History: the 19th Century
From the Nelli Collection to the Edizione Nazionale of Antonio Favaro

The history of the manuscript Ms. Gal. 72 in the nineteenth century was marked, in particular, by the contribution of Vincenzio Antinori and the pioneering efforts of Raffaello Caverni, Antonio Favaro, and Emil Wohlwill to systematically interpret and edit this manuscript.

The Nelli Collection was bought in 1818 for the court library called "Biblioteca Palatina" by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando III (Habsburg-Lothringen), following the advice of his son, the future Grand Duke Leopold II, see FAVARO 1885, pp. 60, 63, 218-223. The Biblioteca Palatina was situated on the second floor of the Palazzo Pitti, see ROSSI 1996, pp. 19-22, 35. It was considered to be a private library with access only by permission of the Grand Duke, see PASSERINI 1872, p. 13; ROTONDI 1967, p. 6; ROSSI 1996, pp. 19-22.

The collection was augmented and supposedly "ordered" both by Ferdinando and his wife and also by Leopold, see FAVARO 1885, p. 64. It is not entirely clear when exactly the collection was brought into the present order. In the memoirs of Leopold II, one reads that, still under the government of his father, he asked him for permission to bring order to the collection and that he was assisted by the scholar Vincenzio Antinori, see PESENDORFER 1987, pp. 29-30, quaoted after ROSSI 1996, p. 132. This implies that the collection received its new order in the years 1819-1824. Favaro asserts that the collection was ordered only later by Antinori after Leopold had ascended to the throne in 1824, see FAVARO 1885, p. 64. The then director of the Palatina, Giuseppe Molini, reports that documents had been "brought into order and distributed under supervision of the prince and bound in more than 300 volumes," see MOLINI 1833, p. [vi] of the preface. One can, in any case, consider it to be certain that the present order goes back to Antinori, see FAVARO 1881-1882, p. 320. In a volume of the collection (Ms. Gal. 317), which has in the past not been carefully studied by historians of science, one finds the lists and indexes which Antinori produced when bringing order to the collection, FAVARO 1886, p. 8. Possibly these documents contain hints of the original order and at the provenance of Galileo's manuscripts as well as to the criteria for ordering them. Favaro later criticized the distribution of the manuscripts as not being carried out "in the most rational way as one would have desired," see , p. 66; see also FAVARO 1880, pp. 849-850.

In the years between circa 1819 and 1828, a first inventory of the collection was produced of which a copy, known as "Catalogo Antinori," is preserved at the Biblioteca Nazionale, see PROCISSI 1959, p. XI and FAVARO 1885, pp. 65-66. A second copy of this inventory, which was produced evidently in the year 1828, was discovered in 1996 in the Archivio di Stato of Florence (collocation: Corte dei Conti 201), see ROSSI 1996, p. 216.

In the year 1824, Leopoldo became Grand Duke; between 1826 and 1828, the library was formally institutionalized, and its stock catalogued. The Galileo Collection was provided with a special location, see ROSSI 1996, p. 153.

In the year 1841, Eugenio Albèri and Vincenzio Antinori received permission to prepare a new complete edition of the works of Galileo on the basis of the papers of the Palatina-Collection. Whilst studying the collection, Albèri discovered important manuscripts of Galileo which had been presumed to be lost but actually were only misplaced by Antinori. (See FAVARO 1881-1882, pp. 318-321). This event, which led to a conflict with Antinori, shows that the latter was incapable of judging the significance of these manuscripts.

After a series of tumultuous political events the Galileo collection was acquired by the Biblioteca Nazionale of Florence. The Grand Duke was de-throned in 1859, Tuscany was annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia and, in 1861, became part of the newly founded Kingdom of Italy. The Biblioteca Palatina was expropriated in 1861 and united with the public library of Florence, Biblioteca Magliabechiana, to become the new Biblioteca Nazionale. The controversy concerning the ownership of the Biblioteca Palatina was only settled in 1871 with the payment of a compensation. (See ROTONDI 1967, pp. 4-5, 11-15.) The Palatina stock was only transferred to the Biblioteca Nazionale between September 1866 and July 1867, see ROTONDI 1967, pp. 22-23. At this time, the Biblioteca Nazionale was still located in the rooms of the old Magliabechiana in the Palazzo degli Uffizi. The Biblioteca Nazionale received its present site in the year 1935. (See PASSERINI 1872, p. 99; ROTONDI 1967, p. 17-21.)

In the years 1885-1886, Antonio Favaro and Alarico Carli composed an almost complete "Indice analitico dei Manoscritti Galileiani," which remained, however, unpublished. Only some volumes of the so-called "Appendix" have not been catalogued. This catalogue, known as "Catalogo Favaro" has been preserved at the Biblioteca Nazionale. The authors maintained the order introduced by Antinori, which was also kept in the definitive, published catalogue, see PROCISSI 1959, p. XI. Even this catalogue, however, is incomplete since the volumes Ms. Gal. 308-347, which belong to the "Appendix" have still not been included.

