• <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Antiquarian Books<br>Including a series of views of Milan<br>September 27 to October 4</b></center>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Livius, Historia Romanae decades, Venice, Vindelinus de Spira, 1470, contemporary Morocco. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Blaeu, Nieuw Stedeboeck van Italien (Piemont), The Hague, 1724-1725, 8 volumes, marbled calf gilt. €70,000 to €90,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Baysio, Rosarium decretorum, Venice, 1481, later vellum. €10,000 to €15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> [Niccolò da Poggibonsi], Viaggio da Venetia al santo Sepulchro, Venice, 1529, later half calf. €2,000 to €3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Sep. 27 – Oct. 4:</b> Hieronymus, Epistole [Italian], Ferrara, 1497, blue crushed morocco with the Rocco di Torrepadula arms. €12,000 to €15,000.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Extensive archive of papers of Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> George Catlin, <i>North American Indian Portfolio,</i> 1844. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> The Twenty-Four Books of the Holy Scriptures, Carefully Translated…after the Best Jewish Authorities, Philadelphia, 1853-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Printed & Manuscript Americana<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Wedding book of Eleanor Roosevelt’s bodyguard, Earl Miller, signed by the Roosevelts, 1932. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Textile titled <i>The Resignation of Pres’t Washington,</i> Scotland, circa 1800. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Gideon Welles, Pass for President Lincoln’s White House funeral, 1865. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann September 29:</b> Confirmation of arms and nobility in favor of the Diez y Mora family, Madrid, 1710. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on paper<br>Thursday 29th September 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> South America.- Conquest of Peru.- Cieza De León (Pedro de). <i>Parte primera de la chronica del Peru,</i> first edition, Seville, Martín de Montesdoca, 1553. £50,000 to £70,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Asia.- Mandeville (Sir John). <i>Tractato bellissimo delle piu maravigliose cose & piu motabile che sitrovino nelle parte delmondo,</i> Florence, [Lorenzo Morgiani], 1496-99. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Bible leaf, Latin. Single leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, [Mainz], [Johann Gutenberg & Johann Fust], [c.1454/55]. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on paper<br>Thursday 29th September 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Publicius (Jacobus). <i>Ars oratoria. Ars epistolandi. Ars memorativa,</i> first edition, Venice, Erhard Ratdolt, 1482. £40,000 to £60,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Biblia Pauperum.- Single leaf from a blockbook Biblia Pauperum in Latin, from the Wiblingen copy of Schreiber's edition III, Netherlands, 1465. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> South America.- Brazil.- Steinmann (Johan Jacob). <i>Souvenirs de Rio de Janeiro,</i> Paris, chez Rittner & Goupil, 1837. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on paper<br>Thursday 29th September 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Asia.- Polo (Marco). <i>In cui si tratta le meravigliose cose del mondo per lui vedute,</i> Venice, Matteo Pagano, 1555. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Sir Joshua Reynolds' copy.- Donne (John). <i>Poems, by J.D. With elegies on the authors death,</i> the Joshua Reynolds-Philip Bliss copy of the first edition, Printed by M[iles]. F[lesher]. for Iohn Marriot, 1633. £20,000 to £30,000
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Gilbert (William). <i>De Magnete,</i> first edition, Peter Short, 1600. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b><center>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts<br>and Works on paper<br>Thursday 29th September 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Audubon (John James). <i>The Birds of America,</i> 8 vol., New York, George R. Lockwood, [c.1889]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Pratchett (Terry). <i>The Colour of Magic,</i> first edition, signed by the author, 1983. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum, Sep. 29:</b> Flaubert (Gustave). <i>Trois Contes,</i> first edition, one of 100 copies on papier de Hollande, Paris, Charpentier, 1877. £5,000 to £7,000.
  • <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> London: John Lane the Bodley Head, 1937. PRESENTATION COPY OF THE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION PRINTED IN ENGLAND. $50,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [SHACKLETON, Ernest]. –– BROWNING, Robert. <i>Poetical Works of…</i> London: Smith and Elder, 1906. PRESENTED TO SHACKLETON AND THE OFFICERS OF THE NIMROD BY A MEMBER OF THE ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> AUDUBON, John James. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York: George R. Lockwood, [1870]. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> ARISTOTLE. Opera, in Greek, parts one and two only: Organon and Natural Philosophy I. Edited by Aldus and others. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1 November 1495–February 1498. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> COOK, James, Capt. [Collected Voyages]. First and Second Voyages: London: W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, 1773, 1777; Third Voyage: London: H. Hughes for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1785. $14,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CLEMENS, Samuel Langhorne (“Mark Twain”). <i>The Writings of…</i> Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1899–1900. $12,000 to $16,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. SHAKESPEARE, William. <i>The Poems of…</i> Edited by Frederick S. Ellis. Hammersmith: William Morris for the Kelmscott Press, 1893. $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> LONDON, Jack. <i>The Call of the Wild.</i> New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905. PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY LONDON. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> CROWLEY, Aleister (1875–1947). <i>The Winged Beetle.</i> London: privately printed, 1910. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b><center>Potter & Potter Auctions<br>Fine Books & Manuscripts<br>October 20, 2022</b></center>
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> WILDE, Oscar (“C.3.3.”). <i>The Ballad of Reading Gaol.</i> London: Leonard Smithers, January 1898. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> DRYDEN, John. <i>Fables Ancient and Modern; translated into verse from Homer, Ovid, Boccace, & Chaucer: with original poems.</i> London: John Tonson, 1700. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter, Oct. 20:</b> [MAP]. LINSCHOTEN, Jan Huygen van. <i>Delineatio Orarum Maritimarum…</i> London: John Wolfe, 1598. $3,000 to $4,000.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2022 Issue

