"GALILEO, PERHAPS MORE THAN ANY OTHER SINGLE PERSON, WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BIRTH OF MODERN SCIENCE" (STEPHEN HAWKING): THIRD COLLECTED EDITION OF THE GREAT SCIENTIST'S WORKS, THE FIRST TO INCLUDE HIS FAMOUS—AND PROHIBITED—DIALOGO
GALILEI, Galileo. Opere. Padova: Nella Stamperia del Seminario, Appresso Gio: Manfrè, 1744. Four volumes. Quarto, 20th-century half vellum, brown morocco spine labels, patterned boards. $9500.
Third edition of Galileo's collected works—the first to include his famous (and prohibited) Dialogo, in which he defends the Copernican heliocentric system—in the original Italian (some texts in Latin), with engraved frontispiece portrait, folding engraved plate, and numerous in-text woodcut diagrams, in four handsomely bound volumes.
"The name of Galileo is inextricably linked with the advent, early in the 17th century, of marked change in the balance between speculative philosophy, mathematics, and experimental evidence in the study of natural phenomena… Historians are divided in their assessment of this widespread scientific revolution with respect to its elements of continuity and innovation, both as to method and as to content. Of central importance to its understanding are the life and works of Galileo, whose personal conflict with religious authority dramatized the extent and profundity of the changing approach to nature" (DSB). "Galileo, more than any other man, had introduced the change in our manner of thinking that broke with ancient and led on to modern science. Contributions had also been made by Copernicus, by Vesalius, by Harvey, by Tycho, and by Kepler and others. The share of Galileo, however, is overwhelming. It was more than an addition to knowledge. It was more even than an alteration in the conception of the structure of the universe. It was rather a change in mood as to the kind of knowledge that was to be sought. It partook of the nature of a philosophical crisis" (Singer, A Short History of Science, 212-13).
After 1610, when Galileo began publicly supporting the heliocentric theory, he met with bitter opposition from some philosophers and clerics, and two of the latter eventually denounced him to the Roman Inquisition early in 1615. In February 1616 the Catholic Church condemned heliocentrism as "false and contrary to Scripture," and Galileo was warned to abandon his support for it, which he promised to do. When he later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi ("Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems"), published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found "vehemently suspect of heresy," forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
While Galileo's Dialogo still remained on the Roman Church's "Index of Prohibited Books" even in the 18th century, this work "had indeed been allowed to appear in the edition of Galileo's collected works, undertaken in Padua in 1744, which had received the prescribed ecclesiastical permission; but the editor, the Abbot Toaldo, had been obliged expressly to state in an introduction that the theory of the double motion can and must be regarded only as a mathematical hypothesis, to facilitate the explanation of certain natural phenomena. Besides this, the Dialogo had to be preceded by the sentence against Galileo and his recantation, as well as by an Essay "On the System of the Universe of the Ancient Hebrews" by Calmet, in which the passages of Scripture bearing on the order of the world were interpreted in the traditional Catholic fashion" (K. von Gebler, Galileo Galilei and the Roman Curia, 313).
Besides the Dialogo (which occupies the fourth volume), this set contains the following major works by Galileo on astronomy, mathematics, mechanics and hydraulics:
Sidereus Nuncius ("The Starry Messenger"), first published in 1610, the foundation work of modern astronomy, containing the first account of astronomical discoveries made with the telescope.
Il Saggiatore ("The Assayer"), first published in 1623, often called Galileo's "scientific manifesto," certainly one of the most celebrated polemics in the history of physical science. "Il Saggiatore contains his most important ideas on the philosophy of scientific investigation" (Honeyman).
Istoria e dimostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari ("Letters on Sunspots"), first published in 1613, famously containing Galileo's first published endorsement of the Copernican model.
Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, intorno a due nuove scienze ("Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences"), first printed in 1638, the first modern textbook of physics and the foundation of the science of mechanics. The mathematical analyses of the Discorsi provide the foundation for the philosophical exposition of the Dialogo and thus are "considered by most scientists as Galileo's greatest work" (PMM).
Le operazioni del compasso geometrico, et militare ("The Operation of the Geometric and Military Compass"), first published privately in 1606, Galileo's first printed work and the first published work on an analogue calculator. Galileo's calculating compass remained unsurpassed until the advent of the slide rule in the mid-19th century.
Discorso […] intorno alle cose, che stanno in su l'acqua, o che in quella si muovono ("Discourse on Bodies in Water"), first published in 1612, Galileo's important and controversial treatise on hydrostatics, refuting the Aristotelian notion that the buoyancy of bodies depends upon their shape, and demonstrating the Archimedean theory that flotation is a function of the relative densities of the floating body and its surrounding medium.
This edition also includes his lesser-known early works: the short 1586 tract La Billancetta ("The Little Balance") describing an accurate balance to weigh objects in air or water; his 1590 De Motu ("On Motion") and his circa 1600 Le Mecchaniche ("Mechanics"), as well as some hitherto unpublished works, such as the Trattato del modo di misurare con la vista. First published in two volumes edited by Carlo Manolessi at Bologna in 1656, then reprinted with revisions and the addition of a third volume at Florence in 1718 under the direction of Tommaso Bonaventure, et al. This is a revised edition of that 1718 Florence edition, with some amendments, and, most importantly, the addition of the celebrated Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi as a fourth volume. With engraved portrait by Zucchi, and one folding engraved plate of Galileo's "Compasso" instrument in Volume I; one letterpress table in Volume II, and numerous in-text woodcut illustrations and diagrams. Text in Italian. Carli & Favaro, Bibliographia Galileiana, 478. Brunet II, 1461. Cinti 176. Riccardi I, 522.22.
Volume IV title page somewhat soiled and with marginal repairs, not affecting letterpress, next two leaves with minor marginal repairs. Some leaves toward the end of Volume III with very light marginal dampstaining to lower outer corner. Text generally quite clean, fresh, and wide-margined; vellum bindings handsome and fine. A superb set.