GALILEI, Galileo.

Galileo a Madama Cristina di Lorena (1615).

Padova [Padua]: Tipogr. Salmin, 1896 [Colophon: May 1897].

19mm. x 12mm. (page size), 1 leaf (woodcut portrait of Galileo), pp. 205, (2). The imprint is on the verso of the title. Contemporary vellum (upper inner hinge broken), decorated and lettered on the spine in gilt. In a gold-coloured metal slipcase.

First published in 1636 (outside Italy and twenty-one years after it was written) as the Nov-Antiqua, this letter to Cristina, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, is Galileo’s argument for the freedom of science from theological interference. It is “a superb manifesto of the freedom of thought… Its purpose was to silence all theological objections to Copernicus. Its result was the precise opposite: it became the principal cause of the prohibition of Copernicus, and of Galileo’s downfall” (Koestler). Galileo argued “that neither the Bible nor nature could speak falsely, and that the investigation of nature was the province of the scientist, while the reconciliation of scientific facts with the language of the Bible was that of the theologian” (DSB). The year after it was written Copernicus’s De revolutionibus was placed on the Index of forbidden books, and Galileo was himself summoned before the Inquisition. This tiny book is one of the most famous miniature books in existence, and probably the smallest printed scientific book. At one time it was the smallest book printed with movable type. It is set in the exceedingly small “occhio di mosca” (fly’s eye) Dantino type created by the Salmin press for their complete edition of Dante. Welsh, A bibliography of miniature books, 2935. Spielmann, Catalogue of the library of miniature books, 161. Bondy, Miniature books, pp. 95–96. Not in Cinti.


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