedding of innocent blood."

Gregorius Turonensis
Refers to solar eclipse of 24 February AD 453, when Attila the Hun was raiding Italy.

"A year before his death there were various omens. There was an eclipse of the Sun which was so pronounced as to turn day into night and the darkness was deep enough for the stars to become visible; it occurred in the eastern horn of the sign of Capricorn. And the almanacs predicted another eclipse that would occur after the first year. They say that such events that are observed to happen in the heavens are indicative of things that happen on the earth; so that these eclipses clearly foretold us of the privation and departure as it were of the light of philosophy."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Athens of 14 January AD 484.
From: Marinus, Greek philosopher, Life of Proclus.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 368.

"The sun darkened on February 16th from dawn until nine in the morning."

Refers to a solar eclipse in AD 538.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"The sun darkened on June 20th, and the stars showed fully nearly half an hour past nine in the morning."

Refers to a solar eclipse in AD 540.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"36th year of Empress Suiko, spring, 2nd month, 27th day. The Empress took to her sick bed. 3rd month, 2nd day. There was a total eclipse of the Sun. 6th day. The Empress' illness became very grave and (death) was unmistakably near . . . 7th day. The Empress died at the age of seventy-five."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of10 April AD 628, in the Yamato region of Japan.
From: Japanese history.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 267.

"Eclipses of the Sun or Moon may begin or end early or late; they can deviate from normal in either direction. Therefore it is necessary to observe 12-1/2 marks (i.e.3 hours) before and after the predicted time."

From: Sui-shi (Chinese calandrical treatise, compiled around AD 630).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 284.

"In this year the Sun was eclipsed on the 5th of the Nones of May; and Earcenbryht, the King of the Kentish people died and Ecgbryht his son succeeded to the Kingdom."


Refers to the total solar eclipse of 1 May AD 664.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"In this year Aethelbald captured Somerton; and the Sun was eclipsed, and all the Sun‘s disc was like a black shield; and Acca was driven from his bishopric."

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle.
Refers to the annular solar eclipse of 14 August AD 733.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams, and in The Sun in Eclipse by Maunder and Moore, who say it refers to an eclipse of AD716.)

"In the year 733 an eclipse of the Sun occurred on the 19th day before the Kalends of September (i.e. Aug 14), about the third hour of the day, with the result that almost the whole of the Sun's disc seemed to be covered by a black and horrid shield."

Refers to an annular solar eclipse in northern England of 14 August AD 733.
From: Bedae Continuato.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 422.

"One year after the Arabs had been driven back across the Pyrenees after the battle of Tours, the Sun was so much darkened on 19th [?] August as to excite universal terror."

Refers to the annular eclipse of 14 August AD 733.
From: The Chronik der Seuchen.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"The moon was as though drenched with blood."

Refers to a lunar eclipse in AD 734.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"Moreover, the Moon was covered with a blood-red colour on the 8th day before the Kalends of December [ie 24 November] when 15 days old, that is, the Full Moon; and then the darkness gradually decreased and it returned to its original brightness. And remarkably indeed, a bright star following the Moon itself passed through it, and after the return to brightness it preceded the Moon by the same distance as it had followed the Moon before it was obscured."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 23 November AD 755, when the eclipsed Moon occulted Jupiter.
Simeon of Durham.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"The moon was darkened during the second hour of the night of January 16th."

Refers to a lunar eclipse in AD 800.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"The moon was darkened on September 1st."

Refers to a lunar eclipse in AD 806.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"The sun darkened at the beginning of the fifth hour of the day on Tuesday, July 16th, the 29th day of the moon."

Refers to a solar eclipse in AD 809.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"The moon darkened on Christmas eve."

Refers to a lunar eclipse in AD 829.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"In the third year of the Indiction, the Sun was hidden from this world and stars appeared in the sky as if it were midnight, on the third day before the Nones of May (May 5) during the Litanies of Our Lord. There was great distress, and while the people beheld it, many thought that this age would last no longer. But while they were contemplating these simple things, the Sun shone again and trembling as it were began to escape from its former shade."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 5 May AD 840.
From: Andreas Bergomatis Chronicon.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 387.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"This solar eclipse was observed by Abu al-'Abbas al-Iranshahri at Nishapur early in the morning on Tuesday the 29th of the month of Ramadan in the year 259 of al-Hijrah . . . (date on the Persian calendar) . . . He mentioned that the Moon's body (i.e. disk) was in the middle of the Sun'd body. The light from the remaining uneclipsed portion of the Sun surrounded it (i.e. the Moon). It was clear from this that the Sun's diameter exceeded in view that of the Moon."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 28 July AD 873.
From: al-Biruni al-Qanun al-Mas'udi (1030).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 467.

"The Sun was eclipsed at 1 hour of the day."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 29 October AD 878.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

". . . the sun darkened for one hour of the day."

This solar eclipse is recorded under the entries for the AD 879, but is probably the one on 29 October AD 878.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"An eclipse of the sun; and stars were seen in the heavens."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 16 June AD 885.
From: The Chronicon Scotorum
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"The moon darkened."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of AD 904.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"(This) solar eclipse was calculated and observed by Abu al-Hassan Ali ibn Amajur, who used the al-Zij al-Arabi of Habash . . . We as a group observed and clearly distinguished it . . . We observed this eclipse at several sites on the Tarmah (an elevated platform on the outside of the building) . . . According to calculation from the conjunction tables in the habash Zij the middle was at 0;31 h (i.e. 31 min) and its clearance at 0;44 hours (i.e. 44 min), calculation being in advance of observation."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 11 November AD 923.
From: Ibn Yunus.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 459.

"When the Emperor was waging war in Syria, at the winter solstice there was an eclipse of the Sun such as has never happened apart from that which was brought on the Earth at the Passion of our Lord on account of the folly of the Jews. . . The eclipse was such a spectacle. It occurred on the 22nd day of December, at the 4th hour of the day, the air being calm. Darkness fell upon the Earth and all the brighter stars revealed themselves. Everyone could see the disc of the Sun without brightness, deprived of light, and a certain dull and feeble glow, like a narrow headband, shining round the extreme parts of the edge of the disc. However, the Sun gradually going past the Moon (for this appeared covering it directly) sent out its original rays, and light filled the Earth again."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Constantinople of 22 December AD 968.
From: Leo the Deacon, Historiae, Byzantine.

Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 390, and, in part, in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"The Sun was eclipsed . . . . Some people say that it was entirely total. During the hours mao and ch'en (some time between 5 and 9 h) it was all gone. It was the colour of ink and without light. All the birds flew about in confusion and the various stars were all visible. There was a general amnesty (on account of the eclipse)."
From: Nihon Kiryaku.

"At the hour ch'en (7-9 h), the Sun was eclipsed; it was completely total. All under heaven became entirely dark and the stars were all visible."
From: Fuso Ryakki.

"The Sun was eclipsed; it was all gone. It was like ink and without light. The stars were all visible (or: stars were visible in the daytime)."
From: Hyaku Rensho.

These three Japanese quotations refer to a total solar eclipse of 9 August AD 975.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 267 and 268.

"The faculty of sight cannot resist it (the Sun's rays), which can inflict a painful injury. If one continues to look at it, one's sight becomes dazzled and dimmed, so it is preferable to look at its image in water and avoid a direct look at it, because the intensity of its rays is thereby reduced . . . Indeed such observations of solar eclipses in my youth have weakened my eyesight."

From: al-Biruni, Kitab Tahdid (1025).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 463.

"They call it a great wonder
That the Sun would not
though the sky was cloudless
Shine warm upon the men."

Sighvald, Icelandic poet.
Said to refer to a solar eclipse of AD 1030, during a battle near Trondheim.

"On Wednesday, when two nights remained to the completion of the month Jumada, two hours after daybreak, the sun was eclipsed totally. There was darkness and the birds fell whilst flying. The astrologers claimed that one-sixth of the Sun should have remained [uneclipsed] but nothing of it did so. The Sun reappeared after four hours and a fraction. The eclipse was not in the whole of the Sun in places other than Baghdad and its provinces."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 20 June 1061.
From: Ibn al-Jawzi, Islamic.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"The moon darkened three nights before Candlemas.."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 1078.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"On the sixth day of the month of February between the sixth and ninth hours the Sun was obscured for the space of three hours; it was so great that any people who were working indoors could only continue if in the meantime they lit lamps. Indeed some people went from house to house to get lanterns or torches. Many were terrified."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 16 February 1086.
Goffredo Malaterra, Chronicle of the Norman rule in Sicily and southern Italy during the 11th century.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"On the fifteenth night of the month of May, the moon appeared, shining brightly; then little by little its light waned, so that as soon as it was night it was so fully quenched that neither light nor circle nor anything at all of it was seen, and so it stayed for full nigh a day. later, full and brightly shining, it appeared; it was on that same day fourteen nights old. All that night the sky was very clear, and the stars over all the heavens brightly shining."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 1110.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

". . . and on the night of December 11th, the moon was long into the night as though all bloody, and after, it was darkened. Also, on the night of December 16th, the heavens were seen to be as red as though they were burning."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 1117.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"The moon darkened on the eve of April 5th; that was the fourteenth day of the moon."

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 1121.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd.

"In the month of August on the 11th day, before the evening service, the Sun began to diminish and perished completely. Great fright and darkness everywhere. And the stars appeared and the Moon (sic). And the Sun began to augment and became full again and everyone in the town was very glad."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Novgorod, Russia, of 11 August 1124.
From: Novorodskaya I Letopic.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 391.

"The elements manifested their sorrow at this great man's [King Henry 1] departure from England. For the Sun on that day at the 6th hour shrouded his glorious face, as the poets say, in hideous darkness, agitating the hearts of men by an eclipse; and on the 6th day of the week early in the morning there was so great an earthquake that the ground appeared absolutely to sink down; an horrid noise being first heard beneath the surface."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 2 August 1133.
William of Malmesbury Historia Novella, Lib. i sec.8.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"Duke Frederick . . . set fire to the town of Augsburg and killed many of its citizens . . . An eclipse of the Sun occurred on the 4th day before the Nones of August at midday for about an hour, such as is not seen in a thousand years. Eventually the whole sky was dark like night, and stars were seen over almost the whole sky. At length the Sun, emerging from the darkness, appeared like a star, afterwards in the form of a new Moon; finally it assumed its original form."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Augsburg of 2 August 1133.
From: Honorii Augustodensis: Summa Totius et Imagine Mundi.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 392.

