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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 131

    GALILEI, Galileo. Difesa di Galileo Galilei ... contro alle calunnie & imposture di Baldessar Capra. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, 1607.

    Price Realised  


    GALILEI, Galileo. Difesa di Galileo Galilei ... contro alle calunnie & imposture di Baldessar Capra. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, 1607.

    4o (216 x 159 mm). Woodcut vignette on title, woodcut printer's device on colophon page. 9 woodcut diagrams in text. (Some very minor spotting.) Contemporary Italian limp vellum; black morocco backed folding case.


    VERY RARE FIRST EDITION of Galileo's second published work, and his first engagement in print in the kind of polemic later seen in Il Saggiatore (see lot 136). Of the greatest interest for the history of 17th-century intellectual property, intimately tied to the development of the proportional compass, and for an early printed exposition of Galileo's views of the nova of 1604. (See Kepler lot 203 for his observations). Around 1597, Galileo developed a proportional compass or sector which in reducing the task of calculation revolutionized practical mathematics. Galileo was not the originator of the proportional compass, which was first developed by Commandino prior to 1568, but Galileo's version included numerous additions and improvements that rendered it the most useful mathematical instrument of its period and even beyond -- as calculating device, Galileo's compass remained unsurpassed until the advent of the slide rule in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1606, to secure a defacto form of copyright of his instrument, which was already beginning to be imitated, Galileo published a description of it, Le operazione del compasso geometrico issued in 60 copies (see previous lot). As not infrequently happened in such cases before the advent of formal copyright, the publication had the opposite effect and inspired yet other pirates, among them a certain Baldessar Capra. Capra's offense was two-fold: first, he had plagiarized Galileo's proportional compass, translating Galileo's tract into Latin under his own name. Second, he manufactured and sold the instrument, encroaching on what had previously been Galileo's monopoly. More than the financial loss, however, was the threat to Galileo's prestige: as Capra's book contained a claim to priority of invention, it made a direct assault on Galileo's integrity, particularly as it implied that in dedicating the Compasso to Cosimo de Medici, Galileo was dedicating what was not his to give. Galileo took legal action against Capra and won -- all copies of Capra's book were suppressed, and Galileo published the Difesea ... contro alla calumnie & imposture di Baldessare Capra exonerating himself in the affair. The work reprints testimonials on Galileo's behalf, previously aired in a tribunal in Venice in which Capra was utterly disgraced -- his book confiscated and Capra himself expelled from the university. Galileo also replies to Capra's criticisms of his views made earlier in public lecture on the nova: these included the view that from the lack of parallax, the new star must be at enormous distance from the earth, a notion in conflict with the orthodox Ptolemaic-Aristotelian theory. Bedini Science and Instruments in Seventeenth-Century Italy I pp.262-68; Carli and Favaro 27; Cinti 19; Drake Galileo Galilei, Operations of the Geometric and Military Compass p.25; Riccardi I:507.

    [Bound after:]

    GALILEI, Galileo. Discorso al serenissimo Don Cosimo Il Gran Duca di Toscana intorno alle cose, che stanno in s l'acqua, che in quella si muovono... Seconda editione. Florence: Cosimo Giunti, 1612.

    4o. Italic type, revised passages in roman type, woodcut of Medici arms on title, 16 woodcut text diagrams, printer's large woodcut device on recto of final leaf, woodcut initials. (Some minor foxing.)

    Second edition, extensively revised, and with additional woodcuts, of Galileo's important treatise on hydrostatics, constituting his first direct attack on Aristotelian science. Galileo's challenge to orthodoxy raised a furor and the first edition, published earlier the same year (see lot 133), was quickly sold out. For the second edition Galileo expanded upon certain passages that he deemed unclear, without altering the original text, as explained in the publisher's preface. The additional passages are innovatively printed in a different typeface to facilitate identification. M. Biagioli, Galileo Courtier (Chicago, 1993), chapter 3, passim; Carli and Favaro 48; Cinti 35; Norman 856; Riccardi I, 509.

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