Old Astronomy Books

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RMSteele
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Old Astronomy Books

Post by RMSteele »

I don't know what others think, but for quite some time I've been experiencing difficulty finding interesting astronomy books (excepting the works of Allen Chapman). Authors seem to be turning out books with quirky angles to be marketable. Yes, I'm being a bit cynical and, to quote our friend Dave Mitsky, "De gustibus non est disputandum". I am increasingly turning to old works. Their content is dated of course, but they have a simple charm and they often contain magnificent illustrations, forgotten histories and anecdotes, and details glossed over nowadays. One such heavy, old volume is
"The Midnight Sky" by Edwin Dunkin, revised edition published in 1891. It has totally absorbed my attention recently while stuck indoors recovering from a minor op. The chapter on total eclipses is fascinating reading, since it goes into great detail on the visual appearance of eclipses observed since the eighteenth century. Perhaps my favourite section is the one starting on page 219 - "No favourable total eclipse of the Sun has occurred without many anecdotes being related concerning the effects produced by the sudden darkness on the peasantry, animals, and plants."
Best wishes, Bob
jeff.stevens
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by jeff.stevens »

Swift recovery from your operation, Bob.

It’s been a while since I read an astronomy book. The closest I’ve come is reading Popular Astronomy and also accessing the digital version of New Scientist magazine via my library account.

Most of my astronomy reading these days is online websites.

I do read a lot of books though, but I enjoy them being completely different from my hobby.

The 1891 book does sound interesting though.

Best wishes, Jeff.
michael feist
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by michael feist »

Re.astronomy books. Occasional one comes across an astronomy books in secondhand shops. Most books on the subject up to perhaps the years 2010, or so are reasonably worth a second or third re-read. However most recent books seem 'somewhere else' than for practical observing. I am perhaps more picky than most though. Cosmology, space- travel, theoretical physics and the rest do not interest me, nor does imaging using computers. I simply like star atlases, charts and general sky viewing using small to medium size instruments. Also really like reading books of observers and observations, particularly of the period of say the 1800 - 2000.
Few observing guides type adult astronomy books can be found on the shelves of new or used booksellers, except pretty children - targeted books in the child section, so perhaps this is the result of observers using computers rather than paper.
Regards Mike f.
RMSteele
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by RMSteele »

I agree Mike. The publications you refer to in the period 1800-2000 were written by people with direct experience. They observed and recorded by eye and hand. I think the "astronomers" writing these days may have a slight acquaintance with the constellations and the eye end of a telescope, but little more. Even most amateurs have different skills. You can't really call them astronomers in the idiosyncratic meaning I personally give to the word, astro (greek origin meaning pertaining to the stars) and nomer (french/latin derivation meaning to name something); a star namer, one who can name (ie identify) the stars and planets on any night, anywhere in the world, because the astro-nomer knows the sky like the back of their hand. And without any intention of being derogatory, most dedicated amateurs these days are what I would call astrographers because, as mentioned earlier, they have a different range of skills. The old book I refer to was written by a professional astronomer (one time Chief Assistant at the RGO) and he was equally at home describing his duties during 21 hour-on-duty shifts(!!!) that included timing transits of the Moon and bright stars in daylight by eye and hand with an altaz mounted telescope or transit instrument as he was in describing his gravity pendulum experiment down a coal mine at Hartwell colliery to deduce the mean density and mass of the Earth. He gives a complete description of the night sky and how to find the constellations by using star pointers. I wonder how many of today's graduate "astronomers" would cope without heated facilities and "Starbucks" on tap. I was considering an "astronomer-led" holiday abroad recently with night time tours of the sky, but then I thought why bother? I did that sort of thing myself on the spur of the moment last year for my son and his friends in a backyard in Oz with our unaided eyes, binocs, and a little MAK on a manual altaz. I enjoy my solar observations when a passing dog walker stops to chat - I invite them to see for themselves, and I answer the usual question, "what are these spots?"
We are dinosaurs Mike. Lang may yer lum reek, as the Scots say. Bob
Last edited by RMSteele on Fri Aug 11, 2023 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
michael feist
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by michael feist »

