• Beautiful Evidence: The Librar auction at Christies

    Sale 2400

    Beautiful Evidence: The Library of Edward Tufte

    2 December 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 13

    GALILEI, Galileo (1564-1642). Sidereus nuncius magna, longeque admirabilia spectacula pandens. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, 1610.

    Price Realised  


    GALILEI, Galileo (1564-1642). Sidereus nuncius magna, longeque admirabilia spectacula pandens. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, 1610.

    4o (218 x 163 mm). Baglioni's woodcut device on title, woodcut headpiece and initial, 5 half-page etchings in the text showing the lunar surface and phases, 3 woodcut text diagrams, 3 woodcut star maps, one covering 1 pages, and 65 one-line typographical diagrams showing the varying positions of Jupiter and its moons. This copy with the pasted cancel slip, correcting "Cosmica" to "Medicea" in the heading on B1r. (Occasional very faint marginal dampstaining, quire F slightly foxed.) Contemporary limp vellum, titles of both works ink-lettered on spine (a few worm-tracks to lower cover). Provenance: Haskell F. Norman (bookplate; his sale Christie's New York, 16 June 1998, lot 454).

    FIRST EDITION OF THE FOUNDATION WORK OF MODERN ASTRONOMY, CONTAINING THE FIRST ACCOUNT OF ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES MADE WITH THE TELESCOPE. "In late 1609, Galileo constructed a telescope and soon 'made more discoveries that changed the world than anyone has ever made before or since' (Swerdlow, p.245). The Starry Messenger, published in March 1610, announced the discovery of craters on the moon, a multitude of stars beyond those few seen by unaided eyes, and the 4 satellites of Jupiter. More importantly, the book 'told the learned community that a new age had begun and that the universe and the way in which it was studied would never be the same' (Van Helden, vii)... What Hypnerotomachia (1499) is to the design of word-image narrative in fiction, Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius [The Starry Messenger] (1610) is to nonfiction. Both books describe wonderful new objects and narrate complex events; both weave words around images together in elegant and vivid arrangements. Of course the substance differs: Hypnerotomachia is limited because the stuff must be made up; The Starry Messenger adds several orders of magnitude to understanding Nature's amazing reality" (Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, p.97).

    Having learned from Paolo Sarpi in 1609 of the invention by Hans Lipperhey of a device for making distant objects appear closer, Galileo set out to construct his own instrument. Within a few months he had improved his first nine-power instrument to one of about thirty-power, the practicable limit for a telescope of that type (with plano-convex objective and plano-concave eyepiece). He first turned his telescope to the heavens in early January 1610 "...with startling results. Not only was the moon revealed to be mountainous and the Milky Way to be a congeries of separate stars, contrary to Aristotelian principles, but a host of new fixed stars and four satellites of Jupiter [which he named the Medicea Sidera in honor of Cosimo II de' Medici] were promptly discovered. Working with great haste but impressive accuracy, Galileo recited these discoveries in the Sidereus nuncius, published at Venice early in March 1610" (DSB).

    "Sidereus Nuncius presents its evidence in 78 images and drawings, all tightly integrated within their explanatory text, that cover 30 of the printed area in the book's 60 pages... To depict this level of detail, Galileo personally financed the copper engravings for his images of the moon that appeared in Sidereus Nuncius... Scholars have compared Galileo's images with modern photographs. The 1610 engravings qualitatively picture the actual moon, except the big crater is way too big, a deliberate local enlargement designed to portray oerative details of light and shadow" (Tufte, Beautiful Evidence, pp.97-98). Beautiful Evidence describes the remarkable integration of text and image in Sidereus Nuncius on pages 97-109.
    A VERY FINE COPY. Cinti 26; Dibner Heralds of Science 7; Grolier/Horblit 35; PMM 113; Norman 855.

    [Bound with:]

    DOMINIS, Marko Antonije (1560-1626). De radiis visus et lucis in vitris perspectivis et iride tractatus. Edited by Giovanni Bartoli. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, 1611.

    4o. Baglioni's woodcut device on title, woodcut diagrams, errata leaf at end. (Light dampstaining.). FIRST EDITION of the principal scientific work by the Croatian physicist and archbishop of Split, containing a theoretical explanation of the telescope and the best early modern discussion of the rainbow, which Dominis held to be caused by refraction and reflection of light in raindrops. Dominis finished his life in a dungeon of the Inquisition, who convicted him of heresy not for his science but for his advocacy of a unified Christian religion. The association in one binding of these two works is of interest, for "the mistaken notion that Galileo invented the telescope has its source in the preface to Dominis's work" (Norman). Norman 645.

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    Saleroom Notice

    Please note that the title page and its conjugate appear to have been washed sometime prior to the 1998 Norman Sale when it sold in these rooms.

    Pre-Lot Text

    What was observed by us
    Is the nature or matter of the Milky Way itself.
    Which, with the aid of the spyglass,
    May be observed so well that all the disputes
    That for so many generations have vexed philosophers
    Are destroyed by visible certainty,
    and we are liberated from wordy arguments.