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cbwerner
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/27/05

Loc: Maidens, VA
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4001920 - 08/23/10 06:04 PM

Man, I'd love to have this book digitally. Add my voice to the chorus.

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mtnmedic
Late for dinner
*****

Reged: 11/09/04

Loc: Antelope, Oregon
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4001937 - 08/23/10 06:11 PM

I think what everybody should do is write to Dover and tell them how you feel about a potential digital edition of the BCH. Let them know there is demand for such a thing. You can also, if you'd like, reference me and my request to publish my project through them. It really doesn't matter if it's me or anyone else who gets the job done, so long as Dover sees the value of bringing BCH back to life in digital format so everyone can enjoy it.

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burb scope
sage
*****

Reged: 04/18/08

Loc: Canton, MI
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4001965 - 08/23/10 06:23 PM

Great idea. Let Dover hear many voices on this, not just one or two.

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danmdak
sage
*****

Reged: 10/03/07

Loc: NE Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4005365 - 08/25/10 01:12 PM

Ah yes, Burnhams. Love the book. Never will forget the day I walked up to the 6th floor of the library of Youngstown State University and found the 3 volume set there, back in 1978. I quickly checked out all 3, then later on saved up and bought softcover versions. Since then I found the hardcover version in a used book store and bought the 3 volume set for $10. I am like others here...have no use for a digital version. It does need updating though...mostly in the descriptions of current theories, and in the double star orbit diagrams. As a side note, I think it is almost a crime as to what the "professional" astronomy writers did to Burnham himself after he wrote his epic work (ie: ignored him, etc.) He would often hang out in front of the Lowell observatory where he once worked and just watch the people walk by, in full obscurity to the astronomers that came and went...sad...the full story need to be written by someone and I do not wish to hijack this thread anyway.
In any case I agree tho that a digital version would help re-popularize this book and hope you follow through with this. Someone owns the copyright and that is the first thing I would find out.


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Traveler
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 08/19/07

Loc: The Netherlands
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4012659 - 08/29/10 05:22 AM

Great idea!

I just wrote Dover to ask for an electronic version. I hope more people will follow this.


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Lard Greystoke
sage


Reged: 07/27/08

Loc: Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: danmdak]
      #4014187 - 08/29/10 10:11 PM

Quote:

As a side note, I think it is almost a crime as to what the "professional" astronomy writers did to Burnham himself after he wrote his epic work (ie: ignored him, etc.) He would often hang out in front of the Lowell observatory where he once worked and just watch the people walk by, in full obscurity to the astronomers that came and went...sad...the full story need to be written by someone and I do not wish to hijack this thread anyway.




Actually I think a good part of the story has been written. My take is that the only person who hurt Burnham was Burnham. He was an unusual person who went out of his way to not help himself. I recall a letter he wrote to Sky & Telescope in which he definitely felt unappreciated; the letter is rather sad. But writing one letter is not enough; you have to package your talents and knock on doors. I don't think his personality allowed him to do that. I don't think he could help it. He'd really have been better off in some sheltered environment like a monastery.


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danmdak
sage
*****

Reged: 10/03/07

Loc: NE Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Lard Greystoke]
      #4015219 - 08/30/10 12:45 PM

Must respectfully disagree. Burnham shouldn't have to knock on doors. He wrote THE premier observing guide. 40 years (!) after he did this it is still the number one observing book in a lot of peoples opinion. S&T should have been knocking on HIS door. But S&T of the mid 1980s and especially the 1990's wasnt like that, I know from personal experience. Since his name wasnt one of the "good old boys" ink wasnt wasted on him. Ask yourself this, if Cloudy Nights forum was around then, would we even be discussing this? Probably not, he would be on this forum and we would be raving about his book. Back when he published it, the only "forum" was S&T and Astronomy Magazine. Neither one came through in my opinion.
This is also why I love the idea of getting it digitized and updated. As mentioned before, I dont like digital books but know I am in the minority here. His book available to the masses in digital form would be wonderful. Really hope this goes thru. Would I buy it....maybe if it was the only way to get an updated version. I would hope though that if it was updated then a hard copy edition that I could use would come out.


