God's Glory In The Heavens by William Leitch

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Published by Alexander Strahan of London on November 22nd 1862, God's Glory In The Heavens was an anthology of essays about astronomy and space written between late 1859 and late 1862 by William Leitch, Principal of Queen's College in Kingston Ontario, Canada.

First Edition of God's Glory in the Heavens
First Edition of God's Glory in the Heavens

The original essays appeared more-or-less monthly in Strahan's magazine Good Words beginning in the second week of 1860 and then appeared periodically through 1861 and 1862. The original title in the Good Words magazine was God's Glory In The Heavens – The Teachings of the Stars.

The book was originally to have appeared in late 1860 with the full title, God's Glory In The Heavens; or, Something of the Wonders of Astronomy. It was evidently delayed by Leitch's appointment to Queen's College and his subsequent trips to Canada, especially in 1861. When the book was finally published the title had been reduced to the more ambiguous, but simpler, God's Glory In The Heavens.

Publication as Essays in Good Words

The essays which appeared in Good Words between 1860 and 1862 were as follows:

  • The Moon – Is it Inhabited? (#2, Week 2, Jan 1860) – (Book, Chapter 2)
  • The Moon’s Invisible Side (#6, Week 4, Feb 1860) – (Book, Chapter 3)
  • Lunar Landscape (#11, Week 3, Mar 1860) – (Book, Chapter 4)
  • Discovery of the New Planet Vulcan (#15, Week 3, Apr 1860) – (Book, Chapter 6)
  • The Approaching Total Eclipse of the Sun (#19, Week 2, May 1860) – (Book, Chapter 7)
  • Comets – Their Nature and Design (#30, Week 5, July 1860) – (Book, Chapter 10)
  • Comets – Their History (#33, Week 3, Aug 1860) – (Book, Chapter 11)
  • The Sun – Its Work and Structure (#37, Week 3, Sept 1860) – (Book, Chapter 8)
  • The Structure of the Planets (#40, Week 2, Oct 1860) – (Book, Chapter 12)
  • The Nebulae (#46, Week 4, Nov 1860) – (Book, Chapter 14)
  • American Telescopes and Astronomers (Vol II #7, Jul 1861) – (Book, Chapter 17)
  • A Journey Through Space (Vol II #9, Sept 1861) – (Book, Chapter 1)
  • The Uses of the Moon (Vol III #2, Feb 1862) – (Book, Chapter 5)
  • At Night in an Observatory (Vol III #9, Sept 1862) – (Book, Chapter 16)

The remaining chapters which did not appear in Good Words were:

  • The Chemistry of the Sun – (Book, Chapter 9)
  • The Structure of Saturn's Rings – (Book, Chapter 13)
  • Stellar Grouping – (Book, Chapter 15)
  • The Stability of the Solar System – (Book, Chapter 18)
  • The Eternity of Matter – (Book, Chapter 19)
  • The Plurality of Worlds – (Book, Chapter 20)

Two other essays by Leitch appeared in Good Words. A Winter in Canada (Vol III #12, Dec 1862) which included more of his observations about nature and astronomy and Bees and the Art of Queen-making (Vol II #8, Aug 1861) about his studies as a melittologist in Scotland.


The September 1861 article A Journey Through Space includes the earliest known reference to Isaac Newton's laws being applied to a rocket for space travel. It also includes references to the special relationship between light and time. Its significance being that it was written decades before the established findings of Tsiolkovsky, Goddard and Oberth.

Publication History

God's Glory in the Heavens was printed by Ballantyne and Company of Edinburgh in a first run of 1,000 copies in late 1862 and the British price was six shillings. Advertisements appeared in the United States as early as January 1863 for a retail price of $2.70. It went into a second edition in England by September of 1863. A third edition was advertised in the United States in March of 1866 in the Round Table magazine for a retail price of $2.50.

In 1870 the book was still being advertised in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia. The fourth edition was published in early 1875. Other editions are known to exist up to 1878, long after Leitch's death in 1864.

The Unattributed Version

In October 1877 Alexander Strahan's business partner William Isbister began advertising a new volume for his Half Hour Library of Travel, Nature and Science for Young Readers. It was called “Air and Sky” and it featured Leitch's A Journey Through Space with the author's name removed. Strahan was removed from the running of his own company in the early 1870s. Management fell to his partner but by May of 1878 the company was folded. The rights to everything which had appeared in Good Words had been used as collateral by Strahan. Through a complex devolution of the property and the company the rights to Leitch's work ended up in Isbister's Half Hour library. Further editions of the Air and Sky volume are known to have been printed in 1878, 1880, 1882 and 1886 before the rights were then turned over to the James Nisbet Company who printed it again in 1896, 1899 and 1903. It was also exported to Australia and as late as 1907 was still being advertised there. One such advert claimed that it had sold half a million copies. The last known advertising for the "Air and Sky" volume was in 1910.


The British American Magazine Devoted to Literature, Science, and Art (Vol 1 1863) reviewed the book with lengthy extracts before concluding:

Dr. Leitch's book is illustrated with some of the most remarkable views of the moon, spiral nebulae, and other heavenly bodies. The style in which the work is written is very attractive, and as a popular exposition of the present condition of our knowledge of astronomy, it commends itself to the attentive perusal of all to whom God has given the power to appreciate 'His Glory in the Heavens.'

Littel's Living Age Magazine (3rd Series Vol III Apr-Jun 1863) was less generous:

There is so much pleasant and instructive matter in the book that we regret the more that its author should have indulged in so many "journeys through space," and should have been so free in the adoption of new hypotheses, and old wives' tales, none of which can be proved, some of which have been already disproved.

The Reader magazine in a review in 1863 claimed:

We cannot conclude our notice of Dr Leitch's book without dwelling upon the admirable manner in which the astronomical facts contained in it are blended with practical observations and the highest and most ennobling sentiments. It is thus that books on popular science should ever be written.