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Sundials: History, Theory, and Practice Paperback – July 9, 1996

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

First published in English in 1970, Rohr's volume traces a history of sundials as well as the science behind their operation. Along with measuring time, some of these devices also followed the movements of the moon and were accurate solar calendars. This is for both the lay reader and the scientist alike.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

Among the earliest instruments for telling time was the sundial. Sundials: History, Theory, And Practice is an expert study offering a fascinating and informative account of these ancient devices, presented in simple, lively language and with a profusion of illustrations. Sundials will teach the reader a practical method for building one! For mathematically inclined readers, more complex formulae and calculations have been included, some of which have never before been printed in a book of gnomonics. Sundials is unusual, fascinating, and highly informative! -- Midwest Book Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised edition (July 9, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486291391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486291390
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,281,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I found Rohr not to be as useful as the two other texts by Waugh or Mayall and Mayall. The other books are more clear and practical in the constructions of many different types of dials.
The only strength of the Rohr test is the explanation of (i) drawing hour lines on any surface so long as you have a rod shaped gnomen and (ii) the construction of babylonian and Italian hours. Even so the explanation of the babylonian and Italian hours could be better.
So the Rohr book would best be used as an adjunct to the other texts but if you are just starting out, buy the book by Waugh first then Mayall and Mayall and then perhaps Rohr if your library hasn't got it.
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Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book, but it is also a very complex one. It includes a brief history of sundials and a lot of pictures of sundials, but if this is all you are looking for this book is clearly much more than what you are looking for. Most of the book is concerned with the geometry of sundials and the stereographic projection of the sun's shadow onto vertical, horizontal or curved surfaces. Much of this information is conveyed in a chapter titled "Some Gnomonic Cosmology" which is as complex as this title indicates. The chapter on "Classical Sundials" is equally complex. It is not just devoted to pictures of classical sundials (although a number are included), but is mostly devoted to the stereographic projection of the sun's shadow on to the surfaces of many types of dials. I have some familiarity with stereographic projection, but nonetheless found this material bordering on the incomprehensible. I was forced to consult Wikapedia in order to get a clearer explanation of the features that were being discussed. I do not know if this is because the book was originally written in French and this therefore represents translation difficulties, of if the style is just not want a contemporary reader is used to.

I would recommend this book to people who are quite familiar with sundials and are looking for a more scholarly treatment. However, I do not think that it is a very good choice for a general reader because when you subtract out the more complicated material you are not left with very much. Hence, I am giving this book only 3.5-stars, but since fractional stars are not allowed I am rounding it up to four-stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Serious sundials are serious instruments.
The first serious instruments of mankind, and they endured for three millennia, well into the 20th century, as the bedrock of timekeeping.

They are deceptive in their apparent simplicity but they are far from simple in their theory and their significance, thus they are the essence of beauty and elegance; blending science, esthetics; astronomy, the universe, and the ingeniousness of mankind into a seemingly simple instrument with no moving parts which, if you understand what it is telling you, it tells you a heck of a lot.

This is the one book to own on how sundials really work, not on how to make a rainy day project for a bored child or wood or metal worker but what is at the essence of the serious instrument for serious timekeeping and observations.

Though we now think of sundials as quaint garden ornaments, for at least three millennia sundials were our bedrock basis of keeping time, the foundation of astronomy, and fundamental to our understanding of the relationship of our Earth to the heavens. Even the concept of time itself, which is a slippery subject when you dig into it, began with sundials. They are A REALLY BIG DEAL if you are into such things. This book is the best available on the subject.

BUT to really fully grasp the sundial you need to know about the celestial sphere model and how the heavens work. Unfortunately this sea captain's explanations on this subject, although complete and correct, are very difficult to follow. He strives to be succinct, and if you already know what he is talking about (which he clearly does) he achieves his goal... but if you don't you will be more than a little lost.
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Format: Paperback
This book is another of the must-have's for anyone interested in understanding or building sundials. It has a lot of the theory behind how they work and how to make some of the different types of dials. I recommend this title highly!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While the contents of the book are good, this edition in kindle (currently August, 2014) is rather ugly.
Some formulae are written as text, but others are only scanned and the text size is very small. Figures are also scanned.
The main problem arise in the main text: there are a lot of typos. The text seems scanned and procesed by an OCR so producing many typos. For example a year is printed (tSo6) while I figure out the original is (1506).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book describes every type of sundial imaginable. Some of the math involved is formidable, but measuring time by the sun --and the moon, surprise, surprise-- formed the basis of our civilization.
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