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burb scope
sage
*****

Reged: 04/18/08

Loc: Canton, MI
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: danmdak]
      #4015415 - 08/30/10 01:59 PM

Mtnmedic - What address & department at Dover did you correspond with?
We should have a consistent point of contact at Dover to send or requests to.
I am considering sending them my digitized copy so that they can see that 95% of the work is already done. I would allow for at least 5% for polishing & correcting my possible mistakes. Having a viable product handed to them for nothing may help move things along.


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rmollise
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 07/06/07

Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: danmdak]
      #4015818 - 08/30/10 05:17 PM

Quote:

Ask yourself this, if Cloudy Nights forum was around then, would we even be discussing this? Probably not, he would be on this forum




I doubt it. He might have _wanted_ to be on this forum, but I do not think he could have managed it. He was a brilliant man in many ways, but also a troubled man who did not know how to help himself and found it very difficult to allow others to help him.

His book lives on, though, and I believe it will continue to live on, just as the books of Admiral Smyth and Reverend Webb do.


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burb scope
sage
*****

Reged: 04/18/08

Loc: Canton, MI
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: rmollise]
      #4015993 - 08/30/10 06:36 PM

In tribute to Burnham, I would prefer that his original work be published digitaly, as-is.

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Rick Woods
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/27/05

Loc: Inner Solar System
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: danmdak]
      #4016038 - 08/30/10 06:56 PM

Quote:

Back when he published it, the only "forum" was S&T and Astronomy Magazine. Neither one came through in my opinion.



What do you think they should have done? They reviewed the books very favorably; what else could they do? He wasn't the "Robert Burnham. Jr." back then, he was just a guy with a book.


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mtnmedic
Late for dinner
*****

Reged: 11/09/04

Loc: Antelope, Oregon
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #4016253 - 08/30/10 08:35 PM

Well, there's no way any of us could know exactly what happened, why it happened or what could have been, regardless of whether he was THE Robert Burnham, Jr. or just some guy with another book. I would venture to say that none of us here really KNEW Bob like those closest to him did, especially during his last years. Who's to say what his level of participation would have been in a forum such as this? Some people LOVE to communicate and share like we do. Some of those people find on-line discussion and communication to be time-wasteful and lacking in personal interaction. Some don't even like computers. To each his own.

What happened between Bob and S&T is water under the bridge. Things were different back then. None of us can really say for sure why he didn't receive as much press as he could have. I agree, however, he should have gotten more recognition and appreciation for his works. Maybe nobody back then realised just how monumental the BCH really was.

Should he have had to "knock on doors"? Maybe...maybe not. Any book writer will tell you that aggressive marketing of your talents in the highly competitive world of paper book publishing-just as with any other business-is the cornerstone of success and even more frustration. It's difficult enough to do with today's technology, let alone with how things were done 40-50 years ago. Some of it has to do with timing and who you know. Like a lot of people, I don't think wrangling with the business of publishing was something that he savored. It can be very tough going. That might have played a role in any reluctance he may have had regarding going out and "knocking on doors." Especially back then when paper books were, essentially, the ONLY viable money-making format for reading.

In any event, I think we can all agree Bob was a good man, that he had some personal problems later on in life and that his works are, above all, a testament to his brilliance and his passion for this thing we love so much called astronomy. It's sad how he ended up but his legacy supersedes all.

My hope is to have his book published digitally (mostly epub and other popular formats to fit the iPad and other dedicated book readers, etc.) so that it can be re-discovered and enjoyed by lots of people. That would be the biggest tribute to the man.