"In the year of the Incarnation of our Lord 1133 . . . on the 4th day before the Nones of August (Aug 2), the 4th day of the week (Wednesday) when the day was declining towards the ninth hour, the Sun in a single moment became as black as pitch, day was turned into night, very many stars were seen, objects on the ground appeared as they usually do at night."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Heilsbronn, Germany, of 2 August 1133.
From: Notae Halesbrunnenses.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 392.

"In this year King Henry went over sea at Lammas, and the second day as he lay and slept on the ship the day darkened over all lands; and the Sun became as it were a three-night-old Moon, and the stars about it at mid-day. Men were greatly wonder-stricken and were affrighted, and said that a great thing should come thereafter. So it did, for the same year the king died on the following day after St Andrew‘s Mass-day, Dec 2 in Normandy."

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
Refers to the total solar eclipse of 2 August 1133.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

"That great eclipse of the Sun occurred on the 4th day before the Nones of August, the 27th day of the Moon, the 13th year of the Indiction. After midday, between the 7th and 8th hours, an eclipse of the Sun was seen in Leo . . . Very many stars were seen near the Sun; the hearts of many were transfixed, despairing of the light. The Sun, as if it did not exist was entirely concealed; for about half an hour it was like night. The face of the world was sad, terrible, black, wonderful."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 2 August 1133.
From: Chronicon Magni Presbyterii.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 393.

"During this year, in Lent, on the 13th of the Calends of April, at the 9th hour of the 4th day of the week, there was an eclipse, throughout England, as I have heard. With us, indeed, and with all our neighbours, the obscuration of the Sun also was so remarkable, that persons sitting at the table, as it then happened almost everywhere, for it was lent, at first feared that Chaos had come again: afterwards, learning the cause, they went out and beheld the stars around the Sun. It was thought and said by many not untruly, that the King [Stephen] would not continue a year in government."

William of Malmesbury Historia Novella, Lib. ii sec.35.
Refers to the total solar eclipse of 20 March 1140.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

"In this year on the 4th day before the Nones of August in the heat of midday the Sun suddenly disappeared and a little afterwards it seemed terribly darkened over like Sackcloth of hair; and stars also appeared in the sky."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Salzburg, Austria, of 2 August 1133.
From: S. Rudperti Salisurgensis Annales Breves.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 393.

"Afterwards in lent the Sun and the day darkened about the noontide of the day, when men were eating, and they lighted candles to eat by; and that was the 13th of the Calends of April [20 March]. Men were greatly wonder-stricken."

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle
Refers to the total solar eclipse of 20 March 1140.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

"In this year King Henry went over sea at Lammas, and the second day as he lay and slept on the ship the day darkened over all lands; and the Sun became as it were a three-night-old Moon, and the stars about it at mid-day. Men were greatly wonder-stricken and were affrighted, and said that a great thing should come thereafter. So it did, for the same year the king died on the following day after St Andrew's Mass-day, Dec 2 in Normandy."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 2 August 1133.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.
In The Anglo Saxon Chronicles translated and collated by Anne Savage, CLB Publishing Ltd., this entry is translated as:-

"King Henry went over the sea at Lammas; on the second day that he lay asleep in the ship, the day darkened over all the land, the sun became like a three-day-old moon, and there were stars around it at mid-day. Men wondered greatly, and dreaded, and said that a great thing should come thereafter; so it did for that same year the king was dead, the second day after St Andrew's Day. Then the land was waste, for every man plundered it over who might."

"Shao-hsing reign period, 5th year, 1st month, the first day of the month. A man named Ch'en Te-I predicted that the Sun should be 8-1/2 tenths eclipsed with the beginning of loss in the initial half of the hour of the sxu. (These predictions) were verified by observation."

Refers to a partial solar eclipse of 16 January 1135.
From: Sung-shih (Chinese).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 253.

"Afterwards in lent the Sun and the day darkened about the noontide of the day, when men were eating, and they lighted candles to eat by; and that was the 13th of the Calends of April [20 March]. Men were greatly wonder-stricken."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 20 March 1140.
From: The Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"During this year, in Lent, on the 13th of the Calends of April, at the 9th hour of the 4th day of the week, there was an eclipse, throughout England, as I have heard. With us, indeed, and with all our neighbours, the obscuration of the Sun also was so remarkable, that persons sitting at the table, as it then happened almost everywhere, for it was lent, at first feared that Chaos had come again: afterwards, learning the cause, they went out and beheld the stars around the Sun. It was thought and said by many not untruly, that the King [Stephen] would not continue a year in government."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 20 March 1140.
From: William of Malmesbury, Historia Novella, Lib. ii sec.35.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"On Sunday, the 7th day before the Kalends of November (Oct 26), a solar eclipse occurred at the 3rd hour and persisted until after the 6th . This eclipse stood fixed and motionless for a whole hour, as noted on the 'clock' . . . During this hour a circle of different colours and spinning rapidly was said to be in the way."

Refers to an annular eclipse in Brauweiler, Germany, of 26 October 1147.
From: Annales Brunwilarensis.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 394.

"In this year the Sun was eclipsed totally and the Earth was in darkness so that it was like a dark night and the stars appeared. That was the forenoon of Friday the 29th of Ramadan at Jazirat Ibn 'Umar, when I was young and in the company of my arithmetic teacher. When I saw it I was very much afraid; I held on to him and my heart was strengthened. My teacher was learned about the stars and told me, 'Now, you will see that all of this will go away', and it went quickly."

Refers to a solar eclipse of 11 April 1176. Jazirat Ibn 'Umar is now Cizre in Turkey.
From: Ibn al-Athir.
Reprinted from Chasing the Shadow, copyright 1994 by Joel K Harris and Richard L Talcott, by permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co; Also quoted in Encyclopaedia Britannica CD 98.

"In this year 1487 (Seleucid), on New Sunday, the 11th of the month of Nisan [April], at daybreak, at the end of Office, that is, after the reading of the Gospel, the Sun was totally obscured; night fell and the stars appeared; the Moon itself was seen in the vicinity of the Sun. This was a sad and terrifying sight, which caused many people to lament with weeping; the sheep, oxen and horses crowded together in terror. The darkness lasted for two hours; afterwards the light returned. Fifteen days after, in this month of Nisan at the decline of Monday, at dusk, there was an eclipse of the Moon in the part of the sky where the eclipse of the Sun had taken place . . ."

Refers to a total solar eclipse at Antioch of 11 April 1176.
From: Chronicle of Michael the Syrian.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 394.

"The Sun was eclipsed and it became dark in the daytime. People were frightened and stars appeared."

Refers to the solar eclipse of 11 April 1176.
From: Imad al-Din, Islamic. Chronicle of the crossing of the Orontes River, near Hamah (in present-day Syria) by Saladin and his army.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

". . . the Minamato army fled, frightened by a solar eclipse."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 17 November 1183.
From: Gehpei seiseiki (Japanese history of the Minamato and Taira clans).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 266.

"On the first day of the month of May, on the day of the Saint Prophet Jeremiah, on Wednesday, during the evening service, there was a sign in the Sun. It became very dark, even the stars could be seen; it seemed to men as if everything were green, and the Sun became like a crescent of the Moon, from the horns of which a glow similar to that of red-hoot charcoals was emanating. It was terrible to see this sign of the Lord."
From: Lavrentievskaya Letopis.

"On the first day of the month of May, during the ringing of the bells for the evening service, there was a sign in the Sun. It became very dark for an hour or longer and the stars were visible and to men everything seemed as if it were green. The Sun became like a crescent of the new Moon and from its horns a glow like a roasting fire was coming forth and it was terrible to see the sign of the Lord. Then the Sun cleared and we were happy again."
From: Novgorodskaya II Letopis

Both of these quotations refer to a total solar eclipse in Novgorod, Russia, of 1 May 1185.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 395.

"In the month of June, the Vigil of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (Jun 23), the 9th day before the Kalends of July, on the 27th day of the Moon, at the 9th hour of the day, the Sun was eclipsed and it lasted for three hours; the Sun was so obscured that the darkness arose over the Earth and stars appeared in the sky. And when the eclipse withdrew, the Sun returned to its original beauty."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 23 June 1191.
From: Stubbs, Gesta Regis Henrici II et Ricardi I (1867).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 381.

"On the first day of the fifth month (May 23), at noon, the Sun was eclipsed and it was total. All the stars were therefore seen. A short while later the brightness returned. At that time we were on the southern bank of the river. The eclipse (began) at the south-west and (the Sun) reappeared from the north-east. At that place it is cool in the morning and warm in the evening; there are many yellow flowers among the grass. The river flows to the north-east. On both banks there are many tall willows. The Mongols use them to make their tents.

[Later] (Ch'ang-ch'un) asked (an astronomer) about the solar eclipse on the first day of the month (May 23). The man replied: 'Here the Sun was eclipsed up to 7 fen (6/10) at the hour of ch'en (7-9 h)'. The Master continued, 'When we were by the Lu-chu Ho (Kerulen River), during the hour wu (11-13 h) the Sun was seen totally eclipsed and also south-west of Chin-shan the people there said that the eclipse occurred at the hour szu (9-11 h) and reached 7 fen. At each of these three places it was seen differently. According to the commentary on the Ch'un-ch'iu by K'ung Ying-ta, when the body (of the Moon) covers the Sun, then there will be a solar eclipse. Now I presume that we must have been directly beneath it; hence we observed the eclipse to be total. On the other hand, those people on the sides (of the shadow) were further away and hence (their view) gradually became different. This is similar to screening a lamp with a fan. In the shadow of the fan there is no light or brightness. Further away from the sides (of the fan) then the light of the lamp gradually becomes greater."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 23 May 1221.
From: Ch'ang-ch'un Chen-jen Tao-ts'ang('The Journey of the Adept Ch'ang-ch'un to the West').
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 254.

