Sun and Moon: A Story of Astronomy, Photography, and Cartography by Mark Holburn is a sublime history of man and space rendered in gorgeous detail. It will be published in association with the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the Royal Astronomical Society to coincide with NASA's 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
The book itself is the quality you expect from Phaidon: a heavyweight hardback in tailored cardstock jacket, with thick white pages that demand to be turned slowly, the better to take in the high-resolution photographs and Holborn's attentive commentary.
Sun and Moon is structured along the timeline of human history. We begin with a "Lens-less Prelude," tracing mankind's earliest attempts to map the stars across the barrows of Ireland and Egyptian pharaohs' tombs to 7th-century Chinese constellation maps and Johannes Kepler's sketches before ending at the Royal Observatory that King Charles II commissioned in 1675.
This segues into the development of lenses and expansive new ways of seeing that developed hand-in-hand with the full flowering of perspective in art – the ability to intellectualize depth – and the subsequent experiments in visual illusions that came into vogue. Next follows navigation across uncharted waters as sailors discovered new worlds strung together by the stars and the tools both old and new they developed to find their way there and back again.
We are then brought to humanity's enduring fascination with our closest celestial neighbor: the Moon, starting first with 18th-century renderings of the lunar surface made possible by further developments in the telescope. Some drawings are so extraordinarily detailed that they are mistaken for photographs. The advent of photography brings us still closer, and then it is one small step to the dawn of the space age featuring photographs of the first rockets and launch pads, lunar landings and spacesuits.
Sun and Moon: A Story of Astronomy, Photography and Cartography, Mark Holborn, Phaidon (in association with The Royal Observatory, Greenwich and The Royal Astronomical Society);
Hubble view of auroras on Jupiter, 2016 (left), Hubble view of Mars, 2003 (right), pages 326-327
Sun and Moon draws to a close far beyond the reaches of our solar system with the most awe-inspiring images ever captured in space. Holborn leads us on a narrative of natural boundaries and their symbolism across cultures before bringing the story to the Hubble Telescope and what it means to see beyond the limits of all lands. Here we have full-page photographs of spiral galaxies and bursting stars, nebulae and the Martian surface – all in rich and glowing color.
One final image is especially symbolic: a two-page spread of the Milky Way wheeling above the Atacama Large Millimeter Array – 66 telescopes trained on the sky, piercing deeper into the black than we ever have before, watching and listening for our next quantum leap.