It is confirmed that Galileo Galilei is the author of the astronomical treatise written under the pseudonym of Alimberto Mauri

A researcher from the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage of the Ca’Foscari University of Venice, Dr. Matteo Cosci, has recovered archival information confirming that the treaty Considerations Astronomiche di Alimberto Mauri (1606) was actually written by Galileo Galilei, the illustrious mathematician from Pisa.

Galilei used a pseudonym and the uncertain identity of the author had not been confirmed until now.

To do this, Dr. Cosci carefully examined the original documents kept at the National Central Library in Florence.

Cover of the treaty | photo Ca’Foscari University of Venice

Not just forged documents

Prior to this discovery, the New York Times had revealed that some of the Galilei papers held at the University of Michigan and the Morgan Library in New York were actually forgeries made by the infamous forger Tobia Nicotra in the early 20th century. Professor Nick Wilding of Georgia State University, who discovered the forgery, showed that the watermark on the paper on which the texts were written cannot date back to the 18th century.

When these documents were authenticated at the beginning of the 20th century, the authentication process was based on other documents attributed to Galilei, which were later revealed to be false as well. One of these documents was a forged letter signed by Galilei that was believed to accompany a book titled Book of Astronomical Consideration. Beginning in the late 1970s, to explain the reasons for this letter, scholars hypothesized that the accompanying letter was proof that Galilei had indeed written a controversial treatise, Considerations Astronomiche di Alimberto Mauri. It is known that this treatise was written under a pseudonym and, since its publication in 1606, some have attributed it to Galilei himself. On the one hand, Fortunio Liceti -Galilei’s colleague at the University of Padua- referred to Aliberto Mauri as someone who “pretended” to be an astronomer although he could rather have been a mathematical expert.

However, the true identity of the author was never established with certainty. In the opinion of some scholars, the letter that accompanied it – which is currently in the Fund “Cardinale Pietro Maffi” in Pisa – seemed to confirm that Galilei was indeed the author of the Astronomical considerations. Despite the fact that now the only document that seemed to support the attribution of authorship to Galilei has now been declared false, the appearance of different original documents makes this identification certain.

Galileo’s house in Florence | photo Sailko on Wikimedia Commons

The recuperation

Matteo Cosci found important information among the papers in the “Gal. 42″ of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenzewhich contains the Frammenti e primi abbozzi relativi al trattato galileiano «Delle cose che stanno su l’acqua» of Galilei. Taken together, these handwritten papers are a collection of notes taken at different periods of time and on different subjects, including some references to the «stella nova» (new star) of 1604 that diverge from the interpretation given at that time by the Florentine philosopher Lodovico Delle Colombe.

Although not dealing with the same subject, Galilei’s brief notes on the “new star” were evidently collated with his others on floating bodies because they were directed against the same opponent. Dr. Cosci realized both his apparent misguidance and his peculiarity while systematically examining all of Galilei’s handwritten drafts of the “new star” dispute. Previous cataloging of this material had already confirmed that it was written by Galilei in opposition to the writings of Lodovico Delle Colombe. However, these notes were never considered relevant enough to be included in the national edition of Galilei’s work; in fact, they remain unpublished.

Among these Galilei papers, on page 31 recto, there is a list of «places where (Lodovico Delle Colombe) speaks of me with contempt«. Dr. Cosci realized that these “places” are precise references to some selected textual passages from the Risposte (ie the answers) by Lodovico Delle Colombe. Then he realized that these passages do not openly attack Galilei (who is not even mentioned), but rather Alimberto Mauri. The fact that Galilei felt personally “attacked” every time he attacked Alimberto Mauri in the press confirms that Alimberto Mauri was his alter ego. Quite simply, in these private notes, Galilei himself reveals his identity as someone hiding behind a pseudonym.

Taken together, the autograph documents examined by Matteo Cosci are currently the only authentic documentary evidence that allows the attribution of the Astronomical considerations to Galilei.

Why did Galilei use a pseudonym?

Galilei was working successfully in Padua, but his salary no longer met his or his family’s needs. According to Stillman Drake’s hypothesis, Galilei published this treatise in an attempt to find patronage beyond the borders of the Republic of Venice, and more specifically in Rome – in fact, the treatise was dedicated to none other than the Pope’s Treasurer. However, those were the years of the Venetian Interdict (a diplomatic dispute between the Papal Curia and the Republic of Venice), so it would not have been prudent for Galilei to put his name on a treatise that was dedicated to the public enemy.

Galilei had already used pseudonyms before. He had participated with the help of one of his students in a debate about the same star using the pseudonym “Cecco da Ronchitti”. In fact, Lodovico Delle Colombe indirectly addressed Galilei as “the Signora maschera» (meaning Mr. Mask), «Mauri», «Cecco» and «that doctor who leggeva in Padova» (that is, «that professor who taught in Padua»). Later, Delle Colombe wrote her Risposte keeping Galilei in mind, but hesitating to openly identify his adversary. This also contributed to the general feeling of uncertainty about authorship. Another note discovered by Dr. Cosci shows that Galilei initially wanted to respond more to Lodovico Delle Colombe, but concluded that in the end the adversary was not even worth his time. However, the dispute between Galilei and Lodovico Delle Colombe continued and intensified during the first years of Galilei’s stay in Florence, when the use of a pen name was no longer necessary for the then-famous author of the Sidereus Nuncius.

A new chapter added to Galilei’s collection of writings

The radical re-examination of these unpublished documents has confirmed the attribution of astronomical considerations to Galileo Galilei. The treatise -whose new edition is being prepared by Dr. Cosci- shows textual similarities with other writings by Galilei on different subjects and from different periods, such as De Motu, Considerations around the Copernican opinion Y Dialogue of Cecco da Ronchitti, as well as a postilla of his copy of Delle Colombe’s text on the new star. Furthermore, at the time of the debate, the student Willem van Thienen had clearly added the name “Galileo Galilei” to his copy of Rispostejust below the title «certain maschera saccente nominata Alimberto Mauri» («a wise mask called Alimberto Mauri»).

Galileo’s tomb in Santa Croce in Florence | photo stanthejeep on Wikimedia Commons

Professor Nick Wilding has commented: This is an excellent example of how patient and intelligent archival research can restore some of the damage inflicted by counterfeiters. Dr. Cosci has shown us that a combination of skepticism and skill will lead us to the historical truth..

Furthermore, Professor Peter Barker (University of Oklahoma), who has followed Cosci’s research, has stated Sidereus Nuncius tells us when, how, and about what Galilei made the telescopic observations. But Considerazioni Astronomiche’s perspective shows us why he made those observations three years later..

In short, a new chapter may be added to the monumental collection of writings by the person who revolutionized Western science. Among the most interesting arguments of this work can be listed, for example, the hypothesis of the existence of mountains on the surface of the Moon from a purely perspectivist point of view, the idea that physical causes are the real reasons to explain the regularity of celestial movements that apparently follow non-uniform trajectories, and criticism of those who reject astrology without having the necessary astronomical knowledge to do it correctly.

Therefore, Considerations Astronomiche di Alimberto Mauri is written by an unusual but recognizable Galilei during a transitional phase in which he was both seeking a new patronage and trying to refute the most retrograde Aristotelian postulates, just a few years before his discoveries with the telescope led him to move to Florence and made him famous throughout the world. In this regard, the privilege of the printing press informs us that the treaty was published in Florence with the consent of Paolo Vinta, first secretary of the Grand Duchy and brother of Belisarius, who in turn was Galilei’s friend, correspondent and shortly after mediator. for your desired return to Tuscany.


Ca’ Foscari University of Venice