"THE DIALOGO, FAR MORE THAN ANY OTHER WORK, MADE THE HELIOCENTRIC SYSTEM A COMMONPLACE": 1632 FIRST EDITION OF GALILEO'S DEFENSE OF THE COPERNICAN SYSTEM, A MILESTONE OF SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
GALILEI, Galileo. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei… sopra i due massimi Sistemi del mondo tolemaico, e copernicano. Florence: Batista Landini, 1632. Large octavo, later full vellum, morocco spine label. Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $125,000.
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. An excellent copy in attractive vellum binding.
"Eight years after Pope Paul V had forbidden him to teach Copernican theory, Galileo received permission from a new Pope, Urban VIII, to discuss Copernican astronomy in a book, so long as the book provided equal and impartial discussions of the Church-approved Ptolemaic system. Galileo's Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems held to the letter of this command: the device of the dialogue, between a spokesman for Copernicus, one for Ptolemy and Aristotle, and an educated layman, allowed Galileo to remain technically uncommitted. After the book's publication, however, Urban took offense at what he felt to be its jibes against himself and ordered Galileo to be brought before the Inquisition in Rome" (Norman 858). The Dialogo was suppressed by the Church five months after its publication and formally condemned in June 1633. Galileo's defense of "the Copernican heresy" resulted in his permanent house arrest. Soon thereafter he was forced publicly to recant his defense of Copernicus.
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).
An engraved frontispiece by Stefano della Bella is found in some copies, though not in the present copy. The modern discovery and examination of a number of uncut and unopened copies in original publisher's boards or contemporary vellum bindings showed that this frontispiece, printed on different paper from the text and existing in four different states, was bound into some, but evidently not all, copies, according to some current theories. With the errata leaf at Ff6 and with the printed correction slip pasted in margin of F6v (p. 92), not present in all copies. Without the final blank, often not present; text complete. Horblit 18c. Dibner 8. PMM 128. Norman 858.
Occasional mild embrowning, small wormhole affecting first five leaves only, affecting woodcut printer's device on title page, with faint dampstain affecting imprint. Vellum binding attractive. A handsome copy of this extraordinary scientific landmark.