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Landmarks in the History of Science » Physics-Astronomy » Very rare first edition self-published in loose-leaf format 1966, Flagstaff, Arizona: Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Very rare first edition self-published in loose-leaf format 1966, Flagstaff, Arizona: Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Autor: Robert Burnham, Jr.
Cod: 11483
In stoc: Da

Detalii produs

'’We are beginning a journey. It will be a journey both strange and wonderful. In our tour of the Universe we will travel the vast empty pathways of limitless space and explore the uncharted wilderness of creation. Here, in the dark unknown immensity of the heavens, we shall meet with glories beyond description and witness scenes of inexpressible splendor. In the great black gulfs of space and in the realm of innumerable stars, we shall find mysteries and wonders undreamed of. And when we return to Earth, we shall try to remember something of what we have learned about the incredible Universe which is our home.’’


             Robert Burnham, Introduction to Celestial Handbook


''Astronomy is now Big Science. Nobody ever looks at a star except to set the automatic guider for the spectrophotometer. A real astronomer may do research for years and scarcely ever see the actual night sky.


And your reply to that?


I said if the astronomy had really come to that, I would seriously suggest that all the great telescopes be locked up for a few decades so that the rest of us might have our stars back again.


You are primarily an observer.


Yes, I don’t see the universe chiefly as a huge heap of row data waiting to be fed into a computer. Collecting factual data is fine. I do it too. But the heart and core of astronomy, to me, is the direct experience of the universe. All the factual information in the world is no substitute for that.''


         Burnham’s self-interview (1983)


''Celestial Handbook by Robert Burnham, Jr. is rarely compared to other books because there simply is none other like it. No other popular work approaches its utility and completeness; few other scientific texts contain its sense of wonder and even spirituality.’' 

             Tony Ortega, The Sky Writer: The cosmic life of Celestial Handbook author: 


 ''Robert Burnham, Jr. was quite literally, a man 'lost in the stars'. Born in Prescott, AZ in 1931, he progressed no farther than high school, graduating in 1949. A shy, retiring type, he had few friends, fewer romantic relationships, and spent most of this time under the stars with his homemade telescope. Little of consequence happened in his rather closed world until the fall of 1957, when he discovered his first of six comets, and attracted the attention of the media, local politicians, and the staff of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. They were all impressed that a man with no professional training, and a very modest telescope, could have achieved what astronomers in the world great observatories had failed to do. Ultimately he was offered a job at Lowell... 

His specialty was proper motion studies of the stars, a tedious and time-consuming process of measuring the infinitely slow crawl of stars across the sky over periods of many years.


What all the tedium brought Burnham was an intimate knowledge of the celestial sphere that was matched by few, if any, observers at any level. It was this uncommon familiarity that enabled him to launch the beginning of his handbooks, published simply in loose-leaf form in 1966. He worked tirelessly on them, spending virtually all of his free time on their compilation. It certainly didn't have to hurt to have at his disposal all of the resources of Lowell, a world famous observatory (where the planet  Pluto had been discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, using some of the same photographic plates that Burnham used years later).


Unfortunately for Burnham, he was a bit too confident about his position at Lowell, and always felt that the observatory would sponsor, or at least professionally endorse, his publication. The observatory management, however, was actually irritated by the initial and growing success of Burnham's Guides. He was not a trained professional, after all, and so observatory was reluctant to grant its stamp of approval. Nor would it help Burnham get the work published for a larger market. So Burnham set about getting his masterpiece published himself, finally striking a deal with Dover Publication in New York for a three volume paperback edition, released in 1978. The series was a near instant success...


But as his two decade long proper motion studies were finally coming to an end, and there was no funding for additional work (the observatory was actually broke), Burnham was fired in 1980. Despite 22 years of service, and a knowledge of the heavens surpassing that of his professionally trained peers, the Lowell directors  offered him nothing other than a caretaker's position. So Burnham left in disgust, his spirit broken and his nightly link to the stars he loved severed.''


               Doug Stewart, Lost in the Stars - Remembering Robert Burnham, Jr.


Burnham's Celestial Handbook. An Observer's Guide to the Universe Beyond the Solar System. Very rare 1st Edition, 1966-1973, self-published in loose-leaf format, Celestial Handbook Publications, Flagstaff, Arizona. Sections I-V in 4 binders, complete set: Section I (1966) together with Section II (1966) in the same binder, Section III (1967), Section IV (1969) and Section V (1973); p. 930. Ex library. Fine condition.


Price: USD 5,000,000.00