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The Universe Unveiled: Instruments and Images Through History Hardcover – November 13, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

"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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (November 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052179143X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521791434
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
THE UNIVERSE UNVEILED: Instruments and Images Through History is so much more than a 'coffee table book.' The extraordinary photographs of the rare instruments and maps housed in the Adler Planetarium in Chicago illustrate how many are works of art in their own right. The text is concise and richly informative without being overly 'academic.' With all the current emphasis on the space station, exploration of our solar system and the universe itself, this is an excellent chance to see how the fifteenth through nineteenth century people set the stage for our present explorations. Anyone with an interest in the history of astronomy, maritime navigation or earth and planetary mapping will count this as a special addition to their library.
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Format: Hardcover
Anybody with even the remotest interest in astronomy or the histroy of science is going to love looking at the pictures in this book!
Anybody who's familiar with Stephenson's other books, The Music of the Heavens and Kepler's Physical Astronomy, are likely to be disappointed with the text. Those other books are masterpieces of definitive scholarship. The present book is intended to be a popular book, but I was still expecting better explanations. But you will probably be too busy admiring the pictures to notice!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit I bought this mainly for the images of astronomical instruments. I think the authors have put together a lovely romp through astronomical history with this book by not being overly pedantic and yet informative enough to cover the necessary ground and provide the reader with further avenues of exploration should they care to follow them. The pictures alone make the book worth buying. Truly astounding and a pleasure to view.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has a great many beautiful photos of old astronomical instruments. The variety and to some degree the quality, if not the size of the photos rivals those found in my *much* more expensive copy of Dekker's "Globes at Greenwich". The text is competent, but really stands mostly as a stand for the photos, although it's worth noting that there is some explanatory information here I've never seen elsewhere: for example, the description and photos of "volvelles", little working paper models of the heavens included in some rare old books on the heavens. Good book, great value.
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