"On the 14th May, which was the Tuesday in Rogation Week, the unusual eclipse of the Sun took place very early in the morning, immediately after sunrise; and it became so dark that the labourers, who had commenced their morning's work, were obliged to leave it, and returned again to their beds to sleep; but in about an hour's time, to the astonishment of many, the Sun regained its usual brightness."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 14 May 1230.
From: Rogerus de Wendover, Flores Historiarum, vol. ii. p.235.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams,
and in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 425.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"The Sun was obscured on Friday at the 6th hour of the day, and it lasted for a while between the 6th and 9th hours and it lost all its strength and there was as though night. There appeared many stars, and then the Sun grew bright again of its own accord, but for a long time it did not regain the strength that it usually has."

From: Anales Toledanos Segundos.

"While I was in the city of Arezzo, where I was born, and in which I am writing this book, in our monastery, a building which is situated towards the end of the fifth latitude zone, whose latitude from the equator is 42 and a quarter degrees and whose westerly longitude is 32 and a third, one Friday, at the 6th hour of the day, when the Sun was 20 deg in Gemini and the weather was calm and clear, the sky began to turn yellow and I saw the whole body of the Sun covered step by step and it became night. I saw Mercury close to the Sun, and all the animals and birds were terrified; and the wild beasts could easily be caught. There were some people who caught birds and animals, because they were bewildered. I saw the Sun entirely covered for the space of time in which a man could walk fully 250 paces. The air and the ground began to become cold; and it (the Sun) began to be covered and uncovered from the west."

From: Ristoro d'Arezzo, Della composizione del mondo

Both these quotations refer to a total solar eclipse in Toledo and Arezzo, Italy, respectively, of 3 June 1239.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 385 and 397.

"On Friday at the beginning of June after the 9th hour, the Sun was covered with darkness and it became completely black. It remained like this for the space of an hour, and the Moon was in front of it. Almost all of the stars were manifestly seen in the sky and this appeared plainly to everyone. There was also a certain fiery aperture in the Sun's disc on the lower part. The Moon itself was on the 29th day. Night arose over the whole Earth. In verse:

'In the year one thousand, two hundred and thirty-nine
When June was beginning; on the third day;
The Sun was obscured, with its disc covered with darkness,
In full daylight the Sun became without light.
For a whole hour the Sun was dead and remote from us,
This marvel happened on the sixth day of the week.'"

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Cesena, Italy, of 3 June 1239.
From: Annales Caesenates .
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 399.

"On the 3rd day before the Nones of June (Jun 3), on the same day that Christ suffered, namely the 6th day of the week (Friday), and at the same time that darkness occurred over the whole of the Earth at the Passion of our Lord, namely from the 6th to the 9th hours of the era 1237, there occurred a sign such has never happened since the Passion of our Lord until the present day. There was indeed night between the 6th and 9th hours and the Sun became as black as pitch and the Moon (sic) and many stars appeared in the sky. Then the receding of the darkness of night was followed by the receding and recovering of the Sun's original clarity. Many men and women assembled in the Church of the Holy Cross in Coimbra . . . everywhere the rays of the Sun penetrated into some hole."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Coimbra, Portugal, of 3 June 1239.
From: Chronicon Conimbricense, III.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 399.

"On the 3rd day of June, the whole of the Sun was obscured at the sixth hour and it remained obscured for several hours and from day it became night and the stars appeared; so that many people ignorant of the course of the Sun and the other planets marvelled greatly. . ."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Florence of 3 June 1239.
From: Storie Fiorentina, IV.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 399.

"On Friday at the 6th hour, the Sun began to be obscured as if by a veil and was covered in a clear sky. At the ninth hour it was totally obscured, whence it gave no light; and as if a dark night arose with the result that a starry sky was seen, as on a clear night. People lit lamps in houses and shops. After some space of time it gradually became uncovered and restored to Earth, with the result that before the evening hour is was restored to its brilliance."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Siena, Italy, of 3 June 1239.
From: Archivo de Duomo di Siena.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 400.

"At the same time, AD 1239 on the third day from the beginning of the month of June, a wonderful and terrible eclipse of the Sun occurred, for the entire Sun was obscured, and the whole of the clear sky was in darkness. Also stars appeared in the sky as if during the night, and a certain greater star shone beside the Sun on the western side. And such great fear overtook everyone, that just like madmen they ran about to and fro shrieking, thinking that the end of the world had come. However, it was a Friday, the 30th day of the (lunar) month. And although the same defection of the Sun appeared throughout the whole of Europe, it was not however spoken of in Asia and Africa."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Split, Croatia of 3 June 1239.
From: Thomae Historia Pontificum Salonitanorum et Spalatinorum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 401.

"The King (James the Conqueror) entered the city of Montpellier on Thursday the 2nd of June of the year 1239; and on the next day, Friday, between midday and the ninth hour, the King writes that the Sun was eclipsed in a way people did not remember ever having seen before, because it was entirely covered by the Moon and the day grew so dark that one could see stars in the sky."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Montpellier, France, of 3 June 1239.
From: Zurita, Anales de la Corona de Aragon.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 400.

"In this same year, namely 1241 from the Incarnation, on the 6th day from the beginning of October, on Sunday, the Sun was again eclipsed and all the air was darkened. There was gresat terror among everyone, just as in that eclipse which happened three years previously, as we have attested above."

Refers to a solar eclipse in Split of 6 October 1241.
From: Thomae Historia Pontificum Salonitanorum et Spalatinorum.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 401.

"At that time the Moon obscured the Sun when it was in the 4th part (degree) of Gemini, at the 3rd hour before midday on the 25th day of May in the year 6775 (AD 1267). It was a total eclipse of about 12 digits or points. Also, such darkness arose over the Earth at the time of mid-eclipse that many stars appeared. No doubt this portended the very great and destructive calamities which were soon to be vented on the Romans by the Turks."

Refers to a solar eclipse in Constantinople of 25 May 1267.
From: Nicephori Gregorae Byzantinae Historiae.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 404.

"Te-yu reign period, 1st year, month VI, day keng-tzu, the first day of the month. The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. The sky and Earth were in darkness. People could not be distinguished within a foot. The chickens and ducks returned to roost. (It lasted) from the hour szu (9-11 h) to the hour wu (11-13 h); then it regained its brightness."

"The Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen. The chickens and ducks all returned to roost. In the following year the Sung dynasty was extinguished."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 25 June 1275.
From: Sung-shih.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pages 257 and 258.

"Chiih-yuan reign-period, 29th year, first month, day chia-wu. The sun was eclipsed. A darkness invaded the Sun, which was not totally covered. It was like a golden ring. There were vapours like golden earrings on the left and right and a vapour like a halo completely surrounding it."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 21 January 1292. The halo is caused by ice crystals in the Earth's atmosphere.
From: Yuan-shih .
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 258.

"On the last day of January at the 8th hour of the day at Avignon there was an eclipse of the Sun, and it was eclipsed in an extraordinary manner, and was notably sparkling. There appeared as if at nightfall a single star, a second was the opinion of the crowd. Then a remarkable semicircle was seen and it lasted until past the night hour." .

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 31 January 1310.
From: Ptolomaei Lucensis Hist. eccles..
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 382.

"Never, perhaps, were preparations for battle made under conditions so truly awful. On that very day the Sun suffered a partial eclipse; birds in clouds, the precursors of a storm, flew screaming over the two armies, and the rain fell in torrents, accompanied by incessant thunder and lightning."

Lingard History of England
Refers to the Battle of Creçy, 1346. However, there was no eclipse at that date.

" In this year on 17 September that novelty appeared. The Sun became dark on a Wednesday at about the third hour and it lasted for the space of two hours. Above the Sun and Moon, which were joined together - that is, the Moon was covering the Sun - there appeared a very large star with fiery rays like a torch . . . Many people viewed the rays of the small Sun by reflection in a mirror or in clear water. And the rays of the Sun were so small and so dark, on account of the Moon covering the Sun, that there did not remain unobscured as much as 3 fingers of the Sun. . . Everyone appeared deathly pale."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Perugia, Italy, of 17 September 1354.
From: Memorie di Perugia dall'anno 1351 al 1438
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 421.

" Chih-cheng reign period, 21st year, 4th month, day hsin-szu, the first day of the month. As the Sun was about to sink (i.e. set) suddenly it lost its light. It took the shape of a plantain leaf. The sky was as dark as night and the stars were shining brightly. For a short time (literally: for the duration of a meal)., the sky became bright again. Then in a short time (the light) disappeared once more."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 5 May 1361.
From: Sung-chiang Fu-chih (History of the town of Sung-chiang, south-west of Shanghai).
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 259.

"On February 12 at about the 21st or 22nd hour, the Sun was completely obscured and in front of the Sun was placed a black circle like a little wheel. It became as dark as night and the sky revealed the stars. The birds went to roost as they usually do at night. Everyone was feeling ill at ease as a result of this event. It began half an hour before the Sun was covered over. It gradually lost its light even to the hour stated above. . ."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Perugia, Italy, of 12 February 1431.
From: Antonio dei Veghi, Diario dall'anno 1423 al 1491.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 408.

"In (the month of) Jumada al-Ukhra, the astrologers warned that the Sun would be eclipsed, and in Cairo there were callings to the people that they should pray and do good deeds. However, the eclipse did not occur and those who gave the warnings were denounced. Then news arrived from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) of the occurrence of an eclipse there covering all of the Sun's body except one-eight of it. That was after midday on the 28th of the month."

From: Al-Maqrizi, al-Saluk fi Ma'rifat Duwal al-Muluk.

" In (the month of) Jumada al-Ula it was known that the calendar experts agreed that the Sun was to be eclipsed on the 28th of the month after the Zawal (i.e. after the Sun had crossed the meridian). The Sultan and the people were prepared for it and were watching the Sun until it set but nothing of it had changed at all."

