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General Astronomy => Beginners Forum => Topic started by: Santosh Wolf on December 24, 2017, 02:00:37 PM

Title: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Santosh Wolf on December 24, 2017, 02:00:37 PM
Only got the first volume of Burnham's Celestial Handbook this day, and all I can say is WOW!  What an undertaking!  What a plethora of information!  What good descriptive commentary and background!  I'm currently hooked.

It is a really terrific read.  Very intriguing stuff.

BUT - ow!  My eyes!  A typewriter?  Really?  Come on!

I notice that I happen to have bought the 1978 "Revised and Enlarged Edition"; and there was a previous 1966 variant listed in the copyright info.  Evidently, this means there were buyers of this first variant to justify another version.  Isn't it time to get a third variant?

Is there no strategy, no movement, nothing in the works to upgrade this fine reference again for the 21st century?  There have to be 10 times as many amateur astronomers today as there were nearly 40 decades ago.  There would still be a market for a volume (well, three actually) such as this.

And they can do so much more with it to make it considerably more attractive - the least of which are a better typeface, but also colour photos of these objects, better charts, and updated info about the things which have shifted from the past nearly 40 decadesago  Keep all his prose but make the rest of it better.  I would imagine that all of the info that he provided on the double/variable stars might easily be pulled from computer databases and plugged to the book today.  New charts are a computer click away.

The Whole collection seems to be available at Google Books, here:

http://books.google....epage&q&f=false (http://books.google.com/books?id=T8wO7M8QrmEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Burnham%27s+celestial+handbook#v=onepage&q&f=false)

So that I can't imagine there are that much trouble with copyright issues.

What do folks think about it?
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: taccihalmo on December 27, 2017, 10:04:54 PM
Well, in my opinion only, it is an amazing work written by an amazing, and regrettably misunderstood, person (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Burnham,_Jr.) who never really received the credit that he deserved.

I think that Burnham's books should be left as they are as a legacy to the man who created them.

I would, however, love to see more books written in that style. I have enjoyed Steven O'Meara's Deep Sky Companions series for similar reasons.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: taccihalmo on December 28, 2017, 11:49:51 AM
Jon, There is an interesting thread about Burnham's here....

http://www.cloudynig...ndbook-digital/ (http://www.cloudynights.com/topic/278365-burnhams-celestial-handbook-digital/)

Michael
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Tim Jauregui on December 31, 2017, 04:57:56 PM
What Ken said, basically. There are plenty of contemporary works with similar and updated information, if that's what you want. To make changes to Burnham's would be like defacing a work of art.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: guizietropid on January 04, 2018, 06:11:11 AM
I'm totally with Ken. Burnham's is a classic of the era and as such should not be tampered with. Any future edition should be reproduced in the same fashion as the original. There are plenty of other more recent celestial "guides" available for those troubled by how Burnham's is presented on the page.

Incidentally, I was among those few receiving the original work in its serialized version by subscription back more than 50 years ago and consider it just as useful and readable, as is, as it was when I first got the installments from Burnham himself.

BrooksObs
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Mortimer Concepcion on January 08, 2018, 12:45:56 AM
Me three.
Don't change a thing.
The present edition reads beautifully.

I respect that some folks suggest a data tweak.
But marketeers improving it?
It ain't broke, and just does not need to be fixed.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: ransgesislu on January 09, 2018, 03:52:02 AM
The door is open for you to step up.......that's how Burnham did it.....he just sit down and did it.........and we ALL are indebted to his works.......don't worry about the font, but bask in the content.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: riaherrvodo on January 10, 2018, 04:26:30 AM
I have the 1978 version in three hardcover volumes.....a nice read. Received them thru a book club...

Good viewing,

Dave
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: writgobetfcoo on January 10, 2018, 06:29:58 AM
someone awhile back asked, What's the BIBLE of astronomy, this would've been my answer.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Shane Proulx on January 10, 2018, 10:48:58 PM
Quote
You guys are all stick-in-the-muds! 

Quote

someone awhile back asked, What's the BIBLE of astronomy, this would've been my answer.


