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A friend lent me an interesting book in about 1985 that was a fictional history of spaceflight from 2000-2100.

It was a largish book, with full-color full-page graphics, with only a couple paragraphs of explanatory notes per page. It covered our contact with Alpha Centauri, the development of various spaceflight technologies like new engines, and new spaceships developed for certain wars which happened.

The last half-dozen or so pages were dedicated to alien derelict spacecraft that we had come across, and the mysteries surrounding them. I remember that one of the derelict alien spacecraft was organic, and another one was semi-transparent like a 3-D hologram.

The book did not seem old-fashioned at the time, so I would guess it was from the early 1980's perhaps. In other words, it definitely wasn't 60's- or early 70's-era art or concepts.

Unfortunately I don't remember the name, author, or much of any wording from inside, other than our first contact being with a civilization from Alpha Centauri.

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  • I was just writing a post to find this book! Glad someone beat me to it. The unknown spacecraft in the last few pages were also very memorable to me—especially the translucent spacecraft and the cities on pillars. I loved the mystery of those as a child. Jul 27, 2021 at 20:54

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This is almost definitely Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD (a "Terran Trade Authority Handbook" - Wikipedia link)

The book opens with an Introduction that details the highlights of the 21st century, specifically with reference to ships, engines and interstellar contacts:

Although the principles of nuclear drive systems had been put into practice as far back as the late 1980s, the work done by the McKinley Corporation, who produce the Ion Ultradrive engine, transformed them into highly efficient and economical power sources, and many of today's ships are equipped with engines that are virtually identical to those introduced in 2013. More important still was the the invention of the Warp Generator by Henri deVass fourteen years later.

[...]

Nevertheless, the deVass Generator opened the road to the stars and led to our first contact with an alien intelligence.

In 2036, a manned survey ship made contact with the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri, 4.3 light years away, and this meeting led to a happy and rewarding association. In 2045 the Trade and Technology Exchange Agreement was signed with the Alpha Centaurians, and one of the most important benefits we gained was the acquisition of anti-gravity techniques. These were successfully brought together in 2045 by Dr. Hans Berger in his Gravity-Resist Projector, the the form of spacecraft was transformed overnight. Now ships of very large proportions could safely be landed under most gravitational conditions, the Colonial III being a good example of this application.

The next major influence on spacecraft design was due to more unfortunate circumstances. In 2047 one of our survey ships was approaching Proxima Centauri, an inhabited system with which Alpha had a long history of conflict and antagonism, when it was attacked and destroyed. Soon afterwards Alpha was subjected to the worst thermonuclear attack it had ever experienced, this being followed by the destruction of one of our spaceliners with a full complement of passengers. The Proxima War had begun. It was to last for twenty years, during which time a wide variety of military ships was produced by all three Star Systems.

[...]

Ships designed during this era feature strongly in this book. Until the war, space travel was still a fairly limited activity and this was reflected in the comparatively small number of different types of spacecraft. The space war bred dozens of new craft, many of which were adapted for peaceful roles afterwards due to the exigencies of the reconstruction.

Introduction to Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD

Front cover showing a long, basically cylindrical spaceship with complicated surface detailing, a grey with red colour scheme and a prominent green "nose."  The large starship is accompanied by a flight of small 4 dart-like yellow and black ships with short, square wings.  The description of the image reads "Consolidated Aerospace X-800B experimental prototype on its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri in 2099.  Shown here escorted by a flight of Proxima Shark Interceptors.  Illustration by Angus McKie."

The "semi-transparent" ship is probably "Object #1 Barnard's Star" (art by Tony Roberts).

Object #1 Barnards Star:  A triangular prism-shaped ship with a hexagonal "head" and a purple-and-brown colour scheme floats above a red-and-black volcanic looking landscape below a yellow sky and a large red planet or moon.  A twisted spire of black and red rock rises behind the ship, and is partially visible through it.

I think I've finally found the other image you mention "Object #4 Proxima Centauri", also by Tony Roberts:

Object #4 Proxima Centauri, based on the painting "Double Star" by Tony Roberts:  On the left, silhouetted against a cloudy planet are 2 large greenish-black spheres connected by a set of organic-looking tubes that fan out to apparently broken ends on the left.  To the right the tubes merge into an irregular, lumpy, structure that connects to the side of an enormous hollow cylinder.  Beyond a gap, the cylinder appears to have broken off from another, rather longer, cylinder.  The entire structure is streaked with what appear to be rows of glowing windows, and covered with what appear to be stubs of broken-off connections.

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  • Bingo, that is definitely the book. Sorry about the dupe -- I really did do an extensive search for past questions, and on Google. Still somehow missed it.
    – Haydentech
    Dec 6, 2018 at 22:58
  • @DavidW I also have that which I still look at on occasion.
    – dean1957
    Dec 7, 2018 at 1:13
  • Note that the last picture above became the subject of great controversy when an unattributed “reimagining” of it by artist Glenn Brown was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2000 under the title “The Loves of Shepherds”. news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1044375.stm
    – Mike Scott
    Dec 7, 2018 at 6:47

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