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GALILEI, Vincenzo.

Dialogo... della musica antica, et della moderna.

Florence, Giorgio Marescotti, 1581 Stock Code: 109228

Music and the theory of sound - Vincenzo's Dialogo and Galileo's Discorsi

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First edition, first issue of Vincenzo Galilei's main work, very scarce on the market. Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo, made a series of experiments in the 1580s that subjected music to scientific analysis. Stillman Drake suggests that Vincenzo's experiments with sound "may have led to the origin of experimental physics", by inspiring his son to experiment in a similar way. "Vincenzo was a skilled lutenist, a mathematician, and musical preceptor to the Florentine musical Academy of the Camerata. Among the manuscripts inherited by Galileo he left a translation of Aristoxenus into Italian, and he explicitly followed the example of Aristoxenus in trying to build musical science up from auditory sensation, instead of imposing on it a rigid mathematical scheme in the style of the Platonists. One of his discoveries, described in his last published work and last manuscripts, was that the traditional ratio 2:1, said to have been shown by Pythagoras to produce the octave, did so only with lengths of strings in that ratio: for the tension of strings the octave ratio was 4:1... It was precisely when Vincenzo was doing this work that Galileo made his retreat from Pisa in 1585 and lived mainly in his father's house in Florence, before returning to Pisa as lecturer in mathematics in 1589. He reported what were evidently Vincenzo's results in his Discourses on Two New Sciences (1638), before giving his own proof that the musical intervals were ratios of frequencies and his own physical explanation of resonance, consonance, and dissonance" (A. C. Crombie, Science, Optics and Music in Medieval and Early Modern Thought, pp. 367-68).

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Folio (328 x 215 mm). Contemporary limp vellum. Housed in a brown quarter morocco solander box with chemise by the Chelsea Bindery.


Title within a fine allegorical woodcut border, 2 engraved examples of musical notation, 5 illustrations of musical instruments, 2 full page; pasted-in woodcut diagram, numerous woodcut text diagrams, some full-page, and woodcut printer's device at coloph


Old ownership inscription on front free endpaper crossed through. Spine with short splits over the cords, top corners worn, missing the original ties. One deletion in ink to two lines on page 70, and the odd marginal note in a contemporary hand. Occasional light spotting, pale damp mark to the upper margin of the first few leaves, and to the lower outer corner, the odd stain, but a beautiful copy, preserved in a custom-made, chemise and morocco backed box.


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