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Bill Thayer

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Richard Hinckley Allen:
Star Names — Their Lore and Meaning

Assessment

Allen rendered a very valuable service to those of us interested in the nomenclature and historical evolution of the constellations and their stars. His book is a mine (or maybe a minefield!) of varied information not only on its primary subject, but also here and there on ancient myth and religion, folklore, astrology both modern and ancient, the heroic age of modern astronomy, and the occasional bit of botany or zoology.

Inevitably, though, in a work of such magnitude, and one that is now already over a hundred years old, there will be room for fault. The three principal shortcomings of the book are that it is not as systematic as the subject deserves, sometimes a downright jumble of ancient languages and afterthoughts and digressions and backtracking; that the astronomy predates Palomar and the Hubble telescope, radar and quasars, by decades and decades and is best taken lightly, as a window into the late 19c rather than into the stuff of the Universe; and, most seriously, that the sources are condensed, for the most part uncited, and — worst of all — trusted.

Now Allen's Latin and Greek are usually unexceptionable: I will vouch for that — wishing only that he had chosen to cite Firmicus Maternus and Vettius Valens as well as Manilius, and Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos as well as the Almagest. But my own languages run out at about the same point as his: yet it's obvious even to the casual reader that for Arabic and, a fortiori, such languages as Chinese and Khorasmian, he relies heavily on secondary and tertiary sources; during the course of my transcription, I rather quickly started wondering just how accurate he is in this regard. My suspicions were confirmed: you owe it to yourself to read Gary Thompson's excellent critique, in which we are provided with more up-to‑date and reliable alternatives to Allen's book; his entire site is full of solid and interesting information on the evolution of astronomy and some of its by-ways: you'll be forgiven if you now skip mine altogether.

If, however, you do stick around, at least two further caveats: references to Pliny are suspect, i.e., statements are often ascribed to him which are not his; and you should disregard the fabulously early dates assigned by Allen to Greek temples. The temple of Hera at Olympia, for example, which he assigns to 1445 B.C. (p468), dates to only about 600 B.C.

Table of Contents

The page numbers of the print edition, given in the right-hand column, link to the corresponding webpages.

Introduction

v

The Solar Zodiac

1

The Lunar Mansions

7

The Constellations

10

Andromeda

31

Antinoüs

40

Antlia Pneumatica

42

Apus

43

Aquarius

45

Aquila

55

Ara

61

Argo Navis

64

Aries

75

Auriga

83

Boötes

92

Caelum

107

Camelopardalis

135

Cancer

107

Canes Venatici

114

Canis Major

117

Canis Minor

131

Capricornus

135

Cassiopeia

142

Centaurus

148

Cepheus

155

Cerberus

159

Cetus

160

Chamaeleon

165

Circinus

166

Columba Noae

166

Coma Berenices

168

Corona Australis

172

Corona Borealis

174

Corvus

179

Crater

182

Crux

184

Custos Messium

191

Cygnus

192

Delphinus

198

Dorado

201

Draco

202

Equuleus

212

Equuleus Pictoris

214

Eridanus

215

Felis

220

Fornax

221

Frederici Honores

221

Gemini

222

Globus Aerostaticus

237

Grus

237

Hercules

238

Horologium

246

Hydra

246

Hydrus

250

Indus

246

Lacerta

251

Leo

252

Leo Minor

263

Lepus

264

Libra

269

Lupus

278

Lynx

279

Lyra

280

Machina Electrica

289

Microscopium

289

Monoceros

289

Mons Maenalus

290

Mons Mensae

291

Musca Australis

291

Musca Borealis

292

Noctua

292

Norma et Regula

293

Nubeculae Magellani

295

Octans

296

Officina Typographica

297

Ophiuchus

297

Orion

303

Pavo

320

Pegasus

321

Perseus

329

Phoenix

335

Pisces

336

Piscis Australis

344

Piscis Volans

347

Psalterium Georgii

347

Pyxis

348

Quadrans

348

Reticulum

348

Robur Carolinum

349

Sagitta

349

Sagittarius

351

Sceptrum Brandenburgicum

360

Scorpio

360

Sculptor

372

Scutum Sobiescianum

373

Serpens

374

Sextans

376

Solarium

377

Tarandus

377

Taurus — The Hyades — The Pleiades

378

Taurus Poniatovii

413

Telescopium

414

Telescopium Herschelii

414

Triangulum

414

Triangulum Minor

417

Triangulum Australe

417

Tucana

417

Turdus

418

Ursa Major

419

Ursa Minor

447

Virgo

460

Vulpecula

473

The Galaxy

474

Technical Details

Edition Used

The 1963 Dover Books reprint, "an unabridged and corrected republication of the first edition of the work first published in by G. E. Stechert in 1899, under the former title: Star-Names and Their Meanings." (The "corrected" gave me pause, until I was assured by Prof. Thompson's review that only minor grammatical corrections are meant.)

Proofreading

As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined; and in this particular case, with its minute diacritical-rich transliterations of Arabic and other languages, scanning would have produced a horrible hash requiring more time to set right than just typing it correctly from the git-go.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. I run a first proofreading pass immediately after entering each section; then a second proofreading, detailed and meant to be final: in the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe them to be completely errorfree; red backgrounds would mean that the section had not received that second final proofreading. The header bar at the top of each webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The print edition seems to have been very well proofread, or at least, taking into consideration the many rather exotic languages called upon, there are very few errors I could recognize or fix. When I could fix them, I did, marking the correction each time with one of these: º. If for some reason I could not fix the error or merely suspected one, it is marked º: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles. Very occasionally, also, I use this blue circle to make some brief comment.

Inconsistencies or errors in punctuation are remarkably few; they have been corrected to the author's usual style, in slightly brighter blue — barely noticeable on the page when it's a comma for example like this one, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, apparently duplicated citations, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic ‑‑> in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

Pagination and Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is indicated in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this linep57): it's hardly fair to give you "pp53‑56" as a reference and not tell you where p56 ends. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. (If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.) Finally, on a very occasional basis so far, I've tracked down some of the citations and inserted them, as links, directly into Allen's text but always clearly differentiated from it by [this format]; I may do more.



[image ALT: A drawing of the head and shoulders of a ram, although softer and fuzzier than that animal is usually depicted; its face is marked by several stars. It is a detail of the constellation Aries from a 17c star atlas, the Harmonia macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius, and serves as an icon for this subsite.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a color-edited detail of the constellation Aries from the plate entitled Haemisphaerium stellatum boreale antiquum in the Harmonia Macrocosmica, a star atlas first published in Amsterdam in 1660 by Andreas Cellarius; the edition was a success — the plates are splendid — and it was immediately reprinted the following year.


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Site updated: 5 Mar 13