From: Al-'Asqalani, INBA' AL-Ghumr bi 'Bna' al-'Umr.

These two quotations refer to total solar eclipse, expected in Cairo, but visible in Spain, of 12 February 1431.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 446.

"On Wednesday the 28th of Shawwal, the Sun was eclipsed by about two-thirds in the sign of Cancer more than one hour after the afternoon prayer. The eclipse cleared at sunset. During the eclipse there was darkness and some stars appeared. . . . On Friday night the 14th of Dhu I-Qu'da, most of the Moon was eclipsed. It rose eclipsed from the eastern horizon. The eclipse cleared in the time of the nightfall prayer. This is a rarity - the occurrence of a lunar eclipse 15 days after a solar eclipse."

The solar eclipse occurred on 17 June 1433, and the lunar eclipse on 3 July 1433. Such pairs of eclipses are not frequent.
From: al-Maqrizi, Islamic.
Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica CD 98.

"On the 28th of (the month of) Shawwal, the Sun was eclipsed after the 'Asr (Afternoon) Prayer and continued until the time of sunset. It cleared up after the conclusion of the eclipse prayer, which I led in the Great Mosque. Then the Sun set and we prayed the Maghrib (Sunset) Prayer in the mosque. When the eclipse prayer was concluded, I sent a witness to ascend the minaret of the mosque to see if the Sun had cleared. He returned, saying that it had cleared completely."

Refers to an almost total solar eclipse at Aleppo of 17 June 1433.
From: Al-'Asqalani, Inba' al-Ghumr bi 'Bna al-'Umr.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 446.

"In the year of salvation 1485, in the month of January, according to the ancient custom, the consuls of Augsburg . . . were elected. On the 16th day of March, at the 3rd hour, during meal-time, the Sun was totally eclipsed. This produced such horrid darkness on our horizon for the space of half an hour that stars appeared in the sky. Crazed birds fell from the sky and bleating flocks and fearful herds of oxen unexpectedly began to return from their pastures to their stables."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Augsburg, Germany, of 16 March 1485.
From: Achilli Pirmini Gassari, Annales Augustburgenses.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 408.

"Trick of the Moon's eclipse

When, in February 1504, the Indians refused to suply any more food to the fifty-odd Spaniards marooned in the small bay of Santa Gloria in Jamaica, Columbus conceived of a ploy to trick the Indian caciques. He had aboard the Capitana a copy of Johannes MÜller's Calendarium published in Nuremberg about 1474. It contained predictions of lunar eclipses for many years ahead. It revealed that a full eclipse was due on 29 February 1504 - leap year.

On this day Columbus entertained all the local caciques abroad the Capitana. He addressed them all. He explained that the Spaniards were Christians, that they believed in one God who lived in the Heavens, rewarded the good and punished the bad. His God, he warned them, was about to punish them with pestilence and famine if they did not supply food to the Spaniards.

As a mark of His intent He would display a sign in the sky - a blacking-out of the moon. 'Some feared and other mocked', Thacher reports, then right on cue a dark shadow began to pass over the face of the moon. Abject fear gripped the Indians. They begged Columbus to intercede on their behalf. He retired to his cabin for one hour and fifty minutes, then returned to the caciques. God, he informed them, was prepared to withdraw the threat of punishment so long as they behaved themselves and resumed supplies of food and other necessities to the Christians, and to pardon them, in token of which he would withdraw the shadow of the moon. They all agreed.

As the eclipse cleared the Indians marvelled. 'From that time forward, they always took care to provide what [the Spaniards] had need of.'"

Refers to a lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504.
From: David A Thomas, Christopher Columbus: Master of the Atlantic, André Deutsch Limited, London (1991), page 194. Reprinted with permission of the author.
For a further quotation about this incident see A World Too Vast by Alexander McKee (Souvenir Press, London, 1990).

"At the hour of wu (i.e. between 11 and 13 h) the sun was eclipsed. The sky and Earth became dark in the daytime. All the birds flew about in alarm. The domestic animals went into the forest. At the hour of yu (17-19 h) the light came back."
From: Fu-ning Chou-chih (local history of Fu-ning county).

"At the hour of wu suddenly the Sun was eclipsed; it was total. Stars were seen and it was dark. Objects could not be discerned at arm's length. The domestic animals were alarmed and people were terrified. After one (double-) hour it became light."
From: Chiang-hsi (Jiangsi) province.

Both of these quotations refer to a total solar eclipse of 20 August 1514.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 261.

"There is a tradition that some persons in the north lost their way in the time of this eclipse, and perished in the snow."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 25 February 1598.
From: Maclaurin, Philosophical Transactions, vol xi, p193, 1737.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"And now the house of York, thrust from the crown
By shameful murder of a guiltless king
And lofty proud encroaching tyranny,
Burns with revenging fire; whose hopeful colours
Advance our half-faced sun, striving to shine,
Under the which is writ 'Invitis nubibus.'
The commons here in Kent are up in arms:
And, to conclude, reproach and beggary
Is crept into the palace of our king.
And all by thee. Away! convey him hence."

William Shakespeare King Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 1 (Late 1580s).

"Katherina: "The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now."
. . .
Katherina: "I know it is the sun that shines so bright."
. . .
Katherina: "Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me."
. . .
Petruchio: "Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun."

Katherina: "Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina."
. . .
Katherina: "Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes,
That have been so bedazzled with the sun
That everything I look on seemeth green:
Now I perceive thou art a reverend father;
Pardon, I pray thee, for my mad mistaking.""

William Shakespeare The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 5. (1594)
(Not about eclipses, but nonetheless of relevant interest.)

"Look, as the fair and fiery-pointed sun,
Rushing from forth a cloud, bereaves our sight;
Even so, the curtain drawn, his eyes begun
To wink, being blinded with a greater light:
Whether it is that she reflects so bright,
That dazzleth them, or else some shame supposed;
But blind they are, and keep themselves enclosed."

William Shakespeare The Rape of Lucrece, Stanza 54 (1594)
(Not about eclipses, but nonetheless of some interest.)

"No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense -
Thy adverse party is thy advocate -
And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me."

William Shakespeare Sonnet 35 XXXV. (Mid-1590s)

"Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent."

William Shakespeare Sonnet 107 CVII. (Mid-1590s)

"A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets:
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse:
And even the like precurse of fierce events,
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen."

William Shakespeare Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Act 1, Scene 1. (1602)

"Yes: 'tis Emilia. By and by. She's dead.
'Tis like she comes to speak of Cassio's death. -
The noise was here. Ha! no more moving?
Still as the grave. Shall she come in? were't good? -
I think she stirs again: - no. What's best to do?
If she come in, she'll sure speak to my wife:
My wife! my wife! what wife? I have no wife.
O insupportable! O heavy hour!
Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
Should yawn at alteration."

William Shakespeare Othello, The Moor of Venice Act 5, Scene 2. (1604)

"Gloucester: "These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us: though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects: love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide: in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked 'twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction; there's son against father: the king falls from bias of nature; there's father against child. We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders, follow us disquietly to our graves. Find out this villain, Edmund; it shall lose thee nothing; do it carefully. And the noble and true-hearted Kent banished! his offence, honesty! 'Tis strange."

Edmund: "This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, - often the surfeit of our own behaviour, - we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains by necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under ursa major; so that it follows, I am rough and lecherous. Tut, I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing."

[Enter Edgar]

"And pat he comes like the catastrophe of the old comedy: my cue is villanous melancholy, with a sigh like Tom o' Bedlam. O, these eclipses do portend these divisions! fa, sol, la, mi."

Edgar: "How now, brother Edmund? What serious contemplation are you in?"

Edmund: "I am thinking, brother, of a prediction I read this other day, what should follow these eclipses."

Edgar: "Do you busy yourself with that?"

Edmund: "I promise you, the effects he writes of succeed unhappily: as of unnaturalness between the child and the parents; death, dearth, dissolutions of ancient amities; divisions in state, menaces and maledictions against king and nobles; needless diffidences, banishment of friends, dissipation of cohorts, nuptial breaches, and I know not what."

Edgar: "How long have you been a sectary astronomical?""

William Shakespeare King Lear Act 1, Scene 2. (1605)

"Wendelin at Forcalquier in Provence saw the whole Sun hidden apart from a very narrow thread towards the north, which ascribed to the illuminated atmosphere."

Refers to a solar eclipse at Forcalquier, France, of 12 October 1605.
From: Riccioli.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 421.

"Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron."

William Shakespeare Macbeth Act 4, Scene 1. (1606)

"It was that fatall and perfidious Bark
Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark,
That sunk so low that sacred head of thine."

John Milton Lycidas, Line 100 (1637)

". . . [ the Sun was reduced to] a very slender crescent of light, the Moon all at once threw herself within the margin of the solar disc with such agility that she seemed to revolve like an upper millstone, affording a pleasant spectacle of rotatory motion."

Dr Wyberg, observing the total solar eclipse of 8 April 1652 at Carrickfergus, Scotland.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

". . . the country people tilling, loosed their ploughs. The birds dropped to the ground."

Unattributed account, referring to the total solar eclipse of 8 April 1652.
(Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.)

" . . . Thus far these beyond
Compare of mortal prowess, yet observ‘d
Thir dread Commander : he above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent
Stood like a Towr; his form had yet not lost
All her Original brightness, nor appear‘d
Less then Arch Angel ruind, and th' excess
Of Glory obscur'd : As when the Sun new ris'n
Looks through the Horizontal misty Air
Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon
In dim Eclips, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the Nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs. Dark'n'd so, yet shon
Above them all th' Arch Angel :"

John Milton Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 587-600 (1667)

"O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark, total Eclipse
Without all hope of day!
O first created Beam, and thou great Word,
Let there be light, and light was over all;
Why am I thus bereav‘d thy prime decree?
The Sun to me is dark
And silent as the Moon,
When she deserts the night
Hid in her vacant, interlunar cave."

John Milton Samson Agonistes (1671)
(The reference is to Samson‘s blindness.)

