This page is under development. Research for “Galileo’s Library” has focused intensely on the information that is available, but, as Ryan Cordell so cleverly stated, digital humanists must account for the “Known Unknowns” in our data.1

Books Bound Together

This will be best demonstrated by examples from the inventory of books owned by Vincenzo Viviani, a mathematician, philosopher, and Galileo’s student and amanuensis.

Commonplace Books and Anthologies

As we have seen with Berni, in most cases the suggestion that many books were somehow part of Galileo’s intellectual formation is based on the intimate role that they played in shaping the arguments of one of his written works, so much so that he uses direct quotations from them. Nowhere is this more critical than the Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Lorraine on the Interpretation of Scripture (1615), in which 12% of the text is excerpted from exegetical sources, a record high for quotations in Galileo’s work. Yet none of those sources appear in documents related to Galileo’s library. Galileo’s colleagues sent many quotations to him as resources for his defense of the Copernican theory from accusations that heliocentrism contradicted Scripture. Renaissance and early modern readers had many ways to access the most salient points from a variety of books without ever holding a specific title in their hands. Commonplace books and collections of florlilegia were designed to excerpt the quotable quotes from famous works, so even after identifying a citation from another text, it is still difficult to say that Galileo was working with a unique copy of Augustine’s De Genesi ad literam or Tertullian’s Adversus Marcionem, for instance.

Banned Books

Of the titles and authors in Galileo’s library, many were at one time banned, censored or otherwised revised by the Inquisition. These include Anton Francesco Doni, Petrarch’s anti-Avignon verses, Berni, Alessandro Piccolomini, Landino’s commentary on Dante, Sanazzaro’s Arcadia, and Cinthio’s Hecatommithi.2

The book selling business was on decline in Venice during Galileo’s tenure at Padova.3 Zorzi does highlight that Tommaso Baglioni’s early partner, Roberto Meietti, was known to have imported prohibited books from all over Europe into his Venetian shop.4 Nick Wilding has recently used this information to better understand the printing history of Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius.5

Books in Other Libraries

Galileo visited several private (Pinelli) and institutional (Padua, Rome) libraries throughout his career, even copying Jesuit lecture notes that were either taken from or eventually published