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An exceptionally rare and valuable copy of a 17th-century book by Galileo Galilei — seemingly signed and hand-illustrated by the great astronomer and thinker — was hailed as the find of the century when it was unveiled in 2005 by a respected bookseller in New York City.
But within a few years, an avalanche of evidence proved that the book was a clever forgery.
Galileo - Moon - Illustrations - Sidereus - Nuncius
One of Galileo's moon illustrations from "Sidereus Nuncius."
In 2005, historians were floored by the discovery of a one-of-a-kind book — a purported "proof" of Galileo's "Sidereus Nuncius," also known as "Starry Messenger." Published in 1610, the book established Galileo's reputation as the foremost astronomer of his day; 550 copies of the book were printed, of which 150 known copies remain, PBS representatives said in a statement.
Nuncius - Work - Surface - Galileo - Observations
"Sidereus Nuncius" was the first work to show that the lunar surface was mountainous and pocked, and Galileo's observations of four satellites orbiting Jupiter were even more astounding. These "Medicean stars," as Galileo called them in the book's title page, were "unknown by anyone until this day," and they upended the heliocentric view of Earth as the center of the universe.
Any "lost" copy of this book would have been a major find. But this copy was also signed by Galileo and bore a stamp from the library of Rome's Lincean Academy, where Galileo was a member. And while other copies of "Sidereus Nuncius" included four engravings of the moon's phases, this version had watercolors, purportedly painted by Galileo himself, according to PBS.
Books - Century - Metal - Type - Character
Books from the 17th century were thought to be near-impossible to forge because of how they were printed, with the metal type assembled one character at a time and the pages pressed by hand.
But though the book's physical details appeared genuine, its provenance was light on details, which should have sounded alarm...
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