• <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Early Printed Books<br>October 13, 2022
    <b>Swann October 13:</b> Miguel de Cervantes, <i>The History of Don-Quichote (Quixote), The First & Second Part,</i> London, 1620. $30,000 to $40,000
    <b>Swann October 13:</b> Jacques Lagniet, <i>Recueil des Plus Illustres Proverbes, Divisés en Trois Livre,</i> first edition, Paris, 1657-63. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann October 13:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies,</i> fourth folio, London, 1685. $60,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Swann October 13:</b> Ramon Llull, <i>Liber de Ascensu et Decensu Intellectus,</i> first edition, Valencia, 1512. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann October 13:</b> Geoffrey Chaucer, <i>The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed,</i> London, 1542. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center><b>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>October 13, 2022</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 109. Miguel de Cervantes. <i>The History of Don-Quichote. The first parte.</i> London: William Stansby for Edward Blount, 1620. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 43. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. <i>Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.</i> Washington: The White House, Christmastide, 1942. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 113. Charles Darwin. A collection of 26 titles including <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> $10,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 210. Philip Guston. Important correspondence between Philip Guston and Ralph and Martha Hyams. New York, 1967-76. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 26. John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Signed guest book and original photos from the May 19, 1962 reception. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <center><b>Doyle<br>Rare Books, Autographs & Maps<br>October 13, 2022</b>
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 194. J.R.R. Tolkien. <i>The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.</i> London: George Allen and Unwin, 1954-1954-1955. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 164. Max Beerbohm. Autograph Manuscript for The Happy Hypocrite, circa 1896. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 158. Mark Twain. <i>The Writings.</i> Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1899-1907. The Autograph Edition. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 150. Lady Dilke. <i>French Painters of the XVIIIth Century.</i> London: George Bell, 1899. First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Doyle, Rare Books, Autographs & Maps:</b> Lot 200. Ludwig Bemelmans. Original sketch of Madeline, ink and gouache. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <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>Dominic Winter<br>October 12th<br>Printed Books, Stamps & Documents, Maps, Travel & Exploration
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Hottot (Robert). <i>French explorer and collector.</i> An original illustrated manuscript diary by Hottot of his expedition along the Congo River to Lake Chad, 1908-1909, £700-1,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Japan. Ino Tadataka (after), Kokugun Zenzu (Complete Atlas of Japan), 2 volumes, circa 1838, £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Khatib al-Tibrizi (Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah). <i>Mishcat-ul-masabih</i> or a collection of the most authentic traditions, regarding the actions and sayings of Muhammed; 2 volumes, Calcutta, 1809-1810, £1,500-2,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter<br>October 12th<br>Printed Books, Stamps & Documents, Maps, Travel & Exploration
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Roberts (David). <i>The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt & Nubia,</i> 1st quarto edition, 6 volumes in 3, London: Day & Son, 1855-56, £2,000-3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Tocqueville (Alexis de). <i>De la Démocratie en Amérique,</i> volumes 1 & 2 (of 4), 1st edition, Paris: Charles Gosselin, 1835, £2,000-3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Torquemada (Juan de). <i>Primera[-tercera] parte de los veinte i un libros rituales i monarchia Indiana,</i> 3 volumes, 2nd edition, Madrid: Nicolas Rodriguez Franco, 1723, £2,000-3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter<br>October 12th<br>Printed Books, Stamps & Documents, Maps, Travel & Exploration
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Donovan (Edward). <i>The Natural History of British Insects,</i> 16 volumes bound in 8, London: F and C Rivington, 1793-1813, £1,500-2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Fuchs (Leonhart). <i>New Kreüterbuch,</i> 1st edition in German, Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1543, £7,000-10,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Spain & Portugal. Ptolemy (Claudius), <i>Secunda Europe Tabula,</i> Rome [1478 - 1509], £1,000-2,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter<br>October 12th<br>Printed Books, Stamps & Documents, Maps, Travel & Exploration
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> World. Gill (Macdonald), <i>La Carta del Atlantico,</i> George Philip & Son Ltd in collaboration with the Time and Tide Publishing Company Ltd, circa 1943, £1,500-2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Vinegar Bible [English]. <i>The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New,</i> Oxford: John Baskett, 1717/1716, £700-1,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, Oct. 12:</b> Mill (John Stuart). <i>The Subjection of Women,</i> 1st edition, presentation copy, London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869, £700-1,000
  • <b><center>Gonnelli Auction House<br>Books, Autographs & Manuscripts<br>11th-12th of October 2022
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Alfieri Vittorio, <i>Vita [...] scritta da esso,</i> 1968. Starting Price: €900,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Collection of 25 albumin photographs depicting Italian, French and Swiss places. Late 19th century.
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Brandolini D’Adda Brandolino, Duale. <i>Poesia [...] e incisioni di Sandro Martini,</i> 1976.
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Alighieri Dante, <i>La divina commedia di Dante</i> edizione illustrata da 30 fotografie tolte da disegni di Scaramuzza, 1879. Starting Price: €500,00.
    Gonnelli Oct. 12th: Cervantes Saavedra Miguel (de), <i>El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha.</i> Nueva edicion corregida por la Real Academia Española, 1780. Starting price: €12.000,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Collodi Carlo, <i>Le avventure di Pinocchio. Storia di un burattino,</i> 1883. Starting price: €6.000,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> Wilde Oscar, <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray [...]</i> with original images & notes on the text by Jim Dine, 1968. Starting price: €1.500,00
    <b>Gonnelli Oct. 11th:</b> The smallest tarot cards in the world. 21st century.

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