Prized Galileo Manuscript at the University of Michigan Turns Out to Be a Forgery

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The Galileo forgery (University of Michigan Library image).

One of the prized possessions of the University of Michigan Library has been found to be a fake. It is a refrain we have heard many times in the past, and as with many of these, it is not a recent forgery. It is one that took almost a century to discover. Some of those old forgers were very good at their craft.

 

The item is what was believed to be a handwritten draft by Galileo, the great 16th century Italian astronomer. The first part is supposedly a draft of a letter he sent to the Doge of Venice explaining his latest invention, a telescope many times more powerful than any known before. We think of its importance for looking to the heavens, but Galileo understood another more practical use more likely of interest to the Doge – the ability to spot enemy warships offshore much sooner than possible with the naked eye. The second part is his observations of the moons of Jupiter. The final copies of these documents are real. The actual letter is now held by the State Archive in Venice. The observations on the moons of Jupiter are kept at the Florence National Central Library. That's all legitimate. What isn't is the supposed draft of these documents held by the University of Michigan.

 

The known history of this document begins in 1934, when it was sold at Anderson Galleries as part of the collection of the late Rev. Dr. Roderick Terry. Dr. Terry was a Presbyterian minister in New York. He was also an avid book and manuscript collector. The sale of his collection took in $270,000, a lot of money at the time, especially considering this was the heart of the Great Depression. He collected well.

 

Anderson described it as “a remarkable historical letter by one of the most famous scientists of all time. Believed to be the first signed autograph letter by Galileo to be offered for public sale in America.” It certainly would have been remarkable had it been real. Anderson vouched for the authenticity of the letter by saying, “A certification of genuineness by Cardinal Maffi, Archbishop of Pisa, accompanies the letter, written on a visiting card. It attests that Cardinal Maffi has compared the letter with other originals in the collection at Pisa and found it to be authentic.” That certification is missing, but it was likely real. Cardinal Maffi would not have been an expert on identifying letters, and it is likely he identified it by comparing the signature to those on other Galileo documents.

 

The letter was purchased at the Anderson sale by Tracy McGregor, a Detroit businessman and similarly avid collector of books and manuscripts. When he died, the Trustees of the McGregor Fund bequeathed the document to the University of Michigan. That was in 1938, and it has resided in the university's collection ever since.

