De Coelo Animato Disputatio. Leonis Allatii amici ex animo cari Opera publicae utilitati procurata. Giulio Cesare LAGALLA.
De Coelo Animato Disputatio. Leonis Allatii amici ex animo cari Opera publicae utilitati procurata.

A Gift from Cardinal Barberini to Mario Guiducci,

Galileo’s Assistant & Co-Author

De Coelo Animato Disputatio. Leonis Allatii amici ex animo cari Opera publicae utilitati procurata.

2 p.l., 44 pp. Small 4to, cont. limp vellum, arms in gilt of Cardinal Francesco Barberini on covers, panelled in gilt with round gilt flower devices in each corner, silk ties gone, a.e.g. [Heidelberg]: G. Vögelin, 1622.

First edition, a gift from Cardinal Francesco Barberini to Galileo’s assistant and co-author Mario Guiducci, inscribed on the title-page “Ex dono Illustrissime Cardinalis Barberini — Marij Guiduccij liber est.” This is a very rare book; I can locate only six other copies (see below).

This copy represents the intersection of some of the most important dynamics of Baroque Rome. Written by Giulio Cesare Lagalla (1571-1624), medical doctor and professor of logic at the Sapienza University, in 1614, the book was seen through the press in Heidelberg by Lagalla’s former student and future Vatican librarian Leone Allacci in 1622. This copy was given by Cardinal Francesco Barberini to Galileo’s co-author Mario Guiducci in 1623. Lagalla was one of eight select friends and fellow investigators present at Galileo’s famous demonstration of his telescope on 14 April 1611 and at Cesi’s dinner in honor of Galileo which followed. Lagalla’s De Phoenomenis in Orbe Lunae…Disputatio (1612) is the best record of this historic evening.

Despite Lagalla’s fertile and, at times, antagonistic relationship with Galileo, he has frequently been dismissed as a mere Aristotelian. In fact, as the Coelo animato disputatio makes clear, there was nothing traditional or conservative about his work. The tract was based on an oral dispute organized by the head of the Accademia dei Lincei, Federico Cesi, between Lagalla and the theologian Francesco Diotallevi. The subject of the dispute, held in Cesi’s palace in the Borgo Vecchio in Rome, was the vexed question of the nature of celestial movement. Aristotle and Aquinas are the main authorities discussed, but Lagalla also includes references to the anathemas against Origen. The question of whether celestial bodies were moved by some form of soul was part of a larger debate, to which Lagalla devoted much of his life, on the nature of the human soul and its relationship to the body.

The idea that the motions of heavenly bodies required constant intervention from an intelligence within the bodies themselves sat uneasily both with traditional Aristotelian and Christian cosmologies. Lagalla was absolutely aware of the dangerous nature of his ideas is evinced by documentation surrounding this book. In March 1620, he wrote to Galileo, saying: “I am about to have my work De Immortalitate animorum ex Aristotelis sententia printed, along with many other pieces of philosophy, among which there is where I show that the heavens are moved by an active soul (anima informante), not merely following the dogma of Aristotle, but also according to the true philosophy, so greatly reviled by the aforementioned [Jesuit] fathers, and deemed by them to be either erroneous or at least rash as a matter of faith. However, by the grace of God, it has been approved by the Holy Office of Rome as an opinion that, without the slightest scruple of error, may be held and published. Everything will be printed in the Stamperia Camerale, and as soon as they are finished I’ll send you the books in your honor.”–OG, XIII, 26, 6th March 1620, Lagalla (Rome) to Galileo (Florence).

Lagalla shared with Bellarmine a dissatisfaction with traditional cosmologies, and denied some of Galileo’s conclusions in the Sidereus Nuncius. In 1612, he published with the same printer an attack on Galileo’s analogy between the terrestrial and lunar worlds, which he saw as tending towards Giordano Bruno’s heresies. Lagalla’s arguments on the moon and on the nature of light were taken seriously enough by Galileo for him to prepare a response: his heavily annotated copy of Lagalla’s De Phoenomenis in Orbe Lunae…Disputatio (1612) is included in Antonio Favaro’s national edition of Galileo’s works.

Far from being a staunch Aristotelian, Lagalla was a supporter of Galileo’s cause: his observations on comets, he says, had lead him to similar conclusions to those expressed by Galileo and Guiducci in the Discorso delle Comete of 1619, which he said he could not “praise and promote enough”–OG, XII, 500-1, 21st December 1619, Lagalla (Rome) to Galileo (Florence). Censorship was a constant threat to Lagalla, due to his heterodox ideas on free will, the immortality of the soul, and cosmology. This may be the reason why this tract, completed in 1614, did not emerge until 1622, and even then not in Italy, but Germany, without a place of publication.

The work was printed on the Protestant presses of Gotthard Vögelin, who in 1609 had published Kepler’s Astronomia Nova. It was seen through the press in Heidelberg by Leone Allacci, future librarian to Francesco Barberini and a key figure at the Vatican Library. Allacci had recently been made a Reader at the Vatican, and been entrusted with the difficult task of removing from Heidelberg the Palatine Library. While negotiating which books and manuscripts to take to Rome, he also began his lifelong career of editing, though the Coelo Animato predates any works mentioned in his retrospective catalogue, Leonis Allatii Librorum Editorum Elenchus (1659). Allacci had studied medicine under Lagalla and would go on to write his professor’s biography in 1644, defending him from charges of unorthodoxy with regards to the problem of providence.