Personally, I'm with the camp that would prefer to publish it as-is, with only a few modest changes like perhaps adding links or a reference section linking to updated information (scientific and statistical data), updating a few of the photos to color (for a little pizazz, leaving the B&W ones of historical significance in place), maybe correcting some typographical erros, etc. Fully updating this book-all three volumes-to the modern standards that some people might desire would be a terribly daunting task. I read somewhere that someone was attempting to do this almost 20 or so years ago and nothing more came of it. I mean, how do you update Michelangelo's painting of the Sistene Chapel? Clean off some of the dust, fix a few cracks, put some better lighting on it? Sure, I can do that. Otherwise, it's best left alone to let the art speak for itself.


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Lard Greystoke
sage


Reged: 07/27/08

Loc: Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: mtnmedic]
      #4016403 - 08/30/10 09:48 PM

Quote:

Fully updating this book-all three volumes-to the modern standards that some people might desire would be a terribly daunting task...I mean, how do you update Michelangelo's painting of the Sistene Chapel? Clean off some of the dust, fix a few cracks, put some better lighting on it?




I think some parts of the work are more akin to Michelangelo than others. The strength of the book is the way Burnham introduces the brighter stars and DSO's as if they were friends. The description of the Coma Cluster goes through the appearance and mechanics of the system itself through the role of Berenice in mythology and coinage. The section on M13 veers into a detailed account of the evolution of globular clusters. The breadth of knowledge and depth of enthusiasm are unrivaled.

However the book has some weaknesses for observers not blessed with nostalgia, and these weaknesses will only become more apparent as the old fogies wither away. The tabular information for DSO's was never much use and is now superceded by other sources. The pictures range from okay to awful. I'm not sure how many young enthusiasts with access to Hubble images and online databases are going to be stimulated by these out-of-date aspects. Plus the southern constellations are poorly covered. I'm wondering if I would even take the effort to reproduce the tabular information and photos as-is.

My wishful thinking would be to have the book completely updated with southern constellations, up-to-date photos and current science by an author with equal breadth and passion. To my knowledge there is none such currently available.


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Doug Reilly
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 07/29/08

Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Lard Greystoke]
      #4016772 - 08/31/10 12:55 AM

I've read what I could find about Burnham's life and like any life it seems to have been a complicated one. Was he wronged? It seems so, at least by some. Was he helped? A lot of people tried? Was he brilliant? I'd say so. Troubled? That too. The outcome was sad. But he is vindicated by the love that pours out in these forums for his work. That, and the proper motion studies he worked tirelessly on for years, are his legacy. It's not a bad one.

I found the little stone monument to him far more affecting than the big marble thing Lowell built for himself on Mars Hill. He was the quintessential lonely astronomer.


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burb scope
sage
*****

Reged: 04/18/08

Loc: Canton, MI
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Doug Reilly]
      #4017049 - 08/31/10 05:46 AM

Did you photograph the little stone monument? That would be interesting for the rest of us to see.

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rmollise
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 07/06/07

Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: burb scope]
      #4017169 - 08/31/10 07:57 AM

Quote:

In tribute to Burnham, I would prefer that his original work be published digitaly, as-is.




I agree. If you want current astronomical knowledge, there are plenty of places to get that. If you want more objects, there are observing guides today that go far beyond Burnham. You read BCH for its author's imaginative, aesthetic take on the Universe.

Digital BCH? I suppose that would be nice. Particularly a Kindle or iPad edition. I don't suppose I really need it, though. For me, Burnham's is not a book I use at the telescope. If I want to run through "his" objects, lists of them have been made for the major planning programs like Skytools. The books themselves? I crack them open on a stormy winter's eve and just read--what Robert Burnham had to say about the Universe.

I'm sorry his life was such a mess. It just doesn't seem fair that such an obviously brilliant person could end so badly. If only he'd made plans for what would happen after the project at Lowell ended... If only he hadn't pegged all his hopes for financial success on the book...

There was an even smaller market for astronomy books then than now; BCH got plenty of notice--including even the original self-published "chapters"--but there is just no way you are going to reap the financial rewards he seemed to expect in our small field. Especially such a specialized book unlikely to appeal to the general reader. Burnham's book actually sold very well. But in a small amateur astronomy sort of way. As good as the book was, there was no way it was gonna sell like Mickey Spillane.

