• <b><center>Sotheby’s<br>Music<br>Online Auction<br>2-13 December 2022</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Brahms. Important series of 44 autograph letters signed, to Friedrich Chrysander, mostly unpublished, 1869-1894. £80,000 to £120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Sibelius. Remarkable collection of 22 letters signed, to Werner Janssen, 1934-1957. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> [Mozart, W.A.] F. Zeffirelli. Stage set design for the Covent Garden production of "Don Giovanni", signed, 1963. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Dec. 2-13:</b> J. Rutter. Autograph composing manuscript of "A Ukrainian Prayer", 2022. £3,000 to £4,000.
  • <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> The Corner-stone Document of Irish Freedom. 1916 PROCLAMATION OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC. £140,000 to £180,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Joyce's Modern Masterpiece, in its one-and-hundredth Year. Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare & Co. 1922. £15,000 to £25,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b>A Request from Mr. Joyce. Joyce (James). Autograph Letter Signed to 'Dear Mr [Thomas] Pugh,' dated 6.8.1934. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Dun Emer Press: Yeats (Wm. Butler). <i>Stories of Red Hanrahan,</i> 8vo Dundrum 1904. Signed by Author. £1,000 to £1,500.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Binding: <i>Specimens of Early English Poets,</i> 8vo Lond. (For Edwards, Pall Mall) 1790. £500 to £700.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Harry Clarke: Walter (L. D'O.) <i>The Years at the Spring,</i> An Anthology of Recent Poetry. 4to New York (Brentano's) 1920. Special signed limited edition. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Kipling (Rudyard). <i>Works,</i> including Writings, Novels, Poems etc. Bombay Edition, 31 vols. roy 8vo Lond. (MacMillan & Co.) 1913-1938. Signed by Author. £1,500 to £2,000.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Dunraven (Edwin, Third Earl of). <i>Notes on Irish Architecture,</i> Ed. by Margaret Stokes, 2 vols. lg. folio Lond. 1875-1877. Castle Hackett copy. £1,500 to £2,400.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Kirby (Wm.) & Spence (Wm.) <i>An Introduction to Entomology,</i> 4 vols. 8vo Lond. 1822. With hand-coloured plates. £200 to £300.
    <center><b>Fonsie Mealy’s<br>Christmas Rare Books<br>& Collectors’ Sale<br>6th and 7th December</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Death of a Naturalist,</i> 8vo Lond. (Faber & Faber) 1966 First Edition - Third Impression. Signed, & inscribed on title page 'Seamus Heaney’. £800 to £1,200.
    <b>Fonsie Mealy’s, Dec. 6-7:</b> Glasgow Printing: Homer - <i>Iliad and Odyssey,</i> 4 vols. in 2, Glasgow (Robert & Andrew Foulis) 1756-1758. £1,0000 to £1,500.

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>19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop<br>Catalogue 195<br>Magnificent Books & Manuscripts<br>Free on request</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Benjamin Franklin on Electricity. Inscribed presentation copy.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Frederick Douglass. Letter on civil war and the end of slavery.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Carleton Watkins. A major American West photo album.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Einstein. General Theory of Relativity inscribed by Einstein.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> The Federalist. Rare deluxe thick-paper copy.
    <b>19th Century Shop, Catalogue 195:</b> Emma Johnston. Archive of 350 salt prints by a Victorian female photographer.
  • <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> KEPLER INVESTIGATES PLANETARY MOTION. KEPLER, JOHANNES. 1571-1630. $400,000 to $600,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> THE FINAL ILLUSTRATION OF POOH AND PIGLET IN THE HUNDRED ACRE WOOD. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GUTENBERG BIBLE LEAF. $60,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> ORTELIUS, ABRAHAM. 1527-1598. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> KNIGHT, HILARY. "Christmas Dinner at Maxime de la Falaise's" $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GERSHWIN WORKING MUSICAL MANUSCRIPT PAGE FROM <i>OF THEE I SING.</i> $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> GILBERT, W.S. Original typed manuscript for <i>The Story of the Mikado.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> FINAL TYPED MANUSCRIPT FOR V.C. ANDREWS CLASSIC <I>FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.</I> $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> ANNOTATED TYPESCRIPT DRAFT FOR KIPLING'S FINAL MOWGLI STORY. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> PRESENTATION COPY OF GUYS AND DOLLS. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> CHARLES DICKENS' CHINA INKWELL FEATURING A BEE READING, FROM GAD'S HILL. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, Dec. 13:</b> NELSON'S BATTLE PLAN FOR TRAFALGAR. $200,000 to $300,000
  • <b><center>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>December 14-15, 2022</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Two first editions by Adrian Spigelius in a Sammelband: <i>De humani corporis fabrica</i> from 1627 and <i>De formato foetu</i> from 1626. €15,000 to €20,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Splendid coloured copy by Frederick De Wit, <i>Atlas maior,</i> Amsterdam, 1705. €20,000 to €30,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> First edition by Marco Ricci, <i>Varia Marci Ricci Pictoris prestantissimi Experimenta,</i> Venice, Orsolini, 1723-1730. €20,000 to €25,000.
    <b><center>Aste Bolaffi<br>Rare Books and Autographs<br>December 14-15, 2022</b>
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> First edition by MicheleMarieschi, <i>Magnificentiores selectioresque Urbis Venetiarum prospectus,</i> Venice, 1741. €30,000 to €40,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Magnificent album by Louis-Leopold Boilly, Collection de dessins, calques et acquerelles, 1822. €20,000 to €25,000.
