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The New Patterns in the Sky: Myths and Legends of the Stars Paperback – September 1, 1996
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"Interest in constellations and their lore has enjoyed a growing vogue. . . .Yet, there remains a need for quality popular works, ones that are comprehensive and well balanced. The New Patterns in the Sky.fills this need admirably. . . . Looking at the current [edition] of The New Patterns in the Sky, I can appreciate what a major effort it was; to cover the subject comprehensively would require a multivolume work. But Staal chose his samplings well, from the familiar to the exotic. Neat and accurate star maps depict the constellations with outline figures." -- George Lovi, Sky and Telescope, January 1989
"This is the best book now available on this material and well worth owning." -- The Griffith Observer, 1989
The narrative is lively; the book most readable. The illustrations are the best this reviewer has seen for showing the novice the very perspective he will have from earth. -- The Classical Outlook, December-January, 1988-1989
About the Author
Julius D. W. Staal was born in Batavia, Netherlands East Indies, in 1917 and began his work in planetariums in The Hague, Netherlands. He left the Netherlands during World War II, became a British citizen, worked in the London Planetarium, and was accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, London. In 1960, he joined the staff of the Planetarium of Witswatersrand and the faculty of the University of Rhodesia. Subsequent travels took him back to England, then to the United States, where he open planetariums in New Orleans, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; and Decatur, Georgia. He passed away in July, 1986.
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We have several very good books that help us identify heavenly bodies and learn specifics about our corner of the galaxy. This book is a little different: the late Julius D. W. Staal offers the stories behind the stars, an approach that addresses the cultural, rather than the scientific, aspect of constellations.
And as for cultural, it's really more "multi-cultural." Every society on Earth has gazed up at the Milky Way and developed lore and legends describing the drama of the firmament. Most guides that mention constellations use Greco-Roman mythology and names. Interesting, but limiting. What did the Chinese call Orion? What did the Navajo have to say about Cassiopeia ?
You won't need this book out in the field, but it's fun to page through as you become more familiar with the constellations.
Staal published an earlier version of this book meant for people viewing from Britain, and this edition was published after his death. I am sure he would have been happy with the final product, though.
If you're at all interested in astronomy, this is a book you should have on your shelf.