Galileo's Letters

Having trudged uphill in Florence to see a house in the street Costa de S. Giorgio which once belonged to Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and reflected on the extraordinary (but non-fatal) conflict of Tuscany's court mathematician with the Inquisition, I was pleased to see a collection of his letters to his clerical friends show up in the February 1, 2016 batch of 85 digitizations at Digita Vaticana.

The house is not so great (no view, no plaza, steep street, here's a tour guide). The letters are written the way we all used to write to save paper: both sides. The ink ended up going all the way through. That's handy to get a sense of the ordinariness of Galileo and push away the mythic, exaggerated, immaculate aura he tends to take on in any account of the history of science.

See his drawing of sunspots on paper that is now discoloured. The digitizers provide spectrally adjusted scans of some of the most illegible sheets so you can read them better.

The newest digitizations, which take the posted total to 3,769 are full of beautiful things including five portolans (the resolution is still too low to read the place-names), the Pantheon Bible, the Planisio Bible and the Gospels of Monreale. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana makes no running announcements about this project, so here, strictly unofficially, is the list I have compiled. The links are to catalog pages: when you arrive, click the book symbol to see the digitization.
  1. Barb.gr.197, miscellaneous authors, with a maze at 107r
  2. Barb.lat.6479, eighteen letters by Galileo. See the St Louis catalog. Of especial interest is Galileo's drawing on folio 18r of sunspots which he had observed:
    Anthony Grafton's Rome Reborn catalog notes that the spots' discovery "proved that the sun was not the perfect, unchanging body that traditional Aristotelian cosmology considered it to be. Galileo's work received strong support for a long time from [Maffeo Barberini (1597-1679], the future Pope Urban VIII."
  3. Barb.lat.6480,
  4. Borg.Carte.naut.VIII, portolan of Mediterranean to Baltic, seemingly the subject of Arthur Dürst's Seekarte des Andrea Benincasa (Borgiano VIII), 1508, though it has no Campbell number. See MapHistory.info
  5. Borg.Carte.naut.IX, portolan of Mediterranean (post 1600?)
  6. Borg.Carte.naut.X, portolan of Mediterranean and Black Sea (post 1600?)
  7. Borg.Carte.naut.XI, portolan of Mediterranean, fancy compass roses (post 1600?)
  8. Borg.Carte.naut.XIII, atlas of portolan maps; seemingly this has no Campbell number
  9. Borg.copt.109.cass.XV.fasc.53,
  10. Borg.lat.425, a richly illuminated Christmas missal. But what is this? An ad for the Austrian caffeinated soft drink Red Bull? [We have not checked the missal page yet, but Tuomas Levänen points out on Twitter this is likely to be the red heifer that Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron to slaughter and burn at Numbers 19: 1-10]
  11. Borg.sir.81,
  12. Chig.L.V.176, Boccaccio's Life of Dante, poetry about Dante, etc.
  13. Ott.gr.19,
  14. Ott.gr.179,
  15. Ott.gr.189,
  16. Ott.gr.192.pt.1,
  17. Ott.gr.193,
  18. Ott.gr.194,
  19. Ott.gr.207,
  20. Ott.gr.213,
  21. Pal.lat.471,
  22. Pal.lat.1491,
  23. Pal.lat.1493,
  24. Pal.lat.1494,
  25. Pal.lat.1495,
  26. Pal.lat.1496,
  27. Pal.lat.1518,
  28. Pal.lat.1524,
  29. Pal.lat.1540,
  30. Pal.lat.1553,
  31. Pal.lat.1554,
  32. Pal.lat.1556,
  33. Pal.lat.1557,
  34. Pal.lat.1562,
  35. Pal.lat.1564, the Agrimensores Codex, a superb copy made at the 9th century court of Louis he Pious in Aachen, Germany of a classical work. Not new online, and the Heidelberg viewer is better if you want to examine this one in detail. Here's a humpback bridge:
  36. Pal.lat.1572,
  37. Pal.lat.1574,
  38. Pal.lat.1589,
