Sidereus Nuncius (source: Wikipedia)

Update: Skyweek rightly pointed out that the sketches are elaborate fakes. An ebook depicting the story will be released this month.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is generally credited to be the first scientist to use an optical telescope for astronomical purposes. In 1609, he made his first own “telescopium” and pointed it to the starry nocturnal sky. Thus, he not only discovered four Jupiter moons but also made an important discovery about our own lunar companion: the moon has a jagged surface and is not a smooth spehere. He presented his findings one year later in his famous book Sidereus Nuncius (“Starry Messenger”), illustrated with various copper engravings. Over 500 copies of the book were printed. It was assumed that the original watercolor paintings of the moon, which served as the original for the engravings, were those preserved in the National Library in Florence, Italy. When scientists from Berlin and Padova now compared these drawings with the engravings, it was clear that they differed in many details. They could not be the original drawings used for the engraved illustrations.

To the great surprise of the scientists and the whole scientific community, the original paintings have been found now in a copy of the Sidereus Nuncius preserved in New York. Detailed analyzes (including determination of the age of the paper) confirmed the fact that these drawings were made before the engravings and that they are indeed works by Galileo himself. He probably used one of the first printed copies, which did not include any illustrations, to amend them with his own drawings, which in turned served as the original for the engravings.

The wonderful Rarebookroom gallery shows a copy of the Sidereus Nuncius, check pages 10, 12 and 13.

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