Review of Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time by Michael Benson

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 135, 1247, 222 (August 2015)

This is a book review of Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time by Michael Benson. In the foreword, Gingerich describes this book as `an extraordinary visual sampling of the human response to the beauty and mystery of the heavens', and indeed it is. There are illustrations based on myths and illustrations based on science, with the latter becoming more common as time increases throughout each chapter. There are no photographs (neither of the traditional type nor of the modern version, a JPEG file made from data collected by an electronic detector): most images are from the time before photography was invented, but those from the time after its invention are drawings, paintings, or computer graphics (based on observations or simulations). The lesser-known images are by no means less interesting, but rather a treasure trove of pictures which depict humanity's ideas about the cosmos as much as the cosmos itself. The lack of photographs means that there is practically no overlap between this book and other coffee-table books featuring images from Hubble etc. This is a beautiful book, very well produced, and surprisingly inexpensive considering the large size, number of pages, and number and quality of (mostly colour) images. I highly recommend it to everyone interested in astronomy, art, and/or the history of either.

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