Sextant, octant, armillary sphere; sundial, moondial, astrolabe. Premodern scientific instruments seem romantic and mysterious. Romantic because they can be very beautiful, works of art the like of which cannot be found among more practical, goal-oriented modern instruments. Mysterious because most of us no longer have any idea which instruments were which, or how they were used.
At the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Stephenson, Bolt, and Friedman help curate one of the best collections of astronomy instruments in the world. The Universe Unveiled is a dazzling catalog of the most beautiful, ancient, and important objects from the Adler (the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere) and other museums. Alongside hundreds of gorgeous, clear photographs, they have written a text that gives a real, though brief, idea of how the instruments, maps, and charts were actually used. Most of the objects were made in Europe between 1450 and 1800, but the authors also do a creditable job of discussing Chinese and Islamic astronomy. Altogether, the book is a rare combination of eye candy and intellectual nutrition, which could only really be bettered if it were packaged with the actual instruments. As is, it can make your hands itch with a kind of tactile curiosity, while it caters to your eyes and mind. --Mary Ellen Curtin
"A new book published this month by Cambridge University Press is showing off one of the greatest collections in the world of antique instruments of astronomy...Cambridge University Press saw the collection as an array of spectacular objects worthy of being showcased for a wider audience in a slick, full-color book, The Universe Unveiled." Chicago Tribune
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"This book offers a feast for the eye and for the mind, encompassing hundreds of the finest drawings, engravings, rare books, and scientific instruments from the collection of the Adler Planetarium, on the Chicago shore of Lake Michigan...the book is sumptuously reproduced, with irregularly shaped objects cut out and masked to make the book a design delight." The Key Reporter, publication of Phi Beta Kappa
"This is a lovely, high-quality picture book showing the instruments that astronomers have used, many of them since long before the invention of the telescope." Naples, Florida News
"The material of the book is beautifully presented with an impressive supply of diagrams, engravings, and photographs on every page. THe reproductions are first rate and the layout is attractively done. It is a visual feast for anyone interested in the history of science and the instruments by which it progressed." \ s Rittenhouse
"...beautiful book...would make a very attractive gift..." The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
"The book is lavishly illustrated, with more than 250 colour pictures of the most accurate and beautiful instruments since the late 15th century, accompanied by a taut but readable prose aimed at the layman." The Globe and Mail
"Over a dozen [pages] are full-page photgraphs of excellent quality...[T]he book is full of pictures and descriptions of such things as armillary spheres and astrolabes--instruments I have heard of but not seen until this book." IEEE Spectrum
"This richly illustrated book describes many of the more beautiful and unusual examples, as well as how they were used to explore the Earth and sky. Readers are presented with detailed views of the exquisite craftmanship of centuries ago." Sky and Telescope.
"stunniing...valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of scientific investigation about the universe...The University is also a testament to science as a creative activity. The exquisite illustrations and the beautiful instruments portray science as far more than a dry reaction of facts- rather as an integral part of human society with roots deep in the past...Should anyone doubt this attitude, have him or her spend a few hours with this lovely book. It is a valuable resource for teachers and students alike." Science Activities
"This is a lovely book filled with crisp images of beautiful instruments, diagrams, and maps." Meteorites & Planetary Science