Crafting Early Modern Readers: Galileo and His Interlocutors

  • Crystal Hall
Part of the Palgrave Handbooks of Literature and Science book series (PAHALISC)


The question of how to read a book preoccupied Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) at all levels of his encounters with print volumes, and likely manuscripts. This can be seen in his patient assembly of commentaries on Petrarch’s poetry, his marginal annotations in various books, his prose criticisms written in flyleaves, or the line-by-line critique of Horatio Grassi’s Astronomical and Philosophical Balance (1618) in his own Assayer (1623). In the Sidereal Messenger (1610) Galileo was particularly concerned with reading at the moment of observing and contextualizing the stars and new satellites seen around Jupiter with the telescope. One of the notes in the flyleaf of Galileo’s copy of On the Phenomena on the Lunar Orb (1612) by Giulio Cesare LaGalla (1576–1624) provides a frame through which to understand the later characterization of reading in Galileo’s final published works: Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) and Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Concerning Two New Sciences (1638). According to Galileo’s outline of intellectual methodology as found in this lengthy annotation, the important first step in philosophy is to select good models from which to learn how to read and reason. Galileo’s note on LaGalla’s faults begins with a general presentation of philosophical apprenticeship and foreshadows his famous later presentation of nature as a geometrical book:


Reading Practice Black Bile Educational Dialogue Intellectual Journey Modern Book 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Crystal Hall
    • 1
  1. 1.Bowdoin CollegeBrunswickUSA

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