"He beareth Or, a Sun eclipsed, Sable. If this Colour were not accidental in respect of the eclipse of the Sun, the same should not have been named. The Suns eclipse is occasioned by the Interposition of the Moon, which though it be far less in quantity, yet coming between us and the Body of the Sun, it doth discount the Beams thereof, and debarreth us of the sight of them even as the interposition of our hand, or any other small body, before our eyes, doth debar us from the sight of some greater Mountain. For to think that the Sun doth lose his light by the Eclipse, as doth a Candle being extinct, proceedeth out of meer [sic] rustick ignorance: As the like error is in those who think the Sun loseth his light, or goeth to Bed every night, whereas it doth only remove it self [sic] from our Horizon, to enlighten other Countries situated in other parts of the world. As was well expressed by Secundus the Philosopher, who being demanded by Adrian the Emperour what the Sun was, taking his Table in hand, wrote in this manner; Sol est Coeli oculus, coloris, circuitus, splendor fine ocasu dici ornatus, horarum distributor: It is the eye of Heaven, the circuit of heat, a shining without decay, the days ornament, the hours distributor. The most miraculous Eclipse of the Sun that ever was, happened then when the Sun [sic] of Righteousness, the Son of God, was on the Cross, when all the Earth was so benighted at Noon-Day, that Dionisius Aeropagita a Heathen Athenian, cryed out, Either the World was at an end, or the Maker of it was suffering from some great Agony."

John Guillim A Display of Heraldry (1679)
(Describes a shield displaying the Sun.)

"A few seconds before the sun was all hid, there discovered itself round the moon a luminous ring about a digit, or perhaps a tenth part of the moon‘s diameter, in breadth. It was of a pale whiteness, or rather pearl-colour, seeming to me a little tinged with the colors of the iris, and to be concentric with the moon."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 3 May 1715.
From: Edmund Halley.
Quoted in Popular Astronomy by Newcomb, and in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.
Click here for Fred Espenak's map of this eclipse.

"A little before the annulus was complete, a remarkable point or speck of pale light appeared near the middle part of the Moon's circumference that was not yet come upon the disc of the Sun . . . During the appearance of the annulus the direct light of the Sun was still very considerable, but the places that were shaded from his light appeared gloomy. There was a dusk in the atmosphere, especially towards the north and east. In those chambers which had not their lights westwards the obscurity was considerable. Venus appeared plainly, and continued visible long after the annulus was dissolved, and I am told that other stars were seen by some."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 1 March 1737.
From: Maclaurin, Philosophical Transactions, vol xi, pp181, 184, 1737.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"In regard to the approaching solar eclipse of Sunday April 1, I think it advisable to remark that, it happening in the time of divine service, it is desired you would insert this caution in your public paper. The eclipse begins soon after 9, the middle a little before 11, the end a little after 12. There will be no total darkness in the very middle, observable in this metropolis, but as people‘s curiosity will not be over with the middle of the eclipse, if the church service be ordered to begin a little before 12, it will properly be morning prayer, and an uniformity preserved in our duty to the Supreme Being, the author of these amazing celestial movements." our duty to the Supreme Being, the author of these amazing celestial movements."

Refers to an annular eclipse of 1 April 1764.
From: The Reverend Q Stukely, Rector of St George's in Kent, in a letter to the Whitehall Evening Post. The diary of the Reverend W Stukely, vol.xx, p 44.
Quoted in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"It will be Eclipse first, the rest nowhere."

Dennis O‘Kelly (at Epsom, 3 May 1769)
(Quoted in The Penguin Dictionary of Quotations by Cohen and Cohen. In UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1, Sheridan Williams says: "One of the world‘s most successful racehorses was born around the time of this [annular eclipse of 1 April 1764] and was named Eclipse. The Eclipse Stakes, named after that horse, are still run today, and the horse of the year awards in the U.S. are called Eclipse Awards after him.")

"Why is it that when all clouds have been driven from the sky and when Phoebus (Apollo) pours his rays onto the Earth and shines triumphantly, when nothing in the air can diminish the force of his fire, why does thick darkness sometimes suddenly cover over the dazzling face of this God of the Day? Why does impatient Night, anticipating the hour of her domain, come in the middle of a fine day and spread her dark veil and allow the astonished eyes of mortals to see only the weak glow of the stars? And why, at the very moment at which she was celebrating her reign in the sky, does Pheobe either retreat into the heart of darkness or show us the sad spectacle of her reddened and bloodied face? These are the phenomena that my Muse undertakes to celebrate and whose causes are explained by my lines.

You also reign over ethereal Olympus, over the cherished Olympus of the nine Sisters, divine Pheobus, reveal to my eyes the secrets of Nature, penetrate my heart with your sacred rays. Whether I am telling mortals how you deprive the Earth of the fire of your rays, or am showing them how you refuse to share them with Phoebe your sister, it is your interest that inspires me, it is you that I am celebrating. may my verses be worthy of the God I am praising.

And you, who are, for me, the most interesting and most beloved of the nine Sisters, you who, despising earthly regions, raise your chariot to the skies and hide your face amid the stars, divine Urania, favourable to my wishes, support and never abandon a poet who is devoted to you.

But rather than to Phoebus and to the learned Sisters, it is to you that I address my wishes. Your genius presides over these learned assemblies, at which the fathers of the sciences and of the arts penetrate the most hidden secrets of nature It is under your auspices that, from the banks of the Thames, they spread light over the vast regions of the Universe. Support with them a mortal who is enriched by their works and by yours. Yes, it is to you above all, illustrious Sages, that my Muse owes the object of its songs. . . .

Anxious to know the different eclipses of the sun and of the moon, to learn of their secret causes, your first concern will be to acquire a perfect knowledge of the celestial region; you will study the position of the stars and their movements.

First, as you contemplate the sky and see the countless stars that a fine night reveals to you, or a languishing Pheobe contracting her luminous disk, or the Sun himself raising himself onto the banks of dawn, do not believe that, like those golden nails that shine attached to our panelling, these various stars are also fixed to the vault of the heavens at the same height. Carried through the void or through a subtle air that is dispersed in the vastness of space, they rise unevenly towards Olympus and leave between themselves and the Earth varying distances.

Those whose trembling light constantly flickers, those whose fine rays only strike our eyes as an extremely sharp line, those stars always present us with the same respective position; a similar appearance always reveals them to be equally far apart: they have therefore been called fixed stars. Placed at immense distances, on the edges of the vast Universe, their height does not allow a single one of them to be analysed by the onlooker. Their fire may well equal, or even go beyond that of Phoebus; but their rays, scattered in the air and worn out by such a long journey, can barely overcome the shadows of the night. If you were to be transported by a bold flight into the loftiest regions of the sky, you would see the sun itself grow gradually smaller and be finally plunged into the darkness of night."

From: Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich The Eclipses, 1779. (Poem in six songs, dedicated to His Majesty King Louis XVI of France.)
Reprinted, with permission, from The Sky: Order and Chaos by Jean-Pierre Verdet, copyright Gallimard 1987, English Translation copyright Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, and Harry N Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992.

"With hue like that which some great painter dips
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse."

Percy Bysshe Shelley The Revolt of Islam (1818)

"High on her speculative tower
Stood Science waiting for the hour
When Sol was destined to endure
That darkening of his radiant face
Which Superstition strove to chase,
Erewhile, with rites impure."

William Wordsworth The Eclipse of the Sun, 1820

"I was astounded by a tremendous burst of applause from the street below, and at the same moment was electrified at the sight of one of the most brilliant and splendid phenomena that can be imagined, for that instant the dark body of the Moon was suddenly surrounded with a corona, a kind of bright glory. I had anticipated a luminous circle around the Moon during the time of the total obscurity, but I did not expect from any of the accounts of previous eclipses that I had read to witness so magnificent an exhibition as that which took place. Splendid and astonishing, however, this remarkable phenomenon really was, and though it could not fail to call forth the admiration and applause of every beholder, yet I must confess there was at the same time something in its singular and wonderful appearance that was appalling. But the most remarkable circumstance attending the phenomenon was the appearance of three large, protuberances apparently emanating from the circumference of the Moon but evidently forming a portion of the corona."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 1842.
From: Francis Baily.

"The hour for the beginning of the eclipse approached. Nearly twenty thousand people, with smoked glasses in hand, examined the radiant globe projected on an azure sky. Scarcely had we, armed with our powerful telescopes, begun to perceive a small indentation on the western limb of the sun, when a great cry, a mingling of twenty thousand different cries, informed us that we had anticipated only by some seconds the observation made with the naked eye by twenty thousand unprepared astronomer. A lively curiosity, emulation and a desire not to be forestalled would seem to have given to their natural sight unusual penetration and power. Between this moment and those that preceded by very little the total disappearance of the sun we did not remark in the countenances of many of the spectators anything that deserves to be related. But when the sun, reduced to a narrow thread, commenced to throw on our horizon a much-enfeebled light, a sort of uneasiness took possession of everyone. Each felt the need of communicating his impressions to those who surrounded him: hence a murmuring sound like that of a distant sea after a storm. The noise became louder as the solar crescent was reduced. The crescent at last disappeared, darkness suddenly succeeded the light, and an absolute silence marked this phase of the eclipse so that we clearly heard the pendulum of our astronomical clock. The phenomenon in its magnificence triumphed over the petulance of youth, over the levity that certain men take as a sign of superiority, over the noisy indifference of which soldiers usually make profession. A profound calm reigned in the air; the birds sang no more. After a solemn waiting of about two minutes, transports of joy, frantic applause, saluted with the same accord, the same spontaneity, the reappearance of the first solar rays. A melancholy contemplation, produced by unaccountable feelings, was succeeded by a real and lively satisfaction of which no one thought of checking or moderating the enthusiasm. For the majority of the public the phenomenon was at an end. The other phases of the eclipse had hardly any attentive spectators, apart from devoted to the study of astronomy."

Refers to the total solar eclipse in the south of France, 8 July 1842
From: Camille Flamarion, Popular Astronomy, 1894. The words are those of François Arago.
Reprinted, with permission, from The Sky: Order and Chaos by Jean-Pierre Verdet, copyright Gallimard 1987, English Translation copyright Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, and Harry N Abrams, Inc., New York, 1992.