  39. Pal.lat.1594,
  40. Pal.lat.1605,
  41. Pal.lat.1607,
  42. Pal.lat.1615,
  43. Pal.lat.1643,
  44. Pal.lat.1647,
  45. Pal.lat.1652,
  46. Pal.lat.1657,
  47. Patetta.1471, Benedetto Varchi's Florentine History of 1538
  48. Ross.215, the Rossi Codex, one of the earliest sources of 14th-century secular Italian music.
    Jeremy Norman's HistoryofInformation.com pulls together key facts about this treasure from Italy's far north, probably Verona, which only gained wide musicological attention less than a century ago.
  49. Urb.gr.110,
  50. Vat.gr.126,
  51. Vat.gr.342,
  52. Vat.gr.633,
  53. Vat.gr.1013,
  54. Vat.gr.1553,
  55. Vat.gr.2458,
  56. Vat.lat.37,
  57. Vat.lat.42, the Gospels of Monreale (Sicily), dated to about 1450, a large-format codex with elaborate initials like this Q. One wonders if there is not some Islamic artistic influence here:
  58. Vat.lat.163,
  59. Vat.lat.174,
  60. Vat.lat.279,
  61. Vat.lat.299,
  62. Vat.lat.300,
  63. Vat.lat.308,
  64. Vat.lat.312,
  65. Vat.lat.325,
  66. Vat.lat.328,
  67. Vat.lat.356,
  68. Vat.lat.381,
  69. Vat.lat.412,
  70. Vat.lat.478,
  71. Vat.lat.479.pt.1, Augustine, Sermons, 15th-century codex
  72. Vat.lat.479.pt.2, ditto
  73. Vat.lat.581, Gregory the Great, De inventione librorum moralium
  74. Vat.lat.1542, Saturnalia of Macrobius, 15th-century Italian
  75. Vat.lat.3196, Petrarch?
  76. Vat.lat.3206, troubador poetry. Commendably, Digita Vaticana provides spectrally manipulated scans of the first and final pages of this, because they are illegible at normal wavelengths
  77. Vat.lat.3273, Tibullus and Propertius, poetry, Renaissance copy
  78. Vat.lat.3366, Cristoforo Landino poetry (with his own? letter at front, ending Vale!)
  79. Vat.lat.3550.pt.1, the Matteo di Planisio Bible, made in Naples in about 1362. Here is Satan (right) eavesdropping as God tells Adam and Eve to abstain from certain fruit.
    Then there is this colourful scene from Genesis at fol. 12r (I am guessing it's Melchizedek coming out from Sodom (?) to serve bread and wine to Abraham, Eshkol, Aner and Mamre, Gen. 14:18):
    At fol 19r, Pharaoh's daughter finds Baby Moses while bathing (Exodus 2:1-10). The full frontal nudity is surprising, but this and the pose of her arms and thumbs seems to be an arty reference to Classical Egyptian painting, which might have been familiar to a Naples audience:
  80. Vat.lat.3827, Carolingian codex with records of Frankish and other early church councils
  81. Vat.lat.5007, 9th-century records of the diocese of Naples
  82. Vat.lat.12723, manuscript records of the Inquisition
  83. Vat.lat.12958, the Pantheon Bible, a finely illuminated complete bible from the 11th or 12th century, with this battle scene at 277v:
    In Vetus Latina studies, this bible is Beuron Number 363 on account of its Oratio Salomonis and Psalter Romanum.
  84. Vat.lat.13951, an autograph note by Alessandro Manzoni on a printed first-communion service
  85. Vat.lat.14475, certificates connected to 15th-century Vatican librarian Bartolomeo Manfredi
I am also keeping an eye on Heidelberg's releases of Vatican manuscripts, which take place place well in advance of Rome's issue of the same codices. The latest batch, on January 27, comprised six items:
  1. Pal. lat. 264 S. Gregorii; Aurelius Augustinus; B. Augustini: Sammelhandschrift (13-14th century)
  2. Pal. lat. 263 S. Gregorii: Pape urbis Rome dialogorum, libri IV (11-12th century)
  3. Pal. lat. 644 Constitutiones clementine (i.e. Clementis V) cum apparatu domini Iohannis Andree (15th century.)
  4. Pal. lat. 688 Miscellany (15th century)
  5. Pal. lat. 689 Miscellany (14th century)
  6. Pal. lat. 702 Summa de vitiis (13-14th century)
If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 38.]

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