This book is an unusual, carefully crafted look at an unfortunately little-known subject. Richard Hinkley Allen shares with us his research into the ancient names carried by our stars... He delves into the etymologies of dozens, or more likely hundreds of stars, and also of constellations. The book starts out with two brief sections discussing features of the Zodiac as a whole, then goes into great detail about each constellation in the sky, zodiacal or otherwise. He draws upon mythology and folklore from the Chinese, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Old Norse, Hebrews, Celts, many Native American peoples, Assyrians, etc... There are a few problems with nineteenth century terminology for the modern reader, such as calling Mesopotamian peoples "Euphratean," and frequently the spellings Allen uses are no longer accepted, but, well, I for one don't care about that. This just a gem of a book, that's all there is to it.
If you're like me, you may find yourself startled at how many of the stars carry Arabic names, which Europe adapted in the later Middle Ages. Somehow, that makes me wonder if that obscure fact could somehow help bring about some peace and mutual understanding between the West and the Islamic world... Anyway, I wanted to also mention that if you happen to get really into this stuff, and want to do further research, you could do a lot worse than go online and try to contact a reference librarian at any good divinity school library. That sounds funny, given that this book is about astronomy, and considering the traditional tensions between astronomy and religion, but if you can get access to such a library, you'll be able to leaf through mouldering old dictionaries of many ancient tongues. Especially if the school has offerings in comparative religion. Just a thought. Keep looking up!