"The observations were tolerably successful. although the full beauty of the corona was not seen at Christiania, owing to the prevalence of thin clouds during the totality. The prominences were clearly visible, especially a large hooked protruberance. This remarkable stream of hydrogen gas, rendered incandescent while passing through the heated photosphere of the Sun, attracted the attention of nearly all the observers at the different stations. I succeeded in noting accurately the mean solar times of the beginning of the eclipse, and of the beginning and end of totality. As at Christiania the total darkness lasted only a few seconds more than 2-1/2 minutes, I could only examine in a hurried manner the various phenomena visible in the telescope. So absorbed was I during this short interval that when the limb of the Sun reappeared I could scarcely realize the fact that 2-1/2 minutes had elapsed since the commencement of totality. These were truly exciting moments, and although I had hastily witnessed most of the phenomena, I felt somewhat disappointed that more had not been accomplished. Few can imagine how much I longed for another minute, for what I had witnessed seemed very much like a dream.

As a spectacle, those who were not encumbered with telescopic work had the best of it. Several persons in different positions were requested to note the effects of the darkness on the landscape, plants, and animals. I kept my eye devotedly fixed to the eye-piece of the telescope during nearly the whole time of totality. I only removed it in order to obtain a few seconds‘ glance at the marvellous transformation around me, for the landscape had lost all its natural aspect, being tinted with various shades of colour over the intermixture of land and water. Some of my friends described the appearance, as the darkness gradually crept onwards, as truly awful."

Refers to the total solar eclipse of 28 July 1851, as seen from within the northern edge of the path of totality, in Scandinavia.
From: Edwin Dunkin, Autobiography, unpublished.
Compiled by Peter Hingley, Royal Astronomical Society.

"The approach of the total eclipse of July 28, 1851, produced in me a strong desire to witness so rare and striking a phenomenon. Not that I had much hope of being able to add anything of scientific importance to the accounts of the many experienced astronomer who were preparing to observe it; for I was not unaware of the difficulty which one not much accustomed to astronomical observation would have in preserving the requisite coolness and command of the attention amid circumstances so novel, where the points of interest are so numerous, and the time allowed for observation is so short. Certainly my experience has now shewn that I did not exaggerate these difficulties; but I have at least the satisfaction of having formed a far more vivid idea of the phenomenon than I could have obtained from any description; and I think that if I should ever have another opportunity of observing a total eclipse, I should be prepared to give a much better account of it that I can of the present.

. . . As the crescent became very narrow, it seemed to be in a state of violent agitation, and at last, just before totality, it broke up into several parts. These, however, were not like the "beads" described by Mr Baily, but were quite irregular, being evidently occasioned by the inequalities on the Moon's limb. As the totality approached, the gloom rapidly increased; still enough light remained up to the moment of total obscuration to render the change which then took place very marked and startling. For a few moments I felt somewhat confused . . .

The appearance of the corona, shining with a cold unearthly light, made an impression on my mind which can never be effaced, and an involuntary feeling of loneliness and disquietude came upon me. . . . A party of haymakers, who had been laughing and chatting merrily at their work during the early part of the eclipse, were now seated on the ground, in a group near the telescope, watching what was taking place with the greatest interest, and preserving a profound silence. . . .

A crow was the only animal near me; it seemed quite bewildered, croaking and flying backwards and forwards near the ground in an uncertain manner.

. . . As the shadow increased the change in the appearance of the country was most curious. The light became pale; our shadows were sharply cut, as by moonlight, but the light was more yellow. A deep gray twilight seemed to come on. Perhaps two minutes before the totality a dark, thick shade appeared over the west and north-west mountains, which drew nearer, till, when the eclipse became total, it entirely surrounded us, though it was paler or less dense towards the east. But on the instant that we were in complete shade, a bright orange streak of light appeared on the horizon to the north-west, spreading west and south."

Refers to a total solar eclipse on 28 July 1851.
From: John Couch Adams, On the a total Eclipse of the Sun, 28 July 1851, as seen at Frederiksvaern, Memoirs of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol xxi (1852).
The last two paragraphs are the observations by a Mr Liveing, quoted by Adams. In a footnote, Adams quotes from a letter written on August 9, 1851: "While the Sun is totally covered by the Moon, the latter appears surrounded by a luminous ring, with rays proceeding from it, something in the manner of the glory which is placed by painters round the heads of saints."
(John Couch Adams had earlier calculated the position of an unknown planet beyond Uranus, which was discovered in 1846 and named Neptune.)

"The screen of the glass was hurriedly removed, and in the brief instant of doing so I found, to my surprise, that all the phenomena were distinctly visible to the unassisted eye.

A corona light flashed out at the instant of totality. It extended farthest from the sun, in lines drawn from the centre through the solar clouds, but was nowhere traceable more than 15' or 16' beyond the lunar disk. There were no radial streamers, or bundles of rays, but only a uniformly diminishing, and slightly orange-tinted light, whose brightness and extent were apparently influenced by the mist-film, as the color of the clouds also may have been. Beyond the corona light, the color of the sky was of a grayish-black.

It was a far more imposing sight without than with the telescope, and long has been my experience in the investigation of celestial phenomena, and calm and unimpassioned, at such times, as mytemperament has become, the sublime majesty of the scene thrilled me with excitement and humble reverence.

Nor was it less effective upon others. Two citizens of Olmos stood within a few feet of me, watching in silence, and with anxious countenances, the rapid and fearful decrease of light. They were totally ignorant that any sudden effect would follow the total obscuration of the sun. At that instant, one exclaimed, in terror--"La Gloria!" and both, I believe, fell to their knees in awe. They appreciated the resemblance of the corona to the halos with which the old masters have encircled their ideals of the heads of our Savior and the Madonna, and devoutly regardedthis as a manifestation of the divine presence.

Though Mr. Raymond found a candle necessary to enable him to read satisfactorily the seconds-dial of the chronometer, and the vernier-scale of the barometer, the darkness during totality could not have been very great, for my sketches were completed without the aid of artificial light.

For some minutes previous, all work in the valley below us had ceased, and even the strains of martial music, which the Governor of Olmos employed to cheer laborers digging for water, two or three miles from town, were no longer audible. Superstition is still dominant here, and we hear the solemn toll of the church bell, whose sounds were intended to drive evil spirits from its vicinity.

Neither at Olmos nor Piura, did any enceinte woman leave her room during the eclipse, whilst some from curiosity, but more through fear, were in the streets, yet not daring to look upon the sun, lest malady befall them. The somber green light gave them the appearance of corpses, and they apprehended that a plague might be visited upon them. Afterwards, the muleteers told us that their animals stopped eating, and huddled together in evident alarm."

Lieut. J M Gillis An Account of the Total Eclipse of the Sun on September 7, 1858, as Observed Near Olmos, Peru in Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, vol. 11, April 1859, Smithsonian Institution.

"At the commencement of the obscuration, the sky was overcast, with heavy masses of cloud in the east, and there was much reason to fear that the celestial phenomenon would not be at all apparent hereabouts. But a brisk gale of wind having scattered the clouds, shortly before six o‘clock the sun became visible to the eager gaze of thousands, and again astronomical prediction was verified. The black shadow had eaten its way a considerable distance into the surface of the bright orb, and slowly but steadily the darkness appeared to extend itself over that dazzling surface. What a scrutiny the great change was attracting from all quarters of the earth! What an array of telescopes were eagerly searching the blue vault above during those precious moments!"

Refers to a solar eclipse of 18 July 1860, at Upper Fort Garry, Manitoba (outside the path of totality).
From: William Coldwell and William Buckingham, Nor'Wester.
Reprinted, with permission, from Chasing the Shadow, copyright 1994 by Joel K Harris and Richard L Talcott, by permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co.

"I had never before witnessed so great an obscuration of the sun as that presented by this eclipse many minutes even before the totality occurred, and I was particularly struck by the change of colour in the sky, which had been gradually losing its azure blue and assuming an indigo tint, while at the same time I remarked that the surrounding landscape was becoming tinged with a bronze hue, which to my mind suggested the idea that the light of the sun near the periphery is not only less intense than, but possibly different in quality from, that of the centre. . . . Another phenomenon could not fail to attract attention. When the sun‘s visible disk was reduced to a very narrow crescent, the shadows of all near objects became extremely black and sharply defined, whilst the lights, by contrast, assumed a peculiarly vivid intensity the aspect of nature strongly recalling to mind the effects produced by the illumination of the electric light. Several minutes before totality, the whole contour of the brown-looking lunar disk could be distinctly seen in the heavens.

Only a few brief seconds, unfortunately, could be spared from the telescope after totality had actually commenced; but when I had once turned my eyes on the moon encircled by the glorious corona, then on the novel and grand spectacle presented by the surrounding landscape, and had taken a hurried look at the wonderful appearance of the heavens, so unlike anything I had ever before witnessed, I was so completely enthralled, that I had to exercise the utmost self-control to tear myself away from a scene at once so impressive and magnificent, and it was with a feeling of regret that I turned aside to resume my self-imposed duties. I well remember that I wished I had not encumbered myself with apparatus, and I mentally registered a vow, that, if a future opportunity ever presented itself for my observing a total eclipse, I would give up all idea of making astronomical observations, and devote myself to that full enjoyment of the spectacle whch can only be obtained by a mere gazer.

Although, possibly, not more than twenty seconds were devoted to observations with the unassisted eye, the phenomena remain strongly impressed on my memory, and at the time of writing this account, sixteen months after the event, I have it now pictured before me mentally, as vividly as if it had just occurred. The darkness was not nearly so great as I had been led to expect from the accounts which I had read of former total eclipses; and although I had a lantern at hand, I did not require it, either to make my drawings or for reading the divisions of the micrometer quadrant on the eyepiece. The illumination was markedly distinct from that which occurs in nature on any other occasion, and certainly was greater than on the brightest moonlight night; and yet, at the time, the light appeared to me less than what I remembered of bright moonlight. It was only by subsequent trials, in endeavouring to make out details of the drawings which I had made of the phenomena, and to distinguish between colours under various circumstances of moonlight and twilight, that I was able to form a proper appreciation of the amount of light; and the best account I can give of it is, that it most resembles that degree of illumination which exists in a clear sky soon after sunset, when after having made out a first-magnitude star, other stars of less brilliancy can be discerned one after another. The light was good enough and sufficiently polychromatic to enable me to distinguish the colours of near objects; but those in the distance appeared to be illumined by the most unearthly hues.

