Alleged Galileo Manuscript Owned By University Of Michigan Is A Sham

Image via University Of Michigan


Even the brightest among us can be fooled. Turns out, an alleged Galileo Galilei manuscript owned by the University of Michigan has been revealed to be a 20th-century forgery, a far cry from the original artifact it was believed to have been. 

According to the university, following an investigation conducted by Professor of History at Georgia State University Nick Wilding, it was concluded that the document was in fact a fake.

While the institution said it was “working to reconsider the manuscript’s role” in its collection, it certainly is a bummer, considering the single-page relic had been described as “one of the jewels” of the school for nearly 1,000 years.

The top half of the manuscript features a draft of a letter that accompanied Galileo’s official presentation of a telescope to the Doge of Venice on August 24, 1609; while the latter part of the document contains notes on the pioneer’s observations of the moons of Jupiter in 1610.

It seems the only known genuine version of the letter remains in the Archive di State di Venezia, while the corroborated notes are part of the Sidereus Nuncius Dossier at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze. 

The now-determined forgery had first caused a stir in May 1934, when it was sold as part of the library collection of the late Roderick Terry, a wealthy collector of manuscripts and early editions. 

While the document was even authenticated by Cardinal Pietro Maffi, Archbishop of Pisa, he may have been mistaken after all. The error was first brought to light when Wilding inquired about the odd watermark on the manuscript this year, expressing doubts about its true provenance. 

The investigation found the watermark contained monograms for the paper maker’s initials—AS—and the site of production—BMO (Bergamo)—which only appeared after 1770. 

After much ado, it was concluded that the manuscript wasn’t penned by Galileo himself, but by well-known forger Tobia Nicotra. 




[via Popular Science and University Of Michigan, cover image via University Of Michigan]

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