Galileo's Idol

Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge

Nick Wilding

Galileo's Idol
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Nick Wilding

232 pages | 4 color plates, 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226166971 Will Publish September 2014
E-book $30.00 ISBN: 9780226167022 Will Publish September 2014
Galileo’s Idol offers a vivid depiction of Galileo’s friend, student, and patron, Gianfrancesco Sagredo (1571–1620). Sagredo’s life, which has never before been studied in depth, brings to light the inextricable relationship between the production, distribution, and reception of political information and scientific knowledge.
Nick Wilding uses as wide a variety of sources as possible—paintings, ornamental woodcuts, epistolary hoaxes, intercepted letters, murder case files, and others—to challenge the picture of early modern science as pious, serious, and ecumenical. Through his analysis of the figure of Sagredo, Wilding offers a fresh perspective on Galileo as well as new questions and techniques for the study of science. The result is a book that turns our attention from actors as individuals to shifting collective subjects, often operating under false identities; from a world made of sturdy print to one of frail instruments and mistranscribed manuscripts; from a complacent Europe to an emerging system of complex geopolitics and globalizing information systems; and from an epistemology based on the stolid problem of eternal truths to one generated through and in the service of playful, politically engaged, and cunning schemes.
Eileen Reeves, Princeton University
Galileo’s Idol is an engaging, original, and important work, and makes several crucial contributions to early modern history of science. First and foremost, Wilding revises in significant ways our understanding of the two main protagonists, Galileo Galilei and Gianfrancesco Sagredo, bringing into focus a great deal of new information about their relationship to each other, to the Venetian Republic, to other natural philosophers of their day, to the bookmen whose business it was to import and export such knowledge, and to that looming exilic community, the Society of Jesus. In addition, he uses new information, much of it painstakingly reconstructed from archival materials, to argue for something other than a prescient, far-sighted, single-minded Galileo, but rather for one whose multiple strategies and various allegiances were contingent moves, not always successful and occasionally in conflict with each other. Wilding’s study will bring attention to issues such as the relationship of natural philosophy to statecraft; the establishment, shaping, and distortion of authorial identity; and the relevance of book and manuscript history to our understanding of how information traveled and was consumed by a vast range of readers.”
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