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GALILEI, Galileo.

Difesa... Contro alle Calunnie & imposture di Baldessar Capra Milanese,

Usategli sì nella Considerazione Astronomica sopra la nuova Stella del MDCIIII. come (& assai più) nel publicare nuovamente come sua invenzione la fabrica, & gli usidel Compasso Geometrico, & Militare, sotto il titolo di Usus & fabrica Circini cuiusdam proportionis, &c.

Venice : 1607 Stock Code: 138789
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First edition of the second published work of this most famous of 17th-century scientists. Galileo's first published work, Le Operazioni del compasso geometrico et militare (1606), had been privately printed in a short run of 60 copies to accompany sales of his first significant scientific invention. Galileo's compass, invented in Padua in 1597, was a calculating instrument making use of the proportionality between the corresponding sides of two similar triangles, designed for use by soldiers and merchants, which could be used for all sorts of complex calculations, from currency conversion to calculating cannon charge. Galileo instructed several European sovereigns on the use of it; he also gave private lessons to students in his own house, installing an instrument maker there to produce the compass.
In 1602 Galileo had sold one of his compasses to the father of Baldassar Capra and recommended him to the court of the Duke of Mantua. But in 1607 Capra published a Latin translation of Galileo's manual under his own name. With cool impudence, the preface implied that Galileo had stolen the instrument from him. Infuriated, Galileo took legal action that resulted in Capra's expulsion from the University of Padua and an order to seize all the copies of Capra's offending book. Not satisfied with this, Galileo published the Difesa to advertise his crushing victory to those potential patrons and colleagues overseas who might otherwise have missed it. He describes the instrument's applications (especially but not limited to its military uses), how he had manufactured it, and repeatedly belittles Capra. (Capra translates as "goat", a misfortune which Galileo fully exploits in his text.)
The Difesa has Tommaso Baglioni's name and Girolamo Polo's device on title-page (Minerva riding a lion), but Baglioni's name and Roberto Meietti's device (two roosters) at the end; most probably, it was printed by Meietti on Polo's press, and distributed by Baglioni. Meietti had been excommunicated the previous year and any printer or bookseller dealing with him faced excommunication, heavy fines, and other punishments, therefore his participation in the publication was disguised. At least forty copies of the Difesa are known, of which about ten have been seen on the market over the past 100 years.

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Quarto (201 x 149 mm), ff. 41, [2]. Recased in 18th-century mottled half calf, pulled-paste paper sides, red edges.


Girolamo Polo's woodcut device to title, woodcut diagrams in the text, Roberto Meietti's woodcut device at the end.


Paper restoration to lower outer portion of title page, presumably to remove a stamp, with minor skilful penwork restoration to right edge of vignette and the tips of a couple of letters in imprint, a few very faint inkspots to title, a little faint browning and occasional spotting, the margins trimmed, just shaving side-notes on versos A2, B1, B3, otherwise adequate all round, a very good copy of a rare and highly desirable title.


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