Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Galileo's library recreated - Volumes that formed his personal collection on show

December 23 (WebVisionItaly.com) - In celebration of Galileo Galilei's (Galileo) invention of the telescope in 1608, 400 years ago, Florence has an exhibit of the books from Galileo's personal library, the books that shaped Galileo's mind.

The National Library of Florence is showcasing 70 volumes that were once part of the personal collection of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). The exhibit runs at the National Library of Florence until February 28. ''The material on display was selected from the Galileo collection stored in our library,'' explained library director Antonia Idea Fontana. ''They were the source of his research and bear witness to his successes but also show the polemics, the legal arguments and the trials linked to his work''.

Galileo was born in Tuscany and was known as the first Renaissance Man because of his studies of the humanites and varous subjects including astronomy, science, and mathematics.

Galilieo's library of books not only included scientific treatises but also copies of Dante's Divine Comedy, the romantic epic poem Orlando Furioso and works by Petrarch.

In addition to Galileo's library of books, the show also features a number of Galileo's scientific sketches, as well as original ideas and notes he jotted down while reading the various volumes. ''While this is not the first time these books have been displayed, the idea of reconstructing Galileo's personal library is completely new,'' added Fontana.

Galileo's telescope led to much trouble for the Tuscan visionary. With his powerful lens, the only one on earth at the time, Galileo studied the heavens. His discovery of three of Jupiter's moons and his observation of Venus's phases helped him rationalize that the sun was at the centre of the universe, rather than the Earth, as was commonly believed at the time.

Church opposition to Galileo's sun-centred model flared up immediately in 1612 and would dog Galileo for the rest of his life. An exhibition at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence until the end of December explores this discovery, showing the only two surviving telescopes created by Galileo, as well as dozens of original documents and instruments.

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