Book Review - Uncharted Constellations
Posted: 8 August 2016
by John C. Barentine
231 pages (including Table of Contents, Appendices, Bibliography, and Index)
Uncharted Constellations is a companion book to Dr. Barentine's The Lost Constellations, which I reviewed in December 2015 (click link to read the review).
The subtitle for "Uncharted Constellations" is "Asterisms, Single-Source and Rebrands", which describes what types of "constellations" are included in the book. "Part I: Celestial Odds And Ends" (24 pages) has a discussion of what constellations are and how their patterns were perceived, defined, and used over the past several thousand years, leading up to our current official 88 constellations. Fourteen "uncharted constellations" are covered in "Part II: The Lost Constellations" (122 pages). There are three appendices (54 pages).
For each "constellation" discussed in Part II there is explanatory text on its origin and history, and where appropriate, iconography and disappearance. There are detailed black and white historical illustrations, such as this example from Chapter 10, Norma Nilotica:
Each chapter is short and so is easily absorbed. The author includes notes which add to the context of each "constellation".
Appendix B discusses "The Constellations of John Hill" and includes in its entirety his original descriptions of 15 "constellations" that were submitted for consideration in 1754. Dr. Barentine's book is likely the only source of these descriptions available since they were originally published in 1754 in the book "Urania". As with all the constellations covered in both "The Lost Constellations" and "Uncharted Constellations", none of Mr. Hill's constellations were officially recognized by the astronomical community. That is probably a good thing too. Imagine the reaction you would get if you were to point out "The Leech" constellation as defined by Mr. Hill to your friends!
The Uncharted Constellations* by Dr. Barentine is an excellent companion volume to his earlier "The Lost Constellations"*. Dr. Barentine deserves our appreciation for doing the extensive research that had to be required and for bringing together in one resource (the two books) important aspects of astronomy from centuries past along with the historical context that resulted in these "constellations".
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