GALILEI, Galileo (1564-1642). Il saggiatore nel quale com bilancia esquisita e giusta si ponderano le cose contenute nella libra astronomica e filosofica di Lotario Sarsi. Rome: Giacomo Mascardi, 1623.

$ 42,000.00

Small quarto (7 6/8 x 5 7/8 inches). 16 lines of errata on page 236. Engraved title-page and portrait of Galileo by Francesco Villamena, fine engraved diagrams in the text, (first few leaves a bit loose and with minor pale dampstain, some light spotting). Contemporary half vellum, patterned paper boards, title lettered in gilt on the spine (rubbed with minor loss to patterned paper, one or two pale stains).

Provenance: With the ownership inscription of Alessandro Maggiori (1764 - 1834), celebrated artist, collector and antiquary, dated 1789 on the front free endpaper.


First edition, first issue, on thicker paper with the short list of errata, one of fewer than 400 copies, this copy without the four preliminary leaves (signature a4) containing commendatory verses by Johannes Faber and Francesco Stelluti. With the last minute dedication to the new Pope Urban VIII, Maffeo Barberini, Galileo's friend and a patron of science and the arts.

An attractive copy of one of the most celebrated polemics in science, by the most renowned and controversial scientist of his time. Ostensibly written in response to Orazio Grassi (1583-1654) who had published in 1619, under the pseudonym Lotario Sarsi (an anagram of his name) "Libra astronomica et philosophica", an attack on Galileo and his ideas of comets.

Galileo's opinions were not only closely scrutinized by his peers, but also by the Church, who as early as 1611 had questioned Galileo for holding the Copernican view that the Sun, not the earth is the centre of the universe; a position which the church declared to be absurd in philosophy, at least erroneous in theology, and formally a heresy in 1616. On orders of the Pope Paul V, Cardinal Bellarmine warned Galileo to not to hold or defend the Copernican theory and Galileo was expressly forbidden to discuss the theory orally or in writing. As a result "Il saggiatore." is an ingenious general discussion of the proper scientific approach to the investigation of celestial phenomena. At the centre of his argument is the idea that no theory of comets can be advanced unless it can be proven that they are concrete moving objects rather than mere optical effects of solar light, a proof which, incidentally, he considered impossible. In discussing his new scientific approach Galileo set forth some fundamental axioms of the modern scientific method: he "distinguished physical properties of objects from their sensory effects, repudiated authority in any matter that was subject to direct investigation, and remarked that the book of nature, being written in mathematical characters, could be deciphered only by those who knew mathematics" (DSB). From the distinguished library of celebrated 18th-century artist, collector and critic Count Allessandro Maggiori, whose collection of old master drawings fromed the basis of the Vanderbilt collection now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. inscribed by him on the front paste-down: "Di' Allessandro Maggiori il quale le compio a Livorno nel 1789". Carli and Favaro 95; Cinti 73; Riccardi I, 511; Norman 857. Catalogued by Kate Hunter