Moon: Nature and Culture

By Ian Welland

Moon_Nature_and_Culture_420x586Author: Edgar Williams
Publisher: Reaktion Books
ISBN: 978-1-78023-281-2
Price: £14.95 (Pb); 200pp

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Ever since man walked on the Earth, there has been a fascination with the Moon. Psychologically, philosophically and spiritually, the Moon has been and remains part of our lives as new science emerges about our nearest neighbour in space. This is the basis in which Edgar William’s book is pitched.

This book is a fireside read – one for the rainy nights when observing is not possible. It is highly entertaining and full of excellent images that will delight. I particularly like the inclusion of paintings that might not be seen in our national galleries but capture the context of the Earth-Moon relationship perfectly.

The spiritually curious will be drawn to the debates on ‘The Man in the Moon’ and the Moon’s association with ‘Lunacy.’ There are several accounts and depictions of where both aspects have merged and conveniently been used in cultural activities in some cases for ridicule and persecution. Various cultures that across our planet have drawn on the legend of the ‘Man in the Moon’ and the behaviour of the Moon in terms of its phases, the Inuit Moon Mask featured in the book being a case in point.

The astronomy mentioned in the book is subtle but not without controversy. Being a ‘Herschelian’ scholar, I naturally saluted the inclusion of William Herschel’s infamous 1787 declaration of active volcanoes. There is a supporting cast, which includes Johann Schröter’s reports of green fields on the lunar surface in c.1790. This section of the book showed the author had done extensive research. Nonetheless, for those wishing for a full scientific account of the Moon, I’m afraid this book is not for you. However, if it is a cultural and historical account of our interpretation of the Moon, then this book will more than do the job.

Reviewed by Ian Welland