Robert Burnham, Jr., spent twenty years at Lowell Observatory participating in a proper motion survey. During his tenure, he wrote this mammoth 3-volume work covering nearly every object visible in 2- to 12-inch telescopes. Each chapter, covering one constellation (both northern and southern hemispheres), begins with a detailed list of all stellar objects (double stars, variable stars, and deep sky objects). Then, he delves, sometimes rather deeply, into the more significant objects of that constellation, bringing together history, philosophy, and science to describe each one. His chapter on Sagittarius, for example, includes a 25-page section on the dense portion of the Milky Way blending current 1970s science with wonderful passages from Greek and Eastern philosophies, Native American legends, and the history of science. His prose for each chapter reflects the content he covers: lyrical prose when describing the "personal" aspects of observing objects, and readable, accessible language to delineate the science behind what we know about objects in the heavens. Moreover, each chapter has photographs of many of the stars and nebulae with telescopes and cameras ranging from a 5-inch astrograph to the 200-inch Hale telescope of Palomar Observatory.
Yes, the book is thirty years old and a little out-of-date. And, the typewritten font looks homely. But that's part of its charm. Burnham initially self-published this very personal book from his kitchen table. Literally. (Astronomy magazine published a very interesting "self-interview" by Burnham in March, 1982 which provides some background on his struggles to get it published.) From a small-press run of looseleaf copies in binders, it became somewhat of a cult classic among amateurs because nothing as detailed like this had been published before. (True, T.W. Webb's "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes" was available, but it was last published in 1917.)
I know of no other book that combines personal, reflective commentary on "mundane" objects like the Big Dipper (officially, the Ursa Major Moving Cluster), and clear, concise descriptions of variable stars, Hertzsprung-Russell diagrams, and finder charts for objects like 3C273, the brightest quasar visible to amateur-sized scopes. (Trust me: spend the 30-minutes or so tracking this last one down at a star party and you'll have a line of folks waiting to look at a faint star-like object, the light of which left 3C273 long before the earth was even formed.)
One side note: if you're interested in the rather tragic life of Burnham, search for "Sky Writer", an article by Tony Ortega, published in the Phoenix, AZ "New Times" newspaper for September 25-October 1, 1997. All readers of Celestial Handbook owe Ortega a nod for the herculean task of piecing together Burnham's life.