In view of the extraordinary role of Favaro's contribution for the history of Galileo's papers and the role of his edition in shaping the views of historians of science, we reproduce in English translation some excerpts which are taken from his introduction to his partial edition of the codex in Vol. VIII of the Edizione Nazionale (pp. 33-37):

The two Added Days [of the Discorsi] are here followed by the Fragments Regarding the Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations about Two New Sciences which are now in large part for the first time brought to light. ... A great part of these fragments are autographs, and in some of them it is easy to recognize the handwriting of Galileo's youth, as well as the handwriting of his prime years, or even still his hand in later age, that sometimes modified or emended even the early writings; not lacking are even those cases in where it is possible to affirm that the text was not written before a certain day. Other fragments are found to be written by two disciples of Galileo, Mario Guiducci and Niccolò Arrighetti, some of which contain corrections and additions by Galileo. There are also frequent cases where his students copied autographs of the master which have reached us; therefore, even when we possess only a given fragment written by hand of the disciples, it is reasonable to conjecture that they limited themselves to transcribing from an original by Galileo, now lost [to us]. ...

These papers, that originally must have been a lot more numerous, experienced the fate of those manuscripts of Galileo that belonged to Viviani; and when a large part of these were put in order at the antique Palatina Library of the Pitti, the little that remained of them was bound in two volumes, that among the Galilean Manuscripts which entered later into the National Library of Florence, were marked with the numbers II and IV of Part V. But in these volumes these papers were not put together randomly and [were joined] with the other Galilean writings regarding mechanics.

The nature of these writings, many of which taken by themselves lose meaning and value, and as we now noticed, some of which were modified or completed by Galileo in different, and not precisely determinable, periods of his life, excluded a priori the possibility and the convenience of distributing them, according to a purely hypothetical chronological order that would have been quite dubious, into the various volumes of the National Edition; so that from the beginning we resolved to gather them in an appendix of the Dialogues of the New Sciences [i.e. the Discorsi], to which they mainly refer, even if in some cases the similarity of some of the subjects treated in these Dialogues and in those of the Great World Systems could raise doubts about whether a given fragment is relative to one or to the other [work].

As we are now undertaking the publication of these fragments, it seems above all opportune to keep those contained in Volume II separate from those conserved in Volume IV; and this because, whilst the first, with the exception of some very rare uncertain case, are prior in time to the printing of the Dialogues, the second, instead, are generally later.

As to the criteria which we used in ordering the fragments of Volume II ..., after long reflection we thought best to distribute them according to their subject matters in various groups corresponding to the themes of the Days of the Dialogues. ....In each group we arranged the single fragments according to the sequence with which the subjects follows on the Day to which they correspond, when there appeared a direct relation with these subjects; when, on the contrary, such a direct relation was not evident enough, we had to limit ourselves to putting the fragments in order according to reasonable conceptual relations.

Regarding those fragments, and they are the most numerous, that refer to the second part of the third Day, the reader will notice how we have on hand fragments belonging to three different treatments; which, although incomplete, taken globally and arranging the elements according to a rational order of sequence, manifest quite clearly which concepts Galileo was inspired by at different moments of his life, [which led him] to create that science of motion that he rightly titled "New."


However, not all the fragments collected in Volumes II and IV of Part V could find their place in the order made by us following the above mentioned criteria. Some contained isolated random thoughts that Galileo frequently noted down here and there among his papers, or that at least do not have a direct relation with any of his scientific writings, and have been inserted by us in the fragments on various subjects that we publish at the end of this volume: but other [fragments] exist in Volume II that we have not in any way been able to make use of. In these cases they are almost always just a few lines, containing parts of demonstrations, too brief for their significance or the subject to which they refer to be understood, and most of the time lacking the relevant figures which would be indispensable for penetration into the thought that guided the author; or else they are geometric figures lacking their respective considerations, or sketches of numerical examples, or isolated arithmetic operations that concern calculations of the numeric tables attached to the fourth Day and that would have been quite superfluous to reproduce. Lastly, it is reasonable to assume that to Volume II, put together in this way, there have also been assigned sheets of papers without any meaning in context, as it was not known in which other volume of the collection to put them. On our part we have taken into account all that pertained to some train of thought of the author, and that was at least of some importance; and we believe that we will be reproached for having wanted to conserve too much, rather than for having discarded things that were worth being collected. ...

History: the 19th Century
From the Nelli Collection to the Edizione Nazionale of Antonio Favaro