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Star Maps, 3rd edition, book review

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#1 Alan A.

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 05:25 PM

Hi,

 

I had written up a semi- formal book review for the 3rd edition of "Star Maps", and am sharing the review below.  

 

Best,

 

Alan

 

 

 

************************************************************************************************************************
Book Review of Star Maps, by Nick Kanas

 

 

Star Maps, History, Artistry, and Cartography. Written by Nick Kanas. 3rd Edition, color hardcover without dust-jacket, published by Springer/Praxis, copyright 2019,   main text of 563 pages including index (+ 31 pages of introductory material prior to page 1), page size 242mm x 168 mm, ISBN 978-3-030-13612-3.

 

Star Maps is a book which is primarily concerned with the history of celestial maps, but extends its coverage much further. The author is a physician who is deeply interested in celestial maps and over a period of decades has built an impressive personal collection of historic celestial maps. A closely related book, Solar System Maps, was written by him and published in 2013. The author is well published in the field of academic medicine, and interestingly has in recent years written science fiction novels as well.

 

It will be useful to review the contents of the book. It should be noted from the outset that one of the attractive features of this work is that it is extremely well illustrated, with 226 images, 141 in color and 85 in black and white. Most of these images are of high quality and of good size, being printed close to full page or half page.

 

Chapter one of the book is an introduction to celestial maps, and includes a brief but important section on the key types of map projections (azimuthal, cylindrical, and conical). Chapters two through four cover the topics of European and non-European cosmology and constellation development. The author starts telling the story of man’s observations of and ideas about the cosmos from well before the period of classical antiquity, and these chapters continue a discussion through time all the way through the work of Kepler in the early 1600s. It is no small task to cover this enormous span of time with competence, and here the author has done a fine job and provides an excellent overview. It is beyond the scope of this book for the author to go into great depth in these areas, and so as a remedy he provides several pages of excellent references for the various areas in the history of cosmology. Indeed, each chapter in the book has a superb set of references listed at its end. These well curated bibliographies are invaluable for further exploration.

 

The heart of the book is chapters five through six, which cover early European star maps (prior to the year 1600 AD ), and the golden age of star maps from 1600-1800 AD (with the big four mapmakers of that period- Bayer, Hevelius, Flamsteed, and Bode, as well as the mapmakers who made notable derivative works from these four). Chapter seven covers the other important star maps that were produced during the golden age. The author gives interesting biographical information for each mapmaker, and of course the significant facts related to each map under discussion. The author strikes a nice balance with his coverage, which is detailed but avoids dry minutiae.

 

Chapter eight of the book discusses various related interesting topics. These are worth listing and are: celestial globes and gores, volvelles, astronomical instruments before the telescope, the telescope, non-stellar heavenly bodies, playing cards, frontispieces, and title pages.

 

Chapter nine covers mapping stars in early America, and chapter ten covers the transition to star maps without images, which brings the reader up through the period including modern star atlases. The last two chapters of this edition are new: chapter eleven on terrestrial and celestial pictorial maps, and chapter twelve on celestial images in artistic paintings. These are fascinating and fun chapters to read. The subject of terrestrial pictorial maps is perhaps a bit off topic, but does well serve the author’s purpose of using it as a vehicle to better introduce and discuss celestial pictorial maps. At the end of the book there are useful appendices which include a section with information on collecting celestial maps and prints. Hopefully the reader can easily see from the contents described above that the book covers a vast sweep of astronomical knowledge which extends far past its core subject.

 

This reviewer has in his library and is well acquainted with the first two editions of Star Maps. The current third edition is a dramatic upgrade from the second edition, which was published in 2012. The reasons the upgrade is significant are threefold. First, the third edition has much new material added to it. It has 54 new images, two new chapters (one related to pictorial maps and one to artistic paintings), and two new sections. Second, the cover and layout have been improved. The third edition is hardcover and has color and black and white images spread throughout the text. The second edition is in paperback and does have a section of color images, but these color images are all grouped together in one section in the back of the book. The current changes give the whole work much greater aesthetic appeal. The third improvement can be seen when one compares the quality of the printed images between the two editions. The majority of black and white images, which are many, are printed at a higher quality level and with better contrast in the third edition (the quality of the color printing in the images between the two editions is similar, and reasonably good in both). If one already had the excellent second edition, obtaining the third edition can still be highly recommend. The improvements are worth the additional expense.

 

Star Maps has been used by this reviewer as a guide and a reference in building his own collection of celestial maps, and found it an invaluable resource. It has not only impressive breadth and depth, but excels in the clarity of its writing, and is thoroughly engaging. It is highly accurate throughout and will serve as the authoritative work on its subject for a very long time to come. This reviewer has a growing collection of astronomy books well over a thousand in number now, and would include Star Maps as one among a small selection of books from his library he would say deserves to be read by every person interested in the history of astronomy.

 

The most important point about this book has been left for last. The majority of historic maps in this book are the products of great culminations of art and science. In the preface to the first edition the author says “It is my hope that this book will stimulate you to look at the heavens with a new eye ....”, and in this the author succeeds admirably. This work is a real gem, and going through it one can connect more deeply to the cosmos, and the way man has thought about the universe in the past.

 

 

******************************************************************************


  • turtle86, gatsbyiv, Cali and 1 other like this

#2 Cali

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 06:39 PM

Google Book Link.



#3 Alan A.

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 07:18 PM

Thanks for the link, Cali!

 

Also, here is the Springer link with some additional info, and they have a preview button which links to a couple pages of text:

 

https://www.springer...75#aboutAuthors


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#4 Cali

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 08:11 PM

The historical astronomical illustrations in the book are some of the best I've ever seen.

 

- Cal


Edited by Cali, 28 November 2019 - 08:13 PM.



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