The Starry Messenger: Galileo's first lessons from the stars sell at Christie's

This week, Christie's will be offering an unusual sale. Not particularly unusual in its content; the auction house is very accustomed to offering collections of rare books, but rarely when they're sourced from the private collection of someone more famous for something else and perhaps collectible in their own right.

Beautiful Evidence:  The Library of Edward Tufte, is named after the title of one of the American professor's books. Tufte is a professor of political science, statistics, and computer science at Yale University.

Most of the 160 lots on offer are early European printed works. Alongside them, is a sculpture created by Tufte himself (in his free time) named Anisotropic Calligraphy.

The work consists of multiple stainless engravings cut into the stainless steel by the artist which creates fascinating effects as the artwork changes subtly as the viewer moves or the light moves over the metal. It is really many art works in one.

Exhibited earlier this year, the work is expected to sell for $70,000-90,000.

Another contemporary artist is represented in the sale in the form of a 'book' of prints from 12 engraved plates by and after Picasso and 'Roch Grey' (Hélène Baronne d'Oettingen), printed by Roger Lacourière.

Chevaux de Minuit, as the book is called, is a first edition, limited issue (number 52 of 68 copies), on vieux japon, signed by Picasso and Iliazd [ie Ilya Zdanevitch]. It is a presentation copy with an original signed drawing and is listed at $80,000 - $120,000 (and has never been owned by a burglar alarm-fitter).

Extract from Galileo's Starry Messenger
Extract from Galileo's Starry Messenger

The expected top lot of the sale however is a work marking a turning point in scientific history, a first edition of Galileo Galilei's 1610 work Sidereus Nuncius Magna, Longeque Admirabilia Spectacula Pandens (The Starry Messenger), which is the foundation work of modern astronomy, containing the first account of astronomical discoveries made with the telescope.

"In late 1609, Galileo constructed a telescope and soon 'made more discoveries that changed the world than anyone has ever made before or since'". So says expert Noel Swerdlow, as quote by Tufte himself.

The work is estimated at $600,000 - $800,000, and worth the price as a rock-solid investment in our opinion. Christie's auction takes place on Thursday December 2 in New York.

Scientific bibliophiles may be interested to know that a sharp letter from a more modern great scientist, Albert Einstein, is currently available away from the sale.




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