The University of Michigan Library declares the Galileo manuscript to be a forgery


Using his newly built telescope, Galileo Galilei stared up at the sky in January 1610, saw many bright objects around Jupiter and spent weeks planning how they would change their positions each night. When he painted how he imagined those moving objects would appear to someone above Jupiter, he realized that they were moons.

It was the first time in history that someone documented a celestial body orbiting a planet that wasn’t Earth, and for nearly a century, the University of Michigan boasted Galileo’s drawing of Jupiter as one of its “jewels.”

University wrote in Document Description. “It reflects a pivotal moment in Galileo’s life that helped change our understanding of the universe.”

Then, in May, the university’s trustee received an email from Nick Wilding.

Wilding, a history professor at Georgia State University, wrote to express “serious doubts” about the authenticity of Galileo’s manuscript, library officials wrote in new description out of the manuscript. University experts found Wilding’s findings “irrefutable evidence”, and re-examined the gem and came to the same conclusion as his.

It was a forger, written not by the father of modern astronomy in the early 17th century, but more than 300 years later by a notorious forger.

“We are grateful to Professor Wilding for sharing his findings, and are now working to reconsider the manuscript’s role in our collection,” the university wrote in its online update.

Neither Wilding nor the university’s library immediately responded to a request for comment from the Washington Post late Sunday.

The manuscript appeared on the public’s radar in May 1934 when the auction house was selling the late bookshop. Roderick TerryHe is a wealthy collector of ancient books and manuscripts. According to the auction catalog, the Archbishop of Pisa certified the document by comparing it with Galileo’s letter in his personal collection.

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Tracy McGregor, a Detroit businessman, purchased the manuscript. After his death, a fund set up in MacGregor’s name bequeathed him to the University of Michigan in 1938 to honor one of its astronomy professors.

He’s been there ever since, and throughout his 84-year stay, he’s been presumed to be real.

Then Wilding, author of Galileo’s autobiography, examined it. The university mentioned two things that led to the historian’s “serious doubts”.

The first: a watermark on the paper — “BMO,” referring to the Italian city of Bergamo — indicating that the document was much newer than experts had thought. No other document with that watermark predates 1770, more than 150 years after Galileo supposedly wrote the manuscript charting the moons of Jupiter.

Second: Experts have found no trace of the manuscript’s existence prior to 1930, despite “extremely extensive” documentation of Galileo’s work. Cardinal Pietro Maffei, the Archbishop of Pisa who endorsed the manuscript, did this by comparing it to two other works that were believed to have been written by Galileo but later identified as forgeries.

Both of these forgeries were donated to the archbishop by Tobia Nicotra, the man suspected of Wilding forging the university manuscript. Described by university officials as a “known forger,” Nekotra was convicted in 1934 of selling a fake Mozart autograph to the son of the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, according to a November 10, 1934 article in the New York Times. . At the Necotra trial in Milan, police said they found evidence that Necotra was preparing fake signatures of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, among others.

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Nicotra created his forgeries by going to a Milan library, ripping out blank pages from old books and then using them to create “autographs” of famous musicians, according to a 1934 Times article. Librarians in Milan testified that the counterfeiter destroyed dozens of books in the process.

Last week, University of Michigan library officials said Wilding’s discovery would force them to reconsider the value of the forged manuscript. is over their announcement On a positive note, this review may make it more important than ever.

“In the future, it may come to serve the interests of research, learning and teaching in the arena of counterfeiting, forgery and deception, an immortal discipline that has never been more relevant.”

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