A significant work in the history of science changed hands last week when the dedication copy of Galileo Galilei's last great work, Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica & i movimenti locali (Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences) was sold in Paris for €727,919 (US$791,190), making it one of the 50 Most Valuable Scientific Documents of all-time.

Regarded by many as the world's first Physics textbook, the book was written in a style similar to Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), in which three men (Simplicio, Sagredo, and Salviati) discuss the subject, with Simplicio representing Galileo's early beliefs, Sagredo representing his middle period beliefs, and Salviati his ideas at the time of writing.

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Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche published in 1638, but the Roman Inquisition had banned the publication of Galileo's works in 1632 due to Dialogo, which proposed the heliocentric theory. Galileo, who was effectively under house arrest, consequently gave a handwritten copy of the work to the Ambassador of France to the Holy See.

That Ambassador became the dedicatee of the work, and this is the deluxe copy sent to François de Noailles, Comte d ' Ayen (1584-1645), for his role in this landmark publication. The dedication can be read in English here, and it explains the difficulties faced by Galileo in detail.

Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno due nuove scienze attenenti alla mecanica & i movimenti locali was sold in Paris by Pierre Berge and Associates for €27,919 ($791,190) against an estimate of between €700,000 and €900,000.

This text is the founding book of mechanics and dynamics in the modern sense.

"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).

The good news is that you don't need to read Latin and pay $800,000 to read it. A full English translation with all diagrams can be found online at Virginia Tech.

Source: Pierre Berge and Associates

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