$122k for Galileo's first ever telescope observations

The first-ever account of the discoveries made with a telescope sold for $122,500 at Sotheby's, last Friday (December 11).

The second edition of Galileo Galilei's 'Sidereus nuncius magna, longeque admirabilia spectacula pandens' was released just months after the first, and also the astronomer's first work published outside of Italy.

Galileo's first telescope observations ($122k)
Galileo's first telescope observations

First published at Venice, on 12 March 1610, it contains Galileo's observations of the Milky Way, its nebulae composed of stars, the moons of Jupiter, and the irregular surface of the Moon - and is fascinating ancestor to the tools which have allowed mankind to explore the stars.

For this Frankfurt edition, little time or expense was devoted to copying Galileo's careful lunar engravings, instead substituting them with less-accurate woodcuts.

The second highest lot was a rare manuscript leaf from Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, perhaps the most influential fictional work of the 19th century.

An incredibly scarce work - only eight other autograph fragments from the work appear to be known to scholars - it left the auction block at $98,500.

'Prodromus astronomiae', by far the most well-known of astronomer Johannes Hevelius seminal body of works and observations, was the third highest lot.

Johannes Hevelius's 'Prodromus astronomiae', salvaged
from the author's 1679 house fire ($86.5k)

The rare piece was also one of the few works to be salvaged from a devastating fire at Hevelius's home observatory, in 1679.

The catalogue of 1,564 stars, arranged alphabetically - incorporating Hevelius's observations along with Ptolemy, Copernicus and others - eventually brought $86,500.

Meanwhile, a set of celestial globe gores by Vincenzo Maria Coronelli - "the greatest globe-maker of all time... when globes were ornaments of palaces," quotes Sotheby's - went for $68,500. Globe gores are two dimensional convex edged strips, connected side-by-side which 'roll up' to form a sphere.

The set comprises various volumes with plates, ranging in height from two inches to three feet, featuring detailed terrestrial and celestial globes.

An 1820 edition of the Book of Hours, aka Horae Beatea Mariae Virginis, made for use in Rheims, the Metropolitan See of France, also went under the hammer.

Much rarer than those made for Paris or Rouen, it was the fifth highest seller at Sotheby's, bringing $59,375.

The Sotheby's sale also included a collection of drawings by John James Audubon. The Birds of America, from Drawings made in the United States and their Territories (New York, 1840-1844) had a final hammer price of $56,250.


Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£65,000
In stock