    <b>Aste Bolaffi, Dec. 14-15:</b> Rare musical score by Gioachino Rossini from 1858. €6,500 to €7,500.
  • <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>1st December 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Illuminated manuscript.- Psalter, Use of Liège, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum, Southern Netherlands (Liège), [c.1270]. £70,000 to £90,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Troy.- Early English provenance.- Columna (Guido de). <i>Historia destructionis Troiae,</i> first edition, one of only four known books from this press, [The Netherlands, ?Utrecht], [c.1477-1479]. £25,000 to £35,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Shute (John). <i>The First and Chief Groundes of Architecture,</i> first edition, 1563; bound with Palladio's Quattro Libri dell'Architettura, 1570. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>1st December 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Martin (John). <i>Paradise Lost: By John Milton,</i> first edition in the original 12 parts, Imperial Quarto issue, Septimus Prowett, 1825-26. £12,000 to £16,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Sagittarius and a medieval town scene with peat barges on a canal as merchants meet and talk and another man cuts wood, Netherlands or Western Germany [perhaps Cologne], 1460-70. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Stoker (Bram). <i>Dracula,</i> first edition, later issue, Graham Greene's copy, Westminster, Archibald Constable & Co., 1897. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>1st December 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Gillray (James). <i>The Plumb-pudding in danger: -or- State Epicures taking un Petit Souper,</i> etching with hand-colouring, 1805. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Darwin (Charles). Autograph Letter signed to his cousin Reginald Darwin, 1879, announcing his intention to have translated and add a preface to Ernst Krause's sketch of Dr Erasmus Darwin's life. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> By the Congress of the United States of America. Manifesto. "These United States, having been driven to hostilities by the oppressive and tyrannous measures...,” bound with others, 1778. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <center><b>Forum Auctions<br>Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper<br>1st December 2022</b>
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Polar.- Benham (Daniel). <i>Sketch of the Life of Jan August Miertsching, Interpreter of the Esquimaux Language to the Arctic Expedition on Board H.M.S. "Investigator", Captain M'Clure,</i> first edition, 1854. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Woman artist.- Unthank (Mary, née Williams). An album of 120 watercolours of views from Italy, Switzerland, France and England; with associated manuscript travel diary, 1860s-1870s. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum, Dec. 1:</b> Gill (Eric).- Chaucer (Geoffrey). <i>Troilus and Criseyde,</i> number 159 of 225 copies on hand-made paper, Golden Cockerel Press, 1927. £3,000 to £4,000.
  • <b><center>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Signature Winter Auction<br>December 3, 2022</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Brinkley, Francis. <i>The Art of Japan,</i> Boston, 1897. The very rare complete Shogun edition. $4,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Sun Tzu. <i>Art Militaire des Chinois, ou recueil d'ancins traités sur la guerre composés avant l'ere chrétienne, par différents généraux chinois,</i> Paris, 1772. First European edition. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> First English Translation, St. Augustine's <i>Of the Citie of God: With the Learned Comments of Io. Lod. Vives…,</i> London, 1610. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b><center>Leland Little Auctions<br>The Signature Winter Auction<br>December 3, 2022</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866). Five <i>Nippon</i> Folios on Japan, 1832 [and] later 19th century [and] 1931. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Mason (George Henry). <i>The Punishments of China, Illustrated by Twenty-Two Engravings: with Explanations in English and French,</i> London, 1808/1817. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Leland Little, Dec. 3:</b> Hobbes, Thomas (of Malmesbury). <i>Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Common-wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil,</i> London, “1651,” ca. 1680. $800 to $1,200.
  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books<br> December 8, 2022</b>
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Friedrich Justin Bertuch, <i>Bilderbuch für Kinder,</i> Weimar, 1792, 1798, 1802, 1805, 1822. $1,200 to $1,800.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Sebastian Münster, <i>Novae Insulae XXVI Nova Tabula,</i> Basel, 1552. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Sebastian Münster & Hans Holbein, <i>Typus Cosmographicus Universales,</i> Basel, 1532. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Franz Unger, <i>Die Urwelt in Ihren Verschiedenen Bildungsperioden,</i> 16 tinted lithographed plates, Weigel, 1858. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann December 8:</b> Charles Varle, Wiliam Warner & Andrew Hanna, <i>Plan of the City of Environs of Baltimore,</i> Baltimore, 1801. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b><center>Gonnelli Auction House<br>HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS<br>“From the grand Tour in Italy to the journey to the East”<br>1st of December 2022</b>
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Fratelli Alinari, Alphonse Bernoud, Album with 15 photographs of Florence and Siena, 1860 - 1865. Starting Price: €1.500,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Fratelli Alinari, Lucca. Church of San Michele, 1856. Starting Price: €1.500,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Tommaso Cuccioni, Roma. Colosseo, 1854 - 1855. Starting Price: €800,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Antonio Fortunato Perini, Venezia. Ca’ D’Oro, 1853 – 1855. Starting Price: €1.000,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Lot of 51 photographs by Studio Incorpora: landscapes and views of Sicily, 1885 - 1890. Starting price: €1.200,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Lehnert & Landrock. View of the Tunisian desert, 1904 - 1914. Starting price: €300,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Lehnert & Landrock. Tunisia. Night landscape with nomads at the shores of a lake. Starting price: €400,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Vittorio Sella, Aiguille du Midi, from the Col du Midi, 1881. Starting price: €1.000,00.
    <b>Gonnelli Dec. 1st:</b> Fratelli Alinari. Florence. Giotto's Bell Tower, 1858 - 1860. Starting price: €1.500,00.

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