Right Gene, and even the Bible gets updated from time to time: King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, . . .
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: bayretide on January 11, 2018, 06:56:15 AM
your entirely right, but the intent of the book can never be made better by fancy , glossy pages and new cover's. it's the beauty within , and as Yul Brenner has said, So let it be written, so let it be done. Moses, Cecil B DeMille
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Matthew Calhoun on January 12, 2018, 11:29:47 AM
Quote
You guys are all stick-in-the-muds! 

Quote

someone awhile back asked, What's the BIBLE of astronomy, this would've been my answer.


Right Gene, and even the Bible gets updated from time to time: King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, . . .


The difference between those versions of the Bible, is the translations, not the content

If you want updated info, there are new books for that. Burnham's in my view has crossed over into the realm of "classic." No need for it to be tampered with.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Praveen Deel on January 13, 2018, 05:37:16 AM
My first thought was no just leave it be, but the more I think on it, why not?

Steven James O'Meara could do justice to such a project I'm sure.

Updated double star info/orbit diagrams.

Many of his wonderful at the eyepiece sketches.

A comprehensive Index at the back of each volume.

Quality binding and paper. Maybe a Field edition.

I would buy such an updated edition and keep it next to my originals.

Kudos to Jon

Michael.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Cesar Lawhorn on January 14, 2018, 03:30:25 AM
Quote
What Ken said, basically. There are plenty of contemporary works with similar and updated information, if that's what you want. To make changes to Burnham's would be like defacing a work of art.


This is how I see it. There are other, more up to date works that cover much of the same material as Burnham's. One of these is Sanner's two volume set 'The Night Sky Observer' Guide.' It would be a massive job to update Burnham. Although his work is somewhat dated, and as noted, behind the times regarding type fonts and photography, I still enjoy using Burnham's, because it is a classic, and because it still is a very useful work.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: fefeldarsro on January 20, 2018, 06:29:22 PM
Quote
Jon, There is an interesting thread about Burnham's here....

http://www.cloudynig...ndbook-digital/ (http://www.cloudynights.com/topic/278365-burnhams-celestial-handbook-digital/)

Michael

I had no idea it was previously discussed, and at such great length! Fascinating, as someone famous might have said. Thanks for the link.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: pernogori on January 20, 2018, 11:24:27 PM
A brilliant, charming, and informative masterpiece, by a very bright and humble astronomer. I still use my handbook to this day for double star and general astronomical information. I perfer keeping Robert Burnham's magnum opus the way it is.

Bill
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Gandza Startley on January 21, 2018, 05:42:55 AM
Quote
Just got the first volume of Burnham's Celestial Handbook this afternoon, and all I can say is WOW! What an undertaking! What a wealth of information! What great descriptive commentary and history! I'm already hooked.

It's really a terrific read. Very interesting stuff.

BUT - ow! My eyes! A typewriter? Really? Come on!

I note that I happen to have bought the 1978 "Revised and Enlarged Edition"; and that there was a previous 1966 edition listed in the copyright info. Obviously, this means there were enough buyers of the first edition to warrant a second edition. Isn't it time for a third edition?

Is there no plan, no movement, nothing in the works to update this fine reference again for the 21st century? There have to be 10 times as many amateur astronomers now as there were almost 40 years ago. There would still be a market for a volume (well, three actually) like this.

And they could do so much more with it to make it vastly more appealing - the least of which would be a better typeface, but also color photos of the objects, better charts, and updated information on the things that have changed in the past almost 40 years. Keep all of his prose but make the rest of it better. I would imagine that all the info he provided on the double/variable stars could easily be pulled off of computer databases and plugged into the book nowadays. New charts are a computer click away.

The entire set seems to be available at Google Books, here:

http://books.google....epage&q&f=false (http://books.google.com/books?id=T8wO7M8QrmEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Burnham%27s+celestial+handbook#v=onepage&q&f=false)

so I can't imagine there would be that much trouble with copyright issues.

What do people think about this?

It'd be great, but won't likely happen.

Burnham has passed, Dover owns the rights, and there's not enough money in a new edition to pay a qualified pro to do a credible update. BCH is a classic of our hobby much like the Iliad is a classic of ancient western culture. Enjoy for what it is, warts and all.

