An Early User of the Telescope

Discorso…sopra l’Apparizione de la Nuova Stella. E sopra le tre oscurazioni del Sole e de la Luna nel anno 1605. Con alquanto di lume del arte del Oro.

Woodcut Medicean arms on title. 36 pp. Small 4to, attractive antique calf (final five leaves a little stained & with some minor marginal paper repairs), spine gilt, red morocco lettering piece on spine. Florence: C. Giunti, 1605.

First edition of this rare and important book on the new star of October 1604; it plays a significant role in the first great controversy of Galileo’s scientific career in which he turned his back on the whole philosophical approach to science and sought reliable information and secure knowledge about the physical world through observations and calculations. The controversy which arose from the appearance of the supernova of 1604 was, simply, did the nova appear far beyond the moon — as believed by the astronomers — or did it occur in the sublunar region as believed by the Aristotelians who thought nothing new could be created in the heavens?

Gualterotti (b. 1548), “knew Galileo as a young man and showed him how stars could be seen in daytime through a long hole in a castle wall. In 1605 he published books [this and the following work] about the new star of 1604…He also mentioned observations of stars through a dark tube, and from a letter written shortly after Galileo’s telescopic discoveries it appears that he, like Porta, had employed a lens or lenses in a tube without developing the potentialities of the device. He was interested in alchemy and composed much poetry. He died at Florence in May 1639.”–Drake, Galileo at Work, pp. 451-52.

In the present book, Gualterotti provides a long and careful account of his observations of the new star which he first observed from Florence on 9 October 1604. He “favored generation of the new star from the gatherings of vapors and exhalations in the region of the outer planets. He wrote at some length on the flexibility and penetrability of the heavens, on the presence there of elemental material in a refined and purified state, and on the essential similarity of matter everywhere.”–Drake, Galileo against the Philosophers, p. 59. Both Galileo and Colombe read this book carefully. In fact, according to Drake, Galileo believed that Gualterotti’s views were the main reason Colombe wrote his Discorso of 1606, in which he attacked Gualterotti without naming him.

Gualterotti also provides here an important and early scientific description of a sunspot.

Although not a scientist of great note, Gualterotti was a significant figure within the scientific debate over the supernova, thanks to his anti-Aristotelian theories and his connections to Galileo. He is also important for being one of the first to use a telescope although he only used it to observe jousting matches. In a letter to Galileo in 1610, shortly after the publication of Sidereus Nuncius, Gualterotti wrote that he had developed a telescope in 1598. But, as it seemed to him to be “a feeble thing” he neglected it.

Very good copy of a rare book.

❧ Carli & Favaro 14. Cinti 14–(& see his long detailed note on the scientific contents of this work). Riccardi, I, col. 535. Van Helden, “The Invention of the Telescope” in Transactions of the A.P.S., Vol. 67, Part 4 (1977), pp. 19, 24-25, 35, & 45-46.

Price: $25,000.00

Item ID: 5771

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