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Galileo’s greatest work - the very rare first issue

GALILEI, GALILEO. Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche, Intorno a Due Nuoue Scienze attenenti alla mecanica & movimenti locali …

Leiden: Elzevir, 1638

4to. Diagrams and woodcuts. Near contemporary quarter calf, marbled boards. Rubbed, joints cracked but securely held by cords. Closed tear repaired on Hh4, a little staining. A fresh, honest copy. Half morocco case.

First edition, the rare first issue, of the Two New Sciences, Galileo’s greatest work. Galileo’s “Mathematical Discourses and Demonstrations … is now considered by most scientists as Galileo’s greatest work. … It was upon his foundations that Huygens, Newton and others were able to erect the frame of the science of dynamics, and to extend its range (with the concept of universal gravitation) to the heavenly bodies” (PMM).

Galileo’s Mathematical Discourses and Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences Relating to Mechanics and Local Motion is the foundation of modern physics. Written in the form of four dialogues and an appendix, the book presents the first law of motion, the law of falling bodies, the demonstration of the parabolic curve of projectiles, the laws of cohesion and of the pendulum, and the correct definition of momentum, among other breakthrough observations. “Galileo’s Two New Sciences underlies modern physics not only because it contains the elements of the mathematical treatment of motion, but also because most of the problems … amenable to physical experimentation and mathematical analysis were gathered together in this book with suggestive discussions of their possible solution” (DSB).

This is the rare first issue, with the first form of the final bifolium Rr (without catchword on Rr1 verso) and the final leaf blank, before the addition the index and errata. In January 1638 Elzevir twice asked Galileo to send the dedication, index, and errata. Galileo appears to have sent only the dedication at first. Elzevir then released a handful of copies, with dedication but without index and errata, prior to the general publication in June 1638.

Examples in the market are almost invariably the second issue, with that added material.

The first issue is rare in an unrestored contemporary binding.The only other example we have traced at public sale in recent years was the dedication copy, which sold for more than $800,000 in 2017.

Printing and the Mind of Man 130. Dibner, Heralds 141. Grolier/Horblit Science 36.


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