 

The truth came to be known as a result of work by Professor Nick Wilding of Georgia State University. He is writing a book about Galileo. He has also exposed Gallileo forgeries in the past. He was examining the Michigan document when he noticed two things particularly suspicious about it. One was the watermark. The watermark on the paper of this document contains the letters “AS” for the paper maker and “BMO” (Bergamo) for the site of production. The problem with this is no other paper with this watermark from before 1770 is known, while many examples from after that date are. That is over one and one-half centuries after this document was supposedly written.

 

The other problem is with the document's history or provenance. There is no history of its existence prior to 1930. That was over 300 years after it was supposedly created and yet no known person had ever seen it before. That included it not appearing in the very thorough National Edition of Gallileo's Works compiled 1890-1909. If it existed, surely someone would have had it and others known about it before 1930.

 

Professor Wilding concluded the manuscript was a forgery, and the University of Michigan's experts concluded the same. They even have a likely suspect. His name is Tobia Nicotra, a prolific Italian forger who operated in the 1920s and early 1930s before being caught. He is believed to have faked as many as 500 signed manuscripts, primarily of famous Italians. He was very good, but not so good as to leave no traces. Still, he was able to travel to America and sell some of his documents, at one point posing as a recently deceased Italian musician. He specialized in musical compositions. He even sold two Mozart “signed documents” to the Library of Congress. He befriended the son of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini, and perhaps the one legitimate thing he did in his life was to write the first biography of the senior Toscanini. However, Nicotra also sold some musical manuscripts to Walter, the younger Toscanini, who eventually figured it out and was the prime witness at Nicotra's trial.

 

Perhaps the experts at Anderson Galleries should have been a bit more discerning than to simply accept a written authentication from Cardinal Maffi, not an expert in identifying signatures. He essentially looked at two documents (and as it turns out, both forged) and said they looked the same to him. An auction house would do greater due diligence today, especially since it was known that Nicotra had forged all sorts of documents, including those of Galileo. The year of the sale, 1934, is when he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. When he was caught, the prolific Nicotra was generating forged documents by others, including Christopher Columbus, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Lafayette, and Warren Harding. Why he added Harding to that list is a bit of a mystery, but perhaps around 1930 he was more highly regarded.

 

The manuscript was sold to Mr. McGregor for $975 in 1934. That would translate to about $63,000 today based on typical appreciation of books. However, an original manuscript by Galileo is hardly anything typical, and you can be sure it would be worth many times that today, if only...


Posted On: 2022-09-02 00:45
User Name: mairin

Good job on this, Mike. And your coverage included more content on this embarrassing exposure than what I saw in the news cycle. Our thanks to Nick Wilding, as well. Not a pleasant surfacing, all of this, but it must be exposed, alas. MEM, Collector.
___


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autograph & Documents<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> John Adams Signed Ship's Passport, partly printed DS as president, signed “John Adams.”
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Extremely Rare James Garfield DS as President Appointing Revenue Service Agent.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Babe Ruth 1939 Cooperstown cover boldly signed — with photo.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autograph & Documents<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Incredible Harry S. Truman Kansas City Auto Club sales ledger maintained by Truman!
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Important Herbert Hoover 4 pg ALS about Chinese Gold Mining.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Rare Calvin Coolidge ALS as President.
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autograph & Documents<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Appointment.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Ironic John Kennedy Jr. Handwritten report on why he is accident report form when he attended Collegiate School in 1975.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Katherine Bates Signed -“America! America! God shed his grace on thee.”
    <center><b>One of a Kind Collectibles Auctions<br>Rare Autograph & Documents<br>September 29, 2022</b>
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Apollo 11 - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Amassed Over Four Decades, an impressive 1100+ piece collection of entertainment and notables.
    <b>One of a Kind, Sep. 29:</b> Mark Twain / Samuel Clemens Signed Letter and Card.

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