Lagalla was concerned with the possible taint that a Protestant printing might have on his book, and wrote to Allacci in February 1623: ‘‘it would not have been possible to wish that my Questione could be printed with greater attention, diligence, and kindness — your Lordship may imagine how indebted to you I am. Only one thing is wanting: if the book is to come to Italy (something I would like very much, and which will be a goldmine for the printer, because they are awaited with great curiosity), to avoid the contradiction of the imprimatur, that you do another beginning with the name of a Catholic place where it might be printed, and a Catholic printer, because otherwise they will not grant the imprimatur. This job could also be done by bookmen in Rome.”–Curzio Mazzi, “Leone Allacci e la Palatina di Heidelberg,” Il Propugnature, 1893, p.187, n. 2. Vögelin frequently omitted his location from imprints, as with this book, in order to have access to Catholic markets.

It was already too late: Allacci had sent a copy, probably this one, to Francesco Barberini, who acknowledged receipt on 6th February 1623. On the 2nd of October of that year Francesco became a cardinal, the first such act of nepotism by his uncle Maffeo, who was now Urban VIII. Francesco was not only an avid book collector, but also an important broker of information in Barberini Rome, as well as a partial supporter of Galileo.

The Roman context into which the book arrived was quite different from that in which it was written: in 1616, Galileo’s attempts to separate theological from scientific authority had backfired, but by 1623 he was again on the attack, using the opportunity presented by Jesuit observations of three comets in 1618 to ridicule and satirize everything from their theories of matter to observational skill. The publication history of this dispute deserves a brief description: first came the anonymous [Orazio Grassi’s] Disputatio Astronomica de Tribus Cometis anni MDCXVIII (1619), to which Galileo replied under Mario Giuducci’s name with the Discorso delle Comete (1619). Next came the Libra Astronomica ac Philosophica (1619) by the Jesuit Orazio Grassi, using the anagram pseudonym Lotario Sarsi. Guiducci then replied directly with the Lettera a Tarquinio Galluzzi (1620). Other texts also contributed to the debate, such as Cysat’s Mathemata Astronomica (1619), Scipione Chiaramonti’s Discorso della Cometa pogonare (1619), Giovanni Camillo Gloriosi’s De Cometis Dissertatio (1624), Giovanni Battista Stelluti’s Scandaglio (1622), Fortunio Liceti’s De Novis Astris et Cometis libb. Sex (1623), Grassi’s Ratio ponderum Librae et Simbellae (1626) and the anonymous Assemblea Celeste radunata novamente in Parnasso sopra la nova Cometa (1619). The culmination of this campaign was Il Saggiatore, perhaps the most violent and funny scientific book ever written. With the patronage of Federico Cesi, it mocked, taunted, and harried Grassi, the author of the Libra astronomica, deepening Galileo’s rift with the Jesuits that had opened with the dispute over sunspots a decade earlier.

Cesi and Galileo were confident that the papacy of the enlightened Maffeo Barberini might offer fresh opportunities for the new science. They appealed to Urban’s literary vanity with stylish satire, bifurcating Baroque Rome into opposing camps. Figures such as Lagalla, who did not quite fit into either of these camps, were left stranded. Despite close friendships with both Cesi and Galileo, Lagalla was denied entry to the Accademia dei Lincei. He considered himself as anti-Jesuitical as anyone in Rome, but was seen by his assumed allies as a dull Aristotelian. Guiducci, for example, described the book in one of his frequent weather reports to Galileo on the Roman climate: “Here, apart from your usual friends, you will find few who are able to appreciate your work properly. Nevertheless, the wit you use so wonderfully to explain your ideas I hope will delight greatly those who haven’t yet heard it, and who until now have been used to reading other philosophers’ books without pleasure. A few evenings ago I was amazed that someone had patience enough to read cover to cover Guilio Cesare Lagalla’s De Coelo animato, which he did in my presence. He then gave me the book, and told me to make sure I didn’t turn into a Peripatetic. I replied that I would like, in return for the lesson I had received that evening, to read him again a satire, were Signore Iacopo Soldani to send it to me, concerning the tramp from Stagira [Aristotle], which might please him more than Lagalla’s writing had displeased me.”–OG, XIII, 160-162, 18th December 1623, Guiducci (Rome) to Galileo (Florence), referring to the fourth Satire del senatore Iacopo Soldani “Contro i Peripatetici” first published in 1751.

It seems extremely likely that this is the copy presented here. In the same letter, Guiducci mentions that he has been socialising with Francesco Barberini, and is probably just being discreet in not mentioning him again by name here as the dogged reader of Lagalla.

The inscription on the title page of the copy reads “Ex dono Illustrissime Cardinalis Barberini — Marij Guiduccij liber est” (A present from Cardinal Barberini — this book belongs to Mario Guiducci). The hand of the inscription seems to be that of Guiducci himself, judging from contemporary autograph letters archived in the Galileo manuscripts of the National Library of Florence. The binding is that of a Barberini cardinal, and in 1623, this could only have been Francesco, as Maffeo was already pope and Antonio was not yet old enough.

The edition is extremely rare, with only six other copies known, in Munich (they describe a 1614 edition but, after personal examination, I can confirm it is a ghost; they have the 1622 edition), Oxford, Toronto, Paris, the Casanatense, and the Vatican Library (with provenance from the Barberini library, presumably Maffeo’s copy).

The verso of the final leaf contains a list of Lagalla’s published and unpublished works.

A wonderful association copy of a relatively unknown but significant work. With thanks to Prof. Nick Wilding for considerable help with this description. Preserved in a box.

❧ Riccardi, II, col. 1n.

Price: $45,000.00

Item ID: 4765

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