EB -- Astronomy

Meyers großer Sternenatlas [Meyers Great Atlas of the Stars]. Serge Brunier, astrophotography by Akira Fujii. Translated from the French by Heiko Linnemann. Mannheim [et al.]: Meyers Lexikonverlag, 2002. 111 p. ill. 36 cm. ISBN 3-411-07011-0: EUR 48 [05-1-251]

[Ed. note: This title first appeared in French: Le grand atlas des étoiles (Paris: Bordas, 2001) ISBN: 2047600092; and Larousse, 2003. ISBN: 203560320X; and in English: The Great Atlas of the Stars (Buffalo, N.Y.; Toronto, Ont.: Firefly Books, 2001). ISBN: 1552096432]

Astrophotography is the demanding art of photographing heavenly objects, and Akira Fujii is one of its best-known practitioners. Fujii specializes in photographs that show the night sky realistically, as viewed with the naked eye. Other photographers’ works, including impressive photos from the Hubble telescope, are also included. In the large format of this volume, the stars appear nearly the same size in the photos as they do in the night sky. 30 of the 88 constellations recognized today, mostly those seen from the Northern Hemisphere, are illustrated by means of removable transparencies laid across large fold-out photos of various sections of the night sky, in a three-ring binder format. On the transparencies are lines connecting the stars of constellations, the stars making up the constellations and any further important objects. For these designated astronomical objects there are small detail photos and further explanations: a short text, the star type, e.g., red giant or galaxy, distance, diameter, luminosity, and a symbol indicating whether the object can be seen with the naked eye, binoculars, or telescope or only in an observatory. Most bodies receiving this extra attention are the large, well-known, and easily observable ones. A general description of the constellation, including a note on the time of year it can be observed, and a map picture round out each portrait.

Scattered throughout the book are short sections on themes like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Understanding the Universe," which are generally too short to treat their topics with any depth. Other supplementary items include a table of the 290 brightest stars, a 36-item glossary and an index. The style sometimes seems a bit overwrought, which may be the fault of the translation from French into German, and the sometimes overly free use of metaphor rises to the level of factual inaccuracy, as when twin double stars are described as moving "side by side through the galaxy," when, actually, double stars only appear as such from our own earthbound perspective. However, the overall impression of this work is overwhelmingly positive. The intended audience comprises hobby astronomers and those who only occasionally observe the night sky and previously could identify only a few constellations. Meyers großer Sternenatlas is not only an attractive picture book of astronomical phenomena, but also a truly useful tool for nighttime voyages of discovery. [hdw/rb]

Der historische Buchbestand der Universitätssternwarte Wien: ein illustrierter Katalog [The Inventory of Historic Books in the University of Vienna Observatory: An Illustrated Catalog]. Franz Kerschbaum and Thomas Posch. Frankfurt am Main: Lang. 30 cm. [05-2-428]

Part 1. 15. bis 17. Jahrhundert [15th-17th Centuries]. 2005. xi, 201 p. ill. ISBN 3-631-52890-6: EUR 39

Astronomy has been a part of the University of Vienna’s curriculum since 1385, and the observatory was founded in 1756. The 250th anniversary was a good occasion to compile a catalog of the antiquarian collection that also served other observatory libraries in the German-speaking realm. The collection contains Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum (the most beautiful astronomical printed work ever), both old prints of Copernicus’s Revolutiones, four works by Ticho Brahe, seven by Johannes Kepler, including his Astronomia nova, Epitome and Rudolfinische Tafeln, but not his Mysterium cosmographicum or Harmonice Mundi. Peuerbach is well represented with six, Regiomontan with four, and especially Johannes Hevelius with ten prints. Galileo’s major works are lacking, as are any works by Isaac Newton, at least in this volume. That less significant works are found here is understandable; many smaller works by lesser-known authors are also sought after because of their rarity.

The editors are astronomers at the University of Vienna and are also enthusiastic bibliophiles, who learned the principles of cataloging and created catalog records for this hitherto insufficiently listed antiquarian collection of the University Library. All the works included in this book can be found in the University’s on-line catalog (http://aleph.univie.ac.at). Every work has its own page, arranged by author (or antonym) and year of publication, and a full bibliographic description. The bibliographic records in the book do contain occasional errors, but the on-line catalog records have been largely corrected and in some cases are more complete than the book’s records.

The work begins with a 19-page introduction. The main part (p. 1-168) comprises the actual catalog and contains 5 incunabula, 51 prints from the 16th, and 109 from the 17th century. A second volume is planned for the 18th century. Pages 170-173 contain the author index, which includes a further 24 works not included in the catalog. These are minor works published in 1680 and 1681 that describe the comets of 1680. Pages 175-195 contain notes on 37 works, approximately one quarter of the collection. The work concludes with a bibliography and a chronology of the history of the observatory. The work lacks systematic research into the provenance of the works. Although most of the works come from Jesuit libraries, other holdings are not easily apparent and are hard to determine from the small illustrations. On balance, this is a beautiful work, but it is not reliable in every detail. [fs/ga]

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