Saturday, December 10, 2016

Star Lore of All Ages

William Tyler Olcott - Star Lore of All Ages: A Collection of Myths, Legends, and Facts Concerning the Constellations of the Northern Hemisphere (1911) direct link
Open Library main page

This collection of wide-ranging stories and myths about stars is organized by constellation.  For instance, Gemini has a brief discussion of its history, Roman legends, what cultures such as Eskimo and Indian thought of it, and actual astronomical information.  References are to Horace, Aristotle, Schiller, Homer, Macaulay, Martial, Virgil and Tennyson.  (Material referring to outside Europe generally came from European sources, recent at the time, and probably should be handled with care today.)  It's fascinating browsing.  There's even a section of "minor constellations" that includes Berenice's Hair, Noah's Dove, The Ship Argo and The Fox with the Goose - every single one unknown to me.

William Tyler Olcott (1873-1936) wrote several popular books on astronomy though he was a lawyer by training (and never practiced it).  Despite this description his astronomical work was substantial and respected.  A crater on the moon is named for him.  He lived in the same house in Norwich, Connecticut his entire life.  In 1911 he founded the American Association of Variable Star Observers and served various functions within the organization.