It was the first time in history that anyone had documented a celestial body orbiting a planet other than Earth, and for nearly a century, the University of Michigan boasted Galileo’s sketch of Jupiter as one of its “jewels.”
“This single-page manuscript is one of the great treasures of the University of Michigan Library,” the university wrote in a statement. document description. “It reflects a pivotal moment in Galileo’s life that helped change our understanding of the universe.”
Then in May, a university curator received an email from Nick Wilding.
Wilding, a history professor at Georgia State University, wrote to express “serious doubts” about the authenticity of the Galileo manuscript, library officials wrote in a new description of the origin of the manuscript. University experts found Wilding’s findings to be “compelling evidence”, re-examined his jewel and came to the same conclusion as he did.
It was a forgery, written not in the early 17th century by the father of modern astronomy, but more than 300 years later by an infamous forger.
“We are grateful to Professor Wilding for sharing his findings and are now working to reconsider the role of the manuscript in our collection,” the university wrote in its online update.
Neither Wilding nor the university 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 an auction house was selling the deceased’s library. rodrigo terry, a wealthy collector of ancient books and manuscripts. According to the auction catalogue, the Archbishop of Pisa authenticated the document by comparing it to a letter from Galileo in his personal collection.
Tracy McGregor, a Detroit businessman, bought the manuscript. After his death, a trust established in McGregor’s name bequeathed him to the University of Michigan in 1938 to honor one of his astronomy professors.
It has been there ever since, and throughout its 84-year stay it was assumed to be genuine.
Then Wilding, author of an upcoming biography of Galileo, examined it. The university mentioned two things that led the historian to have “serious doubts.”
The first: a watermark on the paper, “BMO,” a reference to the Italian city of Bergamo, suggested the document was much newer than experts thought. No other documents with that watermark date from before 1770, more than 150 years after Galileo supposedly wrote the manuscript that charted Jupiter’s moons.
The second: the experts could not find any trace of the existence of the manuscript before 1930, despite the “extremely exhaustive” documentation of Galileo’s works. Cardinal Pietro Maffi, the Archbishop of Pisa who authenticated the manuscript, did so by comparing it to two other works that he believed Galileo had written but were later determined to be forgeries.
Both forgeries were donated to the archbishop by Tobia Nicotra, the man Wilding suspects forged the university’s manuscript. Described as a “famous forger” by university officials, Nicotra was convicted in 1934 of selling a fake Mozart autograph to the son of a New York Philharmonic conductor, according to a Nov. 11 statement. 10, 1934, article in the New York Times. At Nicotra’s trial in Milan, police said they found evidence that Nicotra was preparing fake autographs of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, among others.
Nicotra created his forgeries by going to the Milan library, ripping blank pages out of old books, and then using them to create “autographs” of famous musicians, according to the 1934 Times article. Librarians in Milan proved that the forger had destroyed dozens of books doing this.
Last week, University of Michigan library officials said Wilding’s discovery will force them to reconsider the value of the forged manuscript. they finished your advertisement On a positive note, saying that such a reconsideration could make it more important than ever.
“In the future, it may come to serve the research, learning and teaching interests in the realm of counterfeiting, counterfeiting and hoaxing, a timeless discipline that has never been more relevant.”
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