9 July 2019
GALILEI, Galileo (1564-1642). Sidereus Nuncius. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, [March] 1610.
First edition, announcing the first astronomical discoveries made with the telescope. In 1609 Galileo learned of an instrument developed by a Dutchman, Hans Lipperhey, that made distant objects appear closer. After attempting unsuccessfully to see an example of the new instrument when it was brought to Padua and then Venice, Galileo constructed his own telescope. He continued working on and improving it and by late August of that year was able to demonstrate a model of a nine-power telescope; further improvements resulted in a telescope about 30-power by the end of 1609. The importance of such an instrument for a sea-faring republic such as Venice was obvious and Galileo was amply rewarded. In January 1610 Galileo turned the telescope to astronomical observation to discover for the first time that the surface of the moon was mountainous and that the Milky Way was composed of separate stars; he also discovered new stars and – most significantly – sighted the four moons orbiting Jupiter. Although evidence of bodies orbiting planets other than Earth met with disbelief in some camps, Galileo's remarkable observations won immediate renown. With the Sidereus Nuncius Galileo achieved one of his aims, to overturn Aristotelian physics. While nowhere in the Sidereus nuncius did Galileo explicitly express support of heliocentrism, the work re-ignited the debate on Copernicanism and served as the opening salvo of the assault of modern astronomy on the medieval view of the cosmos. Cinti 26; Dibner Heralds of Science 7; Grolier/Horblit 35; Norman 855; PMM 113.
Quarto (231 x 158mm). Baglioni's woodcut device on title, 5 half-page copper-engravings in the text, 3 woodcut star maps, one extending to 1 1/2 pages, 3 text diagrams, and 65 one-line woodcuts on 25 leaves showing the varying positions of Jupiter and its moons, ornamental initials and headpieces. Without the cancellation slip on B1r altering 'Cosmica Sydera' to 'Medicea Sydera' occasionally found (slight loss of diagram edge on B3r and one star on D5v due to light page-trimming as often, small marginal dampstain or spotting in a few leaves). Early limp vellum, flyleaf with watermark similar but not identical to Piccard Kronen II: 106 localised to Venice: 1566-68. Provenance: early manuscript emendations on B2v-3r – Patricius de Ulivis (contemporary inscription as a medical doctor on title) – an unlocalised French observatory (stamp partly removed from title).
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