The first edition is rare. It was in binder format I believe.

Your google books link is a preview only. It is a for charge item, not free, and is still protected by Copyright. I have the kindle version of the set (paid). Also there are likely far fewer astronomers today than when the work was authored, believe it or not. We are a dying breed.

Maybe when I retire I'll do an update of Burnham's for my own personal consumption, just for fun. That or sponsor an open source project where a bunch of contributors can work, constellation by constellation, on target list, mythology and star lore, and detailed descriptions of showcase targets on each list.

- Jim
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Anton Yardley on January 23, 2018, 03:10:36 AM
Quote
Quote

What Ken said, basically. There are plenty of contemporary works with similar and updated information, if that's what you want. To make changes to Burnham's would be like defacing a work of art.


This is how I see it. There are other, more up to date works that cover much of the same material as Burnham's. One of these is Sanner's two volume set 'The Night Sky Observer' Guide.' It would be a massive job to update Burnham. Although his work is somewhat dated, and as noted, behind the times regarding type fonts and photography, I still enjoy using Burnham's, because it is a classic, and because it still is a very useful work.
NSOG is now three volumes, by the way. They added the Southern Hemisphere a few years ago. Burnham's, of course, covers all constellations, northern and southern.

The dimension Burnham's adds that is missing from NSOG is the expansive treatment of cultural materials (archaeological, historical, mythological, anthropological, etc.) related to each constellation and the brighter stars therein. Some folks don't care for that aspect, but for me it is by far the best part of the work. I find the science interesting, but not half so much as the human perceptual and conceptual relationship with each constellation through time.

- Jim
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Mayur Wilson on January 23, 2018, 04:42:03 AM
Quote
You guys are all stick-in-the-muds! 


Yeah.
Come to think of it, the Mona Lisa could use repainting with modern clothes, too. And that Sistine Chapel - a fresh coat of paint, and some digital images projected on the ceiling would look much sharper!
And that wrinkly old Declaration of Independence! Some new fonts and hip signatures would do wonders.

Naaahh!
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: tirafarpa on January 23, 2018, 08:57:48 AM
Quote
You guys are all stick-in-the-muds! 

Quote

someone awhile back asked, What's the BIBLE of astronomy, this would've been my answer.


Right Gene, and even the Bible gets updated from time to time: King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New International Version, . . .


Well, when the subject of an update of the work came up, I once asked Brian Skiff of Lowell Observatory if he would consider doing it. He indicated that it would be such an involved task that he couldn't possibly finish it to the degree needed for a true accurate update. It might, as others have pointed out, also alter the prosaic "feel" of the work. Brian though that a completely new and different work loosely based on the basic structure of Burnham's might be a better "from scratch" option rather than trying to update the handbook itself, and I tend to agree with that assessment. For the observer looking for just observational information, there are far better works out there than Burnham's, but none come all that close to creating that wonderful feeling of being lead on an inspiring tour of the heavens better than B.C.H. I vote to leave it alone. Clear skies to you.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: stancacoho on January 31, 2018, 04:16:17 AM
Quote
Quote

You guys are all stick-in-the-muds! 


Yeah.
Come to think of it, the Mona Lisa could use repainting with modern clothes, too. And that Sistine Chapel - a fresh coat of paint, and some digital images projected on the ceiling would look much sharper!
And that wrinkly old Declaration of Independence! Some new fonts and hip signatures would do wonders.

Naaahh!
Hey, guess what? They do touch up the old masters, including the Mona Lisa and the Sistine Chapel. So nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah nyeah! 

For hundreds of years, people were impressed with Michaelangelo's dark colors and moody depictions. Turns out it was all just accumulated dirt over the years, and his colors were bright and happy.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Elijah York on January 31, 2018, 06:24:45 AM
How about just updating the RA and DEC along with the double star info and the like?
Keep everything else the same unless it is outdate.

Just a thought,

Scott
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: Robert Cavalli on January 31, 2018, 12:07:45 PM
Quote
How about just updating the RA and DEC along with the double star info and the like?
Keep everything else the same unless it is outdate.

