A MILESTONE OF SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY: GALILEO’S DIALOGO, 1632 FIRST EDITION OF HIS DEFENSE OF THE COPERNICAN SYSTEM, WITH RARE ENGRAVED FRONTISPIECE
GALILEI, Galileo. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei… sopra i due massimi Sistemi del mondo tolemaico, e copernicano. Florence: Batista Landini, 1632. Octavo, early full brown calf, raised bands, endpapers renewed. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First edition of the work that led to Galileo’s persecution by the Inquisition, his famous and celebrated defense of the Copernican system, with 31 in-text woodcut illustrations and diagrams. This copy with the iconic engraved frontispiece depicting Aristotle, Ptolemy and Copernicus discussing their astronomical theories—issued separately and often not present.
The book “remained on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum until 1823. It is an eternal reminder of human endeavour and human fallibility. As everyone knows, it was a historical accident, the invention of the telescope, that converted… Galileo [into] the celebrated international crusader for the Copernican hypothesis… Galileo’s first publications had little circulation. Then in 1615 he was officially silenced as regards the truth of astronomy. The Dialogo was designed both as an appeal to the great public and as an escape from silence. In the form of an open discussion between three friends—intellectually speaking, a radical, a conservative, and an agnostic—it is a masterly polemic for the new science. It displays all the great discoveries in the heavens which the ancients had ignored; it inveighs against the sterility, willfulness, and ignorance of those who defend their systems; it revels in the simplicity of Copernican thought and, above all, it teaches that the movement of the earth makes sense in philosophy, that is, in physics. Astronomy and the science of motion, rightly understood, says Galileo, are hand in glove. There is no need to fear that the earth’s rotation will cause it to fly to pieces. So Galileo picked up one thread that led straight to Newton. The Dialogo, far more than any other work, made the heliocentric system a commonplace. Every fear of Galileo’s enemies was justified; only their attempts to stifle thought were vain” (PMM 128).
Frontispiece in the fourth state (of four), as usual, with artist’s signature present. With pasted cancel slip correcting the shoulder note on page 92 and manuscript addition of letter H to diagram on page 192, both as usual; without final blank leaf only (KK4), often not present. A few leaves in signature Bb bound out of order, but all present. Horblit 18c. Dibner 8. PMM 128. Norman 858.
Interior generally quite clean and fresh, with only a few instances of faint foxing and a very few pages (pp. 207-227) lightly embrowned. Frontispiece and title page skillfully rehinged, most likely at the time when the early calf binding received expert restoration. An extremely good copy of this extraordinary scientific landmark, most desirable with iconic frontispiece engraving, often not present.