Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226166971 Published November 2014
E-book $7.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226167022 Published November 2014 Also Available From

Galileo's Idol

Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge

Nick Wilding

Galileo's Idol

Nick Wilding

232 pages | 4 color plates, 6 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226166971 Published November 2014
E-book $7.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226167022 Published November 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.

1 The Generation and Dissolution of Images
2 Becoming a “Great Magneticall Man”
3 Drawing Weapons
4 Interceptions
5 Interconnections
6 Transalpine Messengers
7 Masks

Conclusion: Science, Intercepted

List of Abbreviations
Review Quotes
Ann Blair, Harvard University
“Best known as the sidekick in Galileo’s Dialogue, Sagredo comes to life here as a real person. Wilding’s careful sleuthing reveals the crucial roles that Sagredo and other intermediaries played in facilitating the flow of books and letters, of information and disinformation, from Aleppo to Venice and beyond around the turn of the seventeenth century. This book sheds brilliant new light on Galileo’s entangled efforts to gain money, reputation, and scientific knowledge.”
Mario Biagioli, University of California, Davis
“In Wilding’s hands, Sagredo becomes a window onto two overlapping worlds: the culture of European baroque science and that of the Venetian patriciate. In both cases we are treated to new, powerful, and surprising insights, not to mention unexpected evidence that most historians thought unavailable. Through Sagredo, we see Galileo at an angle that no previous study or biography has been able to capture, and we also watch the Venetian patriciate from the ground up, through the mundane daily practices that made that culture so unique. The locus of Galileo’s Idol is remarkably local—a few small islands in a lagoon—but the picture we see is quite different: a small insular community that is what it is because of its vast networks—not only military and commercial, but also networks of oral and printed communication. Through an emphasis on technologies of communications, Wilding demonstrates how much the Venetian patriciate and Galileo’s career were a result of media—both the production and circulation of books, manuscripts, notes, and gossip and their skilled and often subversive readings. Galileo’s Idol is detective work at its best, building new complex tableaux from newly found or noticed traces and indexes scattered far and wide. A must read for anybody interested in Galileo, early modern science, Venetian history, and Mediterranean studies.”
Eileen Reeves, Princeton University
Galileo’s Idol is an engaging, original, and important work, and it 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—that is, for one whose multiple strategies and various allegiances were contingent moves, not always successful and occasionally in conflict with each other. Wilding’s study brings 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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