Immediately surrounding the corona, the sky had an indigo tint, which extended to within about thirty or twenty-five degrees of the horizon, while lower down it appeared to me to be modified by a tinge of sepia. It became red as it approached the horizon, close to which, and just above the mountains, it was of a brilliant orange. The mountains appeared, by contrast, of an intensely dark yet brilliant blue. I saw two stars to the east of the sun, which by the aid of Mr Hind‘s diagram I have since identified as Jupiter and Venus; but I had not time to search for more, or, most probably, I should have seen others. . . .

The effect of totality upon the bystanders was most remarkable. until the beginning of totality, the murmur of the conversation of many tongues had filled the air; but then in a moment every voice was hushed, and the stillness was so sudden as to be perfectly startling; then the ear caught the sound of the village bells, which had been tolling unheeded during the eclipse, and this circumstance added much to the solemn grandeur of the occasion."

Refers to a total solar eclipse of 18 July 1860.
From: Warren De La Rue, On the Total Solar Eclipse of July 18th, 1860, observed at Rivabellosa, near Miranda de Ebro, in Spain, Philosophical Transactions, 52, 1862, p 333, Royal Society.

"But at the moment of totality, all became silent and dumb. Neither a cry nor a rustling, nor even a whisper (was heard), but everywhere there was anxiety and consternation. To everyone the two minutes of the eclipse were like two hours. I do not exaggerate or imagine any of these details. Several people whom I questioned after the eclipse regarding the duration of totality replied that it had lasted for two hours."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Sudan of 18 July 1860.
From: M Bey, Comptes Rendus.
Quoted in Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation, by F Richard Stephenson, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 385.

"From the first second of contact I watched with all the attention I could command for any change in the effect on the landscape and sky.

The sky might then be described as dull, not particularly dark, with small light clouds passing rapidly across, the general tone being inclined to violet-grey. No change took place till within a few seconds of totality, when the light was very sensibly lessened.

At the first moment of totality, sudden darkness came on; dark purple clouds appeared on the horizon, with streaks of bright orange between them. The distant town of Jerez, from white, became a dark rich blue.

The corona was radiating, and not perfectly circular, and varied as totality progressed; it was never symmetrical, and much too vague to enable me to describe by a line, excepting where a curved opening on the left-hand lower limb of the moon occurred, as shown in the drawing. The colour of the corona was warm white, and I could perceive nothing approaching a defined edge to the bright light immediately around the moon; it simply became less bright as the distance increased from the moon, though the contrast of the dark moon with the brightest part of the corona might induce a less practised observer to call it a ring of light. The drawing I send with this was painted immediately after, and is truest in colour and general effect as anything I ever did."

Refers to a total solar eclipse in Spain of 2 December 1870.
From: Paul Jacob Naftel (official artist for the eclipse expedition, led by the Reverend J S Perry).
Quoted in Paul Jacob Naftel by Furniss and Booth.

"The Star of Night [the Moon], by its comparative proximity and the rapidly recurring spectacle of its various phases, was with the Sun one of the first to attract the attention of the dwellers on Earth. But the Sun is tiring to the eyes, and the brightness of its light forced the observers to turn aside their prying glances.

Fair Pheobe [the Moon], more humane in this respect, allows herself to be observed in her modest gracefulness: she is gentle to the eye and unambitious, and yet she sometimes permits herself to eclipse her brother, the radiant Apollo [the Sun], without ever being eclipsed by him."

Jules Verne (1828-1905) From Earth to Moon

""I think I have it," said Good, exultingly; "ask them to give us a moment to think." I did so, and the chiefs withdrew. As soon as they were gone, Good went to the little box in which his medicines were, unlocked it, and took out a note book, in the front of which was an almanac. "Now, look here, you fellows, isn't to-morrow the fourth of June?" We had kept a careful note of the days, so were able to answer that it was. "Very good; then here we have it '4 June, total eclipse of the sun commences at 11.15 Greenwich time, visible in these islands, Africa, etc.' There's a sign for you. Tell them that you will darken the sun to-morrow."

The idea was a splendid one; indeed, the only fear about it was a fear lest Good's almanac might be incorrect. If we made a false prophecy on such a subject, our prestige would be gone forever, and so would Ignosi's chance of the throne of the Kukuanas.

"Suppose the almanac is wrong?" suggested Sir Henry to Good, who was busily employed in working out something on the fly-leaf of the book.

"I don't see any reason to suppose anything of the sort," was his answer. "Eclipses always come up to time; at least, that is my experience of them, and it especially states that it will be visible in Africa. I have worked out the reckonings as well as I can without knowing our exact position; and I make out that the eclipse should begin here about one o'clock to-morrow, and last till half-past two. For half an hour or more there should be total darkness."

"Well," said Sir Henry, "I suppose we had better risk it."

I acquiesced, though doubtfully, for eclipses are queer cattle to deal with, and sent Umbopa to summon the chiefs back. Presently they came, and I addressed them thus:

"Great men of the Kukuanas, and thou, Infadoos, listen. We are not fond of showing our powers, since to do so is to interfere with the course of nature, and plunge the world into fear and confusion; but as this matter is a great one, and as we are angered against the king because of the slaughter we have seen, and because of the act of the Isanusi Gagool, who would have put our friend Ignosi to death, we have determined to do so, and to give such a sign as all men may see. Come thither," and I led them to the door of the hut and pointed to the fiery ball of the rising sun; "what see ye there?"

"We see the rising sun," answered the spokesman of the party.

"It is so. Now tell me, can any mortal man put out that sun, so that night comes down on the land at midday?"

The chief laughed a little. "No, my lord, that no man can do. The sun is stronger than man who looks on him."

"Ye say so. Yet I tell you that this day, one hour after midday, will we put out that sun for a space of an hour, and darkness shall cover the earth, and it shall be for a sign that we are indeed men of honor, and that Ignosi is indeed king of the Kukuanas. If we do this thing will it satisfy ye?"

"Yea, my lords," answered the old chief with a smile, which was reflected on the faces of his companions; "if ye do this thing we will be satisfied indeed."

"It shall be done: we three, Incubu the Elephant, Bougwan the clear-eyed, and Macumazahn, who watches in the night, have said it, and it shall be done. Dost thou hear, Infadoos?"

"I hear, my lord, but it is a wonderful thing that ye promise, to put out the sun, the father of all things, who shines forever."

"Yet shall we do it, Infadoos."

"It is well, my lords. To-day, a little after midday, will Twala send for my lords to witness the girls dance, and one hour after the dance begins shall the girl whom Twala thinks the fairest be killed by Scragga, the king's son, as a sacrifice to the silent stone ones, who sit and keep watch by the mountains yonder," and he pointed to the three strange looking peaks where Solomon's Road was supposed to end. "Then let my lords darken the sun, and save the maiden's life and the people will indeed believe."

"Ay," said the old chief, still smiling a little, "the people will believe, indeed."

"Two miles from Loo," went on Infadoos, "there is a hill curved like the new moon, a stronghold, where my regiment, and three other regiments which these men command, are stationed. This morning we will make a plan whereby other regiments, two or three, may be moved there also. Then, if my lords can indeed. darken the sun, in the darkness I will take my lords by the hand and lead them out of Loo to this place, where they shall be safe, and thence can we make war upon Twala, the king."

"It is good," said I. "Now leave us to sleep awhile and make ready our magic."

. . .

"I hope it will come off," said Sir Henry, doubtfully. "False prophets often find themselves in painful positions."

"If it does not, it will soon be up with us," I answered, mournfully; "for so sure as we are living men, some of those chiefs will tell the whole story to the king, and then there will be another sort of eclipse, and one that we shall not like."

. . .

"Now's your time," whispered Sir Henry to me; "what are you waiting for?"

"I am waiting for the eclipse," I answered; "I have had my eye on the sun for the last half-hour, and I never saw it look healthier."

"Well, you must risk it now or the girl will be killed. Twala is losing patience."

Recognizing the force of the argument, having cast one more despairing look at the bright face of the sun, for never did the most ardent astronomer with a theory to prove await a celestial event with such anxiety, I stepped, with all the dignity I could command, between the prostrate girl and the advancing spear of Scragga.

. . .

"Stop!" I shouted, boldly, though at the moment my heart was in my boots. "Stop! we, the white men from the stars, say that it shall not be. Come but one pace nearer and we will put out the sun and plunge the land in darkness. Ye shall taste of our magic."

My threat produced an effect; the men halted, and Scragga stood still before us, his spear lifted.

"Hear him! hear him!" piped Gagool; "hear the liar who says he will put out the sun like a lamp. Let him do it and the girl shall be spared. Yes, let him do it, or die with the girl, he and those with him."

I glanced up at the sun, and, to my intense joy and relief, saw that we had made no mistake. On the edge of its brilliant surface was a faint rim of shadow.

I lifted my hand solemnly towards the sky, an example which Sir Henry and Good followed, and quoted a line or two of the "Ingoldsby Legends" at it in the most impressive tones I could command: Sir Henry followed suit with a verse out of the Old Testament, while Good addressed the king of day in a volume of the most classical bad language that he could think of.

Slowly the dark rim crept on over the blazing surface, and as it did so I heard a deep gasp of fear rise from the multitude around.

"Look, O king! Look, Gagool! Look, chiefs and people and women, and see if the white men from the stars keep their word, or if they be but empty liars !

"The sun grows dark before your eyes; soon there will be night - ay, night in the noon-time. Ye have asked for a sign; it is given to ye. Grow dark, O sun! withdraw thy light, thou bright one; bring the proud heart to the dust, and eat up the world with shadows."

