If you've ever seen photographs of interior designer Thomas O'Brien's New York City apartment, you've probably noticed his large-scale Rand McNally Star Chart. I loved it the first time I saw it in ELLE DECOR magazine (above and detail below). When it appeared again in Thomas O'Brien's excellent book American Modern, I began to look on eBay for something similar. (Read all about the star chart on Thomas O'Brien's site.) However, a star chart was not to be found -- in fact, I could find nothing even remotely similar.
Like me, fellow Brooklynite (and former MTV executive) Sheldon Yeager was intrigued by O'Brien's star chart, but unlike me, he decided to do something about it when he couldn't find the object of his desire. Yeager writes, "I quickly began scouring antique stores, print shops and map dealers to find the same one. But it was nowhere to be found. Anywhere. O’Brien’s antique Rand McNally chart dates from the ’40s and is one of those extremely rare finds that few people have been lucky enough to come across.
Surveying the rest of the landscape, I learned that the constellation map print market was either stuck in the antiquarian parchment look a la 15th century Da Vinci, or the Discover magazine mode of science illustration replete with techie color gradients. There was really nothing on the market for someone like myself wanting a tasteful and handsome star map that would serve as a showpiece for his wall."
Yeager decided to start The Municipal Prints Company, and commissioned Jeff Hopkins, an Austin-based illustrator and graphic designer, to recreate a star chart similar to O'Brien's. Currently, the company sells a Compass to the Northern Sky print, and the site promises a Compass to the Southern Sky and Compass to the Night Sky later this year.
The results are very much like the original that inspired the contemporary print (see above and detail below). At $175 they're not cheap, but they are quite large at 36" x 36". I'd also say it's a small price to pay for something you'll see every day. (Note to The Municipal Prints Company, in the future, you should offer a simple frame that fits the print: Square frames are not all that common and custom framing is pricey!)