Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ TV Show Archive Going on the Block at Heritage Auctions

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.
Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

Artwork from astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan‘s groundbreaking 1980 television series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, will be sold for the first time at Heritage Auctions New York on April 8.

Scientific artist Jon Lomberg, Sagan’s primary artistic collaborator for the show, is selling his personal archive, dating from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. Lomberg illustrated Sagan’s 1973 book The Cosmic Connection, and the two went on to work together for 25 years.

“From the first time we met, though I’m an artist and he’s a scientist, our vision was very harmonious,” said Lomberg in a press release. “We could do things together neither of us could do on our own.”

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.


Cosmos remains the most popular series ever broadcast on PBS, and has been seen by over 500 million people in more than 60 countries. The series was rebooted in 2014 as Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson serving as host.

The entire Lomberg collection will be sold in a single lot at Heritage‘s Rare Books Signature Auction, with 62 signed paintings, drawings, and sketches, as well as storyboards, productions photos, prints of special effects paintings, and other documents relating nearly to every episode of Cosmos.

Over the course of his career, Lomberg also worked closely with NASA, creating artwork for interstellar missions, including the “Voyager Golden Records,” which recently became the first human artworks to leave the Solar System (see Swedish Artist Wants to Put a Sculpture on the Moon).

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

“This is an unprecedented offering of art and ephemera that has double cachet,” said Heritage’s director of rare books, James Gannon, in a press release. “First, it’s important scientific material relating to two very important figures. Second, it’s got amazing pop culture importance, relating as it does to Cosmos, one of the most important TV shows of all time.”

Highlights will include Lomberg’s  alternate designs for the series logo and the iconic “Spaceship of the Imagination,” and a drawing by Sagan depicting the Drake Equation, which looks to estimate the number of alien civilizations there might be in the Milky Way.

One Lomberg sketch depicts an early draft of the “Cosmic Calendar,” an ingenious visual device which clearly demonstrates our universe’s incomprehensibly long history, and the comparatively short length of time of the existence of man, the planet Earth, and even our solar system, by condensing the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang into a single year. At this scale, a single day represents 37.8 million years.

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

Jon Lomberg, Cosmos Archive.

Lomberg is also including documentation for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Creative Technical Crafts that his team won for their work on Cosmos.

“Sagan had a feel for how to relate complex ideas in an undeniably clear way,” said Lomberg. “This archive is a model for how it can and should be done. There are so many issues people face today—climate change, Ebola, genetically modified food—all of which are really scientific topics and the understanding of these things today has to do with Scientific Literacy. As an example of how such complex ideas can be relayed clearly, from the initial idea to the finished product, this is a behind-the-scenes look at how our collaboration occurred.”

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