Alas, there is no way to change the "if onlies" now. Best thing to do is enjoy his remarkable work and raise a toast to his shade every once in a while.


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Rick Woods
Postmaster
*****

Reged: 01/27/05

Loc: Inner Solar System
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: rmollise]
      #4017822 - 08/31/10 02:36 PM

Quote:

Quote:

In tribute to Burnham, I would prefer that his original work be published digitaly, as-is.




I agree. If you want current astronomical knowledge, there are plenty of places to get that. If you want more objects, there are observing guides today that go far beyond Burnham. You read BCH for its author's imaginative, aesthetic take on the Universe.




Rod,
Thank you. That's exactly how I feel - don't gild the lily.

Actually, I think it was Dover who rear-ended Burnham by making his book a low cost incentive to join book clubs. I confess I got my hardcopy set for $5 that way (but I bought two softback sets at full price, so I feel a little better about it).

Burnham's is perfect the way it is, archaic typewriter font and all. I'd hate to see a single thing about it change.


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burb scope
sage
*****

Reged: 04/18/08

Loc: Canton, MI
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #4017981 - 08/31/10 03:35 PM

I spent some time "updating" a test copy of my digital BCH .pdf, and here are some arguments AGAINST doing it.
First of all, whose information are you going to use to update BCH? After all, I started by Googling Alpha Andromedae and received "about 4,730" results. After playing around for a while, I settled on adding a link to the Wikipedia entry. Wikipedia has entries for (probably) most of the objects in BCH, but what should I use as a second choice if I find an object NOT in Wikipedia? By the way, a lot of people think that the data in Wikipedia is flawed, so should I use something else? The ADVANTAGE of adding the Wikipedia link was that the Wikipedia entry has links to many other trusted sources like SIMBAD, etc.
See the dilemma? Also, what if Wikipedia (or any other source I choose) changes such that the links become broken/out of date? I'm sure not going to want to go back and test/update all of the web links from Alpha Andromedae through NGC6940 in Vulpecula.
However, anyone with software that allows you to modify .pdf documents may well want to update your own purchased copy (assuming that Dover delivers it in that format).
Knock yourself out. Me? I wimped out at Alpheratz.


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Lard Greystoke
sage


Reged: 07/27/08

Loc: Ohio
Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #4018351 - 08/31/10 06:32 PM

Quote:

Actually, I think it was Dover who rear-ended Burnham by making his book a low cost incentive to join book clubs.




But Dover couldn't rear-end Burnham without rear-ending Dover. Dover is still in business, so I don't think they've made too many money-losing propositions. I think it's more likely that they had more copies of the book than they could sell at full price and tried to get what they could out of it.

Speaking of money, what is the market for a digital version? It's one thing to do this as a library service for the benefit of mankind. But if there's money involved there needs to be a return on investment. Is the digital version just going to be a duplicate medium for people who already have or can get the print version, or is it really intended for a new audience with its mix of excellent writing, mediocre illustrations and outdated information?

Regarding the difficulty of upgrading Burnham, it shows the incredible amount of work he put into it and how hard that is to duplicate even today with the internet. Of course he had access to the Lowell resources (and it wouldn't surprise me if he did a lot of his own work on Lowell time, which may explain why they weren't as supportive of him as some of us would like).


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Doug Reilly
professor emeritus
*****

Reged: 07/29/08

Re: Burnham's Celestial Handbook - Digital new [Re: Lard Greystoke]
      #4021906 - 09/02/10 11:46 AM

LG--
I don't think there's any reason to believe Burham was stealing time from his other duties at Lowell. By all accounts he did excellent work there and when the proper motion studies ended, so did the funding for his salary. I don't think the "professional" astronomers at Lowell were supportive of his work because they dismissed it as an amateur endeavor. Again, the problems of Burhnam were complex.

Here's the monument to him on Mars Hill. The photograph of him makes me sad. http://www.flickr.com/photos/xenar/3795428543/in/set-72157621840373809/

Edited by Doug Reilly (09/02/10 11:49 AM)


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