It was the find of the century: a proof copy of Sidereus Nuncius (also known as the Starry Messenger), one of the most important books in the history of science. Unlike other known copies that had engraved images of the phases of the moon, this copy included watercolor paintings seemingly by author Galileo Galilei, one of the greatest scientific minds of all time.
A discovery that set the rare book market abuzz, the proof copy, if genuine, would be worth millions. Published in 1610, Sidereus Nuncius set in motion a scientific revolution. The first published scientific work based on observations made through a telescope, Galileo’s work challenged the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.
Five hundred and fifty copies of the book were originally printed and roughly 150 of those editions are known to exist today. In 2005, when a seemingly original copy with the astronomer’s signature and watercolor paintings hit the market, Sidereus Nunciuscaused a worldwide sensation 400 years after its publication.
In 2012, however, this discovery was proven to be a fake and rocked the book market to its core.
In Secrets of the Dead: Galileo’s Moon, a team of experts uncover the truth behind the alleged proof copy of the revolutionary Sidereus Nuncius, featuring historian Nick Wilding, whose suspicions and dogged research exposed the fraud.
Answering your questions from u/SecretsPBS is: Historian Nick Wilding.
He is Professor of Early Modern European History at Georgia State University.
- Nick is the author of two books: Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge (University of Chicago Press, 2014 )
- AND: Faussaire de lune. Autopsie d’une imposture, Galilée et ses contrefacteurs (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2015)
- His account of de-authenticating forgeries may be found here.
Source: reddit post