My segment of the masterclass offers a reassessment of Galileo’s astronomical pursuits in his earlier, Paduan years: roughly, from 1600 to 1610, with two chronological exceptions related to medieval optics and the cometary debate. The choice of these texts reflects my general project in Bucharest (“Galileo’s People: Mapping Scientific Networks and Reading Practices in Early Modern Italy”) and the consolidation of interests around three areas of inquiry: (a) rhetoric and print culture; (b) the ‘mathematization’ of the language of nature, including the pursuit of secrets and the Venetian culture of expertise; (c) the brokering activity of historical actors in the Mediterranean.

By avoiding the traditionally stark contrast between observation and bookish erudition, I aim instead to align the Sidereus nuncius and its surrounding documents within the view point of humanist paper technology, and to reflect on the book’s epistemic unity almost as a side-effect of the household’s centrality in Peripatetic culture. Indeed, my exposition considers private Venetian or Paduan ‘academies’ under three related aspects: first, as the institutional architecture that enabled the use of laboratories and the transformation of the artisanal body; second, as the anchor of a mobility of mechanical labour and epistolary exchange that ranged from the Aegean Sea to the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth; and third, as a site of tension between Latin and vernacular, which in turn opens to a new look over the debated question of the transferability of Galileo’s new science.

My ultimate goal, throughout and beyond the masterclass, is to disarticulate the Sidereus nuncius as the result of collective desiderata and to suggest a way to write a social history of early science in the Veneto, seen at the intersection of two disciplines that rarely talk to one another—namely, natural empiricism and history of collecting.


Texts and documents:

Gian Vincenzo Pinelli, fragments from his papers at the Ambrosiana Library, 1590s: R 121 sup (metal wheels and Turkish Empire), S 105 inf (naval operations), and S 94 sup (Moleti’s mathematical instruments)

Galileo Galilei (pseud.), Dialogue of Cecco de’ Ronchitti (Padua, 1605); trans. S. Drake (Los Angeles 1976)

Galileo Galilei, “Glosses on Petrarch,” based on the edition of the Rime and Trionfi (Basel, 1582), and “Glosses on Ariosto,” ca. 1609

——, “Annotations” to Kepler’s De stella nova in pede Serpentarii (Prague, 1606), now in Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Gal. MS 47

——, Ample selection from Sidereus nuncius (Venice, 1610); trans. A. Van Helden (Chicago, 1989)

Gianfrancesco Sagredo to Galileo, August 24, 1613 (EN, XI: 552-556; Valleriani 2010: 234-237)

Galileo Galilei, “Aesop in Parnassus,” draft in response to the anonymous tract Celestial Assembly Newly Convened in Parnassus about the New Comet (1619); ed. O. Besomi and M. Camerota (Florence, 2000).