World’s First Physics Textbook By Galileo Galilei Sells For $790,000

(Credit: Pierre Berge & Associates)

World’s first physics book, which is considered to be the most significant work in the history of modern science, changed owners last week. The copy of Galileo Galilei’s work, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences or in Latin Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica & i movimenti locali was sold for €727,919 (US$791,190) in Paris, France. The sale makes it one of the 50 Most Valuable Scientific Documents of all-time.

The book’s price is justified considering its significance in modern science as well as the historical context. The book is narrated in a style akin to Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems). The book consists of three men discussing the basics of physics, which obviously were unknown to humans back then. The three men (Simplicio, Sagredo, and Salviati) dwell on the theories, with Simplicio talking about Galileo’s early beliefs, Sagredo representing his middle period beliefs, and Salviati his latest ideas at the time penning down the book.

(Credit: Pierre Berge & Associates)

Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche was originally completed in 1638, but the Roman Catholic Chruch, who by the way finally “admitted” Galileo was right, banned the book in 1632 due to Dialogo which presented the heliocentric theory that Earth moves around the Sun, which opposed the Biblical views. Galileo was put under the house arrest and had to sneak this handwritten copy of his work to the Ambassador of France.

The French ambassador came good to the task and sent this deluxe copy to François de Noailles, Comte d ‘ Ayen (1584-1645) for his pivotal role in the publication of the book. The story can be read in English here, which explains the hardships faced by Galileo for the sake of scientific pursuit.

The book has been sold in Paris by Pierre Berge and Associates for €27,919 ($791,190) and was estimated to value between €700,000 and €900,000.

This text is the foundation of modern mechanics and dynamics,

“Considered the first modern textbook in physics, in it Galileo pressed forward the experimental and mathematical methods in the analysis of problems in mechanics and dynamics” (Dibner).

You can read the entire book in its English translation in the version found online at Virginia Tech website.


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