This is an illustration from Thomas Wright’s An original theory or new hypothesis of the universe, published in 1750. Thomas Wright (1711-1786) of Byers Green, County Durham, was a polymath who, in this work, described for the first time the shape of our galaxy. He hypothesised that our solar system is one among many distributed in a flattened disc of stars, and that the Milky Way is an optical effect caused by observing the galaxy along its plane. He also speculated that distant nebulae were themselves discrete galaxies, like our own, some of them forming what is now termed the Local Group. This particular plate has been the inspiration for some Special Collections Christmas wrapping paper, illustrated below, and which is available in our shop at Palace Green Library. Wrap your presents this year in a little local history!