Alla Sacra Maesta Cesarea dell'Imperadore in lode del famoso Signor Galileo Galilei matematico del Serenissimo Gran Duca di Toscana canzone.

Florence: Giovanni Battista Landini, 1631.

First edition of this extremely rare Galileanum, unknown to Cinti as well as to many more recent Galileo scholars. It contains a laudatory poem addressed by Cicognini to Galileo, as well as an unsigned leaf with a piece of advance publicity by Galileo’s publisher Landini for his forthcoming Dialogo, Galileo’s famous and celebrated defence of the Copernican system that led to his persecution by the Inquisition, which appeared the following year. The book “remained on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum until 1823. It is an eternal reminder of human endeavour and human fallibility. As everyone knows, it was a historical accident, the invention of the telescope, that converted … Galileo [into] the celebrated international crusader for the Copernican hypothesis … Galileo’s first publications had little circulation. Then in 1615 he was officially silenced as regards the truth of astronomy. The Dialogo was designed both as an appeal to the great public and as an escape from silence. In the form of an open discussion between three friends—intellectually speaking, a radical, a conservative, and an agnostic—it is a masterly polemic for the new science. It displays all the great discoveries in the heavens which the ancients had ignored; it inveighs against the sterility, willfulness, and ignorance of those who defend their systems; it revels in the simplicity of Copernican thought and, above all, it teaches that the movement of the earth makes sense in philosophy, that is, in physics. Astronomy and the science of motion, rightly understood, says Galileo, are hand in glove. There is no need to fear that the earth’s rotation will cause it to fly to pieces. So Galileo picked up one thread that led straight to Newton. The Dialogo, far more than any other work, made the heliocentric system a commonplace. Every fear of Galileo’s enemies was justified; only their attempts to stifle thought were vain” (PMM 128). Publisher’s fliers are virtually unknown at this date, and its importance for the publication history of a scientific classic certainly deserves further study. OCLC lists three copies worldwide, Oklahoma, ETH Zürich, and BNF (although no copy is listed on Gallica); KVK adds Biblioteca nazionale centrale, Florence. Only two copies (possibly the same copy?) on ABPC/RBH in the last 40 years: the Philip D. Sang copy (disbound) (Bonham’s, March 22, 2005, lot 101, $31,725), and the Giancarlo Beltrame copy (in modern boards) (Christie’s, July 13, 2016, lot 47, £11,875 = $15,769).

The main body of the work consists of a laudatory poem composed by Jacopo Cicognini (1577-1633), a contemporary Florentine literary celebrity. Cicognini expresses his outrage at the criticisms Galielo has had to endure:

‘tu, sdegnando la terra, hai rivolto lo sguardo al regno di Dio : lassù il sole, la luna t’han rivelato la causa del loro vario aspetto; e per le stelle da te scoperte il navigante può misu­rare i mari, che percorre: ma il tuo nome è colpito dalla ca­lunnia!’

[you, disdaining the earth, have turned your gaze to the kingdom of God: up there the sun and moon have revealed the cause of their various appearances; and by the stars discovered by you the navigator can measure the seas which he travels: but your name is struck by slander!’

Galileo has liberated science from the fearful illusions of the past:

‘Le fallacie disperse

or discatena e scioglie

la nuda verità, che splende eterna’

[‘The scattered fallacies

now unchains and loosens

the naked truth, which shines eternally’]

It is of interest that Cicognini expressly compares Galileo to Amerigo Vespucci and likens the import of the Florentine’s works to the discovery of America:

‘If the man who went beyond the signs [i.e., pillars] of Hercules

Gave his name to America,

What praise, sufficient to exhaust Athens and Rome,

Is to be given to the man who with superhuman intellect

Opened the worlds high up in the realm of the stars’

(p. 8 – translation from Frangenberg, p. 255). “That such ideas continued in circulation for a long time is documented by the 1718 edition of Galileo’s works [Vol. I, p. lvii], which cites an aphorism to the effect that the Florentines are lucky because they are reminded of important countrymen, that is, Vespucci and Galileo, whether they look at the earth or at the sky” (ibid.).

Such general eulogies were a frequent feature of 16th and 17th century literary and scientific publication, a functional equivalent of today's ‘blurbs’, but they generally figure in the preliminary matter of the publication endorsed or praised. Separate and advance publication (as here) is most unusual. In his address to the reader Landini writes that the poet had wanted him to include the verses in the Dialogo; however, the requests of ‘tanti Signori virtuosi’ had persuaded him to issue the verses before publication of the book, so eager were they to read them.

Cicognini, a notary and poet, was a theatre enthusiast who often worked with Ottavio Rinuccini, now considered the first opera librettist. Cicognini’s interest in his fellow Florentine Galileo is also known from his music drama, L’amor pudico, presented in Rome in 1614 in the Palazzo della Cancellaria at the wedding of Princess Anna Maria Cesi (a cousin of Federico Cesi) and Michele Peretti, prince of Venafro; this was the first opera-performance in Rome. L’amor pudico contains a scene set in heaven with a chorus of “Medicean stars” – the satellites of Jupiter whose discovery with his new telescope had been announced by Galileo in Sidereus Nuncius four years previously. This is Federico’s own description of the event, in a letter addressed to Galileo on March 1, 1614:

‘The Cicognini satisfied me because, as I took part in the stage party for the marriage of princess Paretti, my cousin, I saw that he had skilfully put the new Medici’s planets among the others, as in a choir around Jupiter. Everybody liked the show, and the novelty included in its scene’ (Greco, p. 195).

Two years earlier, at a Medici court masque in the Palazzo Pitti, Galileo’s discoveries of the satellites of Jupiter were heralded and the satellites appeared as characters on stage. This event was described in Giovanni Villifranchi’s Descrizzione della barriera, e della mascherata, fatte in Firenze a' XVII. et a' XIX. di Febbraio 1612 al serenissimo signor Prencipe d'Urbino (Florence, 1613), which includes (pp. 31-48) verse by Cicognini for the Comparsa de Cavalieri delle Stelle Medicee.

The publisher’s announcement, here bound immediately after the title, seems to have been lacking in the copy described by Brunet (repeated in Graesse), from which it has been inferred that it was not added to all copies.

Brunet 1.1463; Graesse 11.186; not in British Library; not in Cinti; DBI XXV, 431-434 (Cicognini). Frangenberg, ‘A private homage to Galileo. Anton Domenico Gabbiani’s frescoes in the Pitti Palace,’ Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 59 (1996), pp. 245-273. Greco, Galileo Galilei, the Tuscan Artist, 2018.



4to (233 x 171 mm), pp. [ii], [1-2], 3-8, printer’s ornament on title (title a little soiled), uncut. Eighteenth-century brocade paper wrappers (a little rubbed and worn at extremities).

Item #5252

Price: $15,000.00