I HAD TO LOOK UP THAT SCOTTISH SAYING BOB.
REGARDS MIKE.F .
Clarar
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by Clarar »

Hi all
Exploring old astronomy books is like tracing the cosmos through time. These literary artifacts hold celestial wisdom and offer a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of stargazing.Free Fire name style
Last edited by Clarar on Sat Aug 19, 2023 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
RMSteele
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by RMSteele »

That's very well expressed Clarar. These old books also give you a perspective on the social outlook of past societies. I've now moved on to reading "Hutchinson's Splendour of the Heavens", published in the early 1920s, various contributors. It's probably the first British publication that we would properly recognise as a truly "popular" illustrated astronomy book. Best wishes, Bob
vernaperez
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by vernaperez »

RMSteele wrote: Thu Aug 03, 2023 5:54 pm I don't know what others think, but for quite some time I've been experiencing difficulty finding interesting astronomy books (excepting the works of Allen Chapman). Authors seem to be turning out books with quirky angles to be marketable. Yes, I'm being a bit cynical and, to quote our friend Dave Mitsky, "De gustibus non est disputandum". I am increasingly turning to old works. Their content is dated of course, but they have a simple charm and they often contain magnificent illustrations, forgotten histories and anecdotes, and details glossed over nowadays. One such heavy, old volume is
"The Midnight Sky" by Edwin Dunkin, revised edition published in 1891. It has totally absorbed my attention recently while stuck indoors recovering from a minor op. The chapter on total eclipses is fascinating reading, since it goes into great detail on the visual appearance of eclipses observed since the eighteenth century. Perhaps my favourite section is pizza tower the one starting on page 219 - "No favourable total eclipse of the Sun has occurred without many anecdotes being related concerning the effects produced by the sudden darkness on the peasantry, animals, and plants."
Best wishes, Bob
I also really like the book "The Midnight Sky" by Edwin Dunkin. It offers a brilliant and atmospheric view of the night sky. I can spend all day reading this book.
Last edited by vernaperez on Sat Sep 16, 2023 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
RMSteele
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by RMSteele »

Hello vernaperez, It is indeed a wonderful book. Another old volume with atmospheric charts of the sky is “Hutchinson’s Splendours of the Heavens”, circa 1924, which you should get if you come across a copy. Very best wishes, Bob
vernaperez
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by vernaperez »

RMSteele wrote: Sat Sep 16, 2023 1:39 pm Hello vernaperez, It is indeed a wonderful book. Another old volume with atmospheric charts of the sky is “Hutchinson’s Splendours of the Heavens”, circa 1924, which you should get if you come across a copy. Very best wishes, Bob
Thanks for your suggestion
michael feist
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Re: Old Astronomy Books

Post by michael feist »

Recently I came across 'Star Names Their Lore and Meaning' by Allen. I know that more modern research is probably more accurate but certainly this Dover publication is worth keeping and reading.
Also .
Collns Guide To the Night Sky , The only photographic field guide you can use in the wild. 1999.
Both from used book shop for pence.
I sent for a used copy ofThe Hatfield Photographic Lunar Atlas. Springer, recently.

A recent, superb, large tome "Phaenomena, containing Doppelmayr's Celestial Atlas' from Thames and Hudson. Bought new. Expensive but wonderful.

And of course still have the 3 volume 'Luna Cognita,' from Springer.

Also have
' 2024 Guide to the Night Sky' (Collins)
'Stargazing 2024' (Philip's)
'Night Sky Almanac 2024' (Collins RGO)

Also, for a good, historic read, the new book from Springer Praxis,
'America's First Eclipse Chasers' by Thomas Hockey.

Finally, for a excellent star Atlas, have
Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas -Jumbo Edition.

That is
Mike.
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