Just a thought,

Scott

Yeah! This is all I'm really saying. I'm not saying to get rid of any of the guy's descriptions, or prose, or poetry. That's what makes the book. Just make all the numerical info more accurate, update it all to what we know today. I'm not saying that the thing oughta be eviscerated.

Now, it would also be nice if the photos were updated also, nice beautiful glossy color ones, some gorgeous ones from Hubble and such, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means. Ya wanna keep the old photos, fine by me.

But one more thing - change the font into something that's just a tad less harsh. Please?
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: bescoldsearchroom on February 02, 2018, 04:38:46 PM
I have a lot of observing guides on my shelves, and this one is a "historical work" no less than the Reverend Webb's works or Walter Scott Houston's Deep Sky Wonders.
For the modern observer, the prose used and the stories told make the work a wonderful "period piece", to be savored for what it is.
As an observing guide, the more modern ones from Skiff & Luginbuhl or Kepple & Sanner are better guides, and are freer of errors (not completely, however).
There are many on-line guides to objects for those just needing a list (e.g. SAC download list), but Burnham's stands as a decent enough guide for the small scope user, regardless of its 1950 coordinate system and mis-identifications.

No, Burnham's doesn't need updating, any more than one would update Webb's Guides.

How big an observing guide do you really want? A <em class="bbc">complete guide for just an 8" aperture would have three times the number of objects in the NSOG of Kepple &amp; Sanner and 8X the number of objects in Burnham's. What would you do with such a tome? You couldn't use its roughly 6-9 volumes in the field.

So how many objects do you want in an observing guide? 1000? 2000? 5000? The 100,000 in reach of a 20" scope?
For my 12.5", though the Venn diagrams of "What's visible in the aperture?" and "What shows in the atlas?" don't completely overlap, Uranometria 2000.0 and the Deep Sky Field Guide to the atlas come close to an observing list for the scope. I can imagine what the Burnham's Guide would look like for that aperture. Eek! It would have almost twenty times the number of objects as Burnham's. That would fill an entire shelf in a library. I wouldn't want it, and don't need it. Burnham's is just right the way it is.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: hutualyli on February 02, 2018, 10:03:02 PM
Quote
Quote
How about just updating the RA and DEC along with the double star info and the like?Keep everything else the same unless it is outdate.Just a thought,Scott
Yeah! This is all I'm really saying. I'm not saying to get rid of any of the guy's descriptions, or prose, or poetry. That's what makes the book. Just make all the numerical info more accurate, update it all to what we know today.
It would be easy enough to change the 1950 RA and Dec to 2000, but I'm not sure there would be much of a benefit. How many people use setting circles on equatorial mounts these days?And I'm not at all sure that the double-star data today is any better than it was in Burnham's day.<p class="citation">QuoteNow, it would also be nice if the photos were updated also, nice beautiful glossy color ones, some gorgeous ones from Hubble and such, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means. Ya wanna keep the old photos, fine by me.[/quote]A lot of people complain about glossy photos in observing guides -- for good reason. They give a very false impression of what objects look like through the eyepiece. Granted, the old B+W photos in Burnham's aren't a whole lot closer to what you see through an eyepiece. And they do carry less information -- not because they're B+W, which is arguably a good thing, but because they're too contrasty. It's much easier to handle a wide range of brightness in electronic images than on film.<p class="citation">QuoteBut one more thing - change the font into something that's just a tad less harsh. Please?[/quote]Typewritten text gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I would hate to change this.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: lehroldwebbdep on February 04, 2018, 11:38:02 AM
I can state without hesitation that a glossier "update" would never find a place on my bookshelf.
Title: Re: An update to Burnham's? Whaddaya say?
Post by: renjaysunsdis on February 09, 2018, 10:46:32 AM
Quote
Although his work is somewhat dated, and as noted, behind the times regarding type fonts and photography, I still enjoy using Burnham's, because it is a classic, and because it still is a very useful work.

Since I expect the photography was state of the art when it was printed, I value the comparison with the photos I make in my own backyard with a 4" scope and a DSLR.