"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Space Is Really Big

I’ve added another fine book to my personal library of space literature with the bargain purchase of “Space: The Ultimate Frontier” by Michael Sharpe from the British Heart Foundation charity bookshop.
OK, so there was some water damage to this book but it wasn’t too bad and the book cost just £4.50. To put this in context, new the book costs almost £30 and even good condition second hand copies go for about £25. Why is this book so expensive? Well, it is enormous coming in at a massive 59cm x 43cm x 2.5 cm, so it’s over half a meter high. I think a pictorial example of exactly how big this book is would be helpful at this point.
See what I mean, it’s huge. As well as the slight water damage to this copy, I have discovered online that there are some errors in the text with some later editions of the book coming with an update sheet to correct them, which my second hand copy doesn’t have but really, look at the size of it. And the photos inside are marvellous.
The book covers all the manned space flights from Gagarin’s historic Vostok 1 in 1961 to China’s second manned space flight in Shenzhou 6 in October 2005. It also includes a couple of X-15 sub-orbital flights, so it’s pretty extensive. However, it’s the large scale photos that really make it.
And all for just under a fiver. Bargain. One online reviewer of the book says he keeps his copy in the corner of a room and turns a new page over every day, which seems like a splendid idea to me. However, I’m not sure we’ve got a room in the house where we could do that at the moment. Oh well.
Buying this book has reminded me again of a question I ask myself from time to time; why do I keep buying so many books? I’ve bought and read a large number of books on the subject of the space race and have several more waiting to be read. I also intend to buy yet others and read them too. However, I also have a large number of books on many other subjects, some I’ve read, many I haven’t. Surely it would make much more sense to just borrow books from the local library when I actually have the time to read them. I’d save a small fortune and have less clutter in the house. I can’t even use the old argument of having them to hand for reference purposes, not since the introducing of the world wide web.
No, there really isn’t a justification for it at all when you think about it rationally. But as I’ve mentioned before, I really do enjoy the process of browsing in bookshops, an exercise made all the more pleasurable when it’s for something in particular; the thrill of the chase and all that. But also, how wonderful to come across an unexpected delight, as in the case of my most recent and oversized purchase. It may not be my only vice but as vices go it’s not such a bad one, is it? If all I leave this world when I die is a house full of books, well, that’s not such a bad legacy really.


  1. Love this one Gary - the post AND the book.

    How about posting a list somewhere of all your space books ? It would be a good checking point for people ( like me ) who might come across a book and wonder if you already have it. It might take a while to list them but once it's done it would be easy to keep up-to-date. Simples !

  2. I've seen that book and its normal size, your just very small.