A groan of terror rose from the on lookers. Some stood petrified with fear, others threw themselves upon their knees and cried out. As for the king, he sat still and turned pale beneath his dusky skin. Only Gagool kept her courage.

"It will pass," she cried; "I have seen the like before; no man can put out the sun; lose not heart; sit still - the shadow will pass."

. . .

Meanwhile the dark ring crept on. Strange and unholy shadows encroached upon the sunlight, an ominous quiet filled the place, the birds chirped out frightened notes and then were still; only the cocks began to crow.

On, yet on, crept the ring of darkness; it was now more than half over the reddening orb. The air grew thick and dusky. On, yet on, till we could scarcely see the fierce faces of the group before us. No sound now rose from the spectators, and Good stopped swearing.

"The sun is dying - the wizards have killed the sun," yelled out the boy Scragga at last. "We shall all die in the dark,"

. . .

For an hour or more we journeyed on, till at length the eclipse began to pass, and that edge of the sun which had disappeared the first became again visible. In another five minutes there was sufficient light to see our whereabouts . . ."

From: H Rider Haggard, King Soloman's Mines (1886).

See Exploratorium: Eclipse Expeditions, 1887. Preliminary Report of Prof. David P Todd, Astronomer in Charge of the [American] Expedition to observe a total solar eclipse in Japan in 1887.

"I knew that the only total eclipse of the sun in the first half of the sixth century occurred on the twenty-first of June, A.D. 528 o.s., and began at three minutes after twelve noon. I knew also that no total eclipse of the sun was due in what to me was the present year - i.e., 1879.

. . . I said to myself that my eclipse would be sure to save me, and make me the greatest man in the kingdom besides;

. . . I waited two or three moments: then looked up; he was standing there petrified. With a common impulse the multitude rose slowly up and stared into the sky. I followed their eyes; as sure as guns, there was my eclipse beginning! The life went boiling through my veins; I was a new man! The rim of black spread slowly into the sun‘s disk, my heart beat higher and higher, and still the assemblage and the priest stared into the sky, motionless. I knew that this gaze would be turned upon me, next. When it was, I was ready. I was in one of the most grand attitudes I ever struck, with my arm stretched up pointing to the sun. It was a noble effect.

. . . "Name any terms, reverend sir, even to the halving of my kingdom; but banish this calamity, spare the sun!"

My fortune was made. I would have taken him up in a minute, but I couldn't stop an eclipse; the thing was out of the question. So I asked time to consider. The king said -

"How long - ah, how long, good sir? Be merciful; look, it groweth darker, moment by moment. Prithee how long?"

"Not long. Half an hour - maybe an hour."

There were a thousand pathetic protests, but I couldn‘t shorten up any, for I couldn‘t remember how long a total eclipse lasts.

. . . It grew darker and darker and blacker and blacker, while I struggled with those awkward sixth-century clothes. It got to be pitch dark, at last, and the multitude groaned with horror to feel the cold uncanny night breezes fan through the place and see the stars come out and twinkle in the sky. At last the eclipse was total, and I was very glad of it, but everybody else was in misery; which was quite natural. I said:

"The king, by his silence still stands to the terms." Then I lifted up my hands - stood just so a moment - then I said, with the most awful solemnity: "Let the enchantment dissolve and pass harmless away!"

There was no response, for a moment, in that deep darkness and that graveyard hush. But when the silver rim of the sun pushed itself out a moment or two later, the assemblage broke loose with a vast shout and came pouring down like a deluge to smother me with blessings and gratitude;"

From: Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).
There was no total eclipse of the Sun in England in AD 528.

"If, during the progress of a total [solar] eclipse, the gradually diminishing crescent of the sun is watched, nothing remarkable is seen until very near the moment of its total disappearance. But, as the last ray of sunlight vanishes, a scene of unexampled beauty, grandeur, and impressiveness breaks upon the view. The globe of the moon, black as ink, is seen as if it were hanging in mid-air, surrounded by a crown of soft, silvery light, like that which the old painters used to depict around the heads of saints. Besides this ”corona•, tongues of rose-coloured flame of the most fantastic forms shoot out from various points around the edge of the lunar disk. Of these two appearances, the corona was noticed at least as far back as the time of Kepler; indeed, it was not possible for a total eclipse to happen without the spectators seeing it. But it is only within a century that the attention of astronomers has been directed to the rose-coloured flames, although an observation of them was recorded in the Philosophical Transactions nearly two centuries ago. They are known by the several names of "flames," "prominences," and "protruberances.""

Simon Newcomb Popular Astronomy 1890

See Exploratorium: Eclipse Expeditions, 1890. Albert Bergman, On Board the Pensacola - The Eclipse Expedition to the West Coast of Africa in A Man Before the Mast, 1890.

See Exploratorium: Eclipse Expeditions, 1896. Corona and Coronet: Being a Narrative of the Amherst Eclipse Expedition to Japan, in Mr James's Schooner-Yacht Coronet, to Observe the Sun's Total Obscuration, 9th August, 1896. A particularly evocative account, by Mabel Loomis Todd. Published in 1898.

". . . the semi-darkness, for there was no real blackness, came on suddenly, and during totality, computed to last 1m 28s., everything terrestrial took on a cold iron hue, altogether different from the gloom of evening. The distant town and more distant mountains were almost blotted out from view, whilst in the heavens above round the moon‘s black disk, as if by the touch of a magician‘s wand, there flashed out the corona in grandeur of form and of pearly whiteness. Mercury, too, in close proximity, shone with the brilliance of a miniature sun, and enveloping the whole was a halo of soft white light; a spectacle whose unique beauty words fail utterly to describe."

Refers to a total solar eclipse at Navalmoral, Spain, of 28 May 1900.
From: T Weir, a member of the British Astronomical Association eclipse expedition.

Reprinted, with permission, from Chasing the Shadow, copyright 1994 by Joel K Harris and Richard L Talcott, by permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co.

Two further quotable reports of this eclipse appear at Exploratorium: Eclipse Expeditions, 1900. Both are from the Report of the expeditions organized by the British Astronomical Association to observe the total solar eclipse of 1900, May 28. See the reports by E W Johnson "Elche" (Spain) in Chapter VII, and by E Walter Maunder, "Algiers" (Spain) in Chapter VIII.

See Exploratorium: Eclipse Expeditions, 1901. Report by Dr A A Nijland, Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 18, 1901. From reports on the Dutch Expedition to Karang Sago, Sumatra, published by the Eclipse Committee of the Royal Academy, Amsterdam, March 1903.

"At a Lunar Eclipse
Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon's meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

How shall I like such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?

And can immense mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven's high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

Is such a stellar gauge of earthly show,
nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?"

Thomas Hardy At a Lunar Eclipse (1903)

"I was so enthralled with this celestial shadow tearing across the world that I almost forgot everything else. Hurriedly, I looked above my head. The sky was dark blue, flecked with mother of pearl clouds, wonderfully luminous. I turned east, and there in the clear sky, between patches of bright cloud was a black disc entirely surrounded by living flames. I did not notice Baily‘s Beads, neither did I see the corona. I had not eyes for anything save those leaping, glowing flames. It seemed hardly more than a second or two that they were visible, for the Moon slipped by, and a tiny slit of Sun appeared; instantly it was broad daylight once more. The eclipse was over. Down the hillside we scrambled, our thoughts and minds full of the great sight we had seen. it was not till we saw the morning papers that we learned how disappointed thousands of people had been."

Refers to a total solar eclipse near Clitheroe, England of 29 June 1927.
Dorothy Sabin.
Quoted in Astronomy Now, Vol 2, No 2, and in UK Solar Eclipses from Year 1 by Williams.

"My experience of the 1927 eclipse was unsatisfactory, and it was my own fault. I was just 14 years old.

I was able to join a party of school children selected for their interest in astronomy and in eclipses, by answering questons set by the newspaper The News Chronicle. We went from London by train on the day before, were taken in as guests by the parents of boys of a school in southport, and entertained by the City Council for high tea on the day before. Then all went to the seashore on the day of the eclipse. My recollection is that the Sun rose partially eclipsed and totality was early in the morning, but I could be wrong. On the shore (extensive sands, I think), there was a party of professional astronomers with a large camera, near to our party. Visibility was fair, but not perfect.

I was quite a keen photographer and thought I could get a photo by making a box camera with a long-focus lens which I had. I took a lot of trouble to make the box and fit the lens, which of course had a cap. On the night before the eclipse I found a suitably dark place and fixed at the back of the camera a piece of Kodak Cut Film. I supposed that with an exposure of about 15 seconds, during totality, I might catch the chromosphere (and corona?) without too much movement of the Sun. (I was wrong - the movement would have spoiled the picture.) When the film was developed, there was no image.

So I had been distracted from seeing the eclipse by this silly idea of trying to get a photo, and I have no memory of the eclipsed Sun, nor of the dark sky. I don't know what the birds did.

My advice to photographers would be - don't bother. Just enjoy the eclipse with full attention, hoping that later, photographs might be bought."

Alfred Nicholls, Oxford, 6 January 1998. Mr Nicholls is a retired physics teacher.
The eclipse of 29 June 1927 was the last total solar eclipse to be seen from the mainland of Britain. The eclipse started at 4.30 am, and totality lasted only 24 seconds.

The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun by Hergé, (1949), contains yet another fictitious account of prisoners being saved by a solar eclipse.

The Sun-Eating Dragon, And Other Ways to Think About an Eclipse by Noel Wanner, contains an evocative account of a recent total solar eclipse, seen from the hills of Washington state, USA, by Annie Dilard: Total Eclipse in Teaching a Stone to Talk.

An interpretaion of dreams about eclipses appears in Understanding Dreams, Collins Gem, Published by Harper Collins, Glasgow, 1993.

Finally, for the most unpoetic description of a total solar eclipse, see Liz Rigbey's novel, Total Eclipse, published by Orion Books Ltd, London, 1995.

CONTRIBUTORS

David Sang, Association for Science Education
Gareth Coleman, Guernsey
Peter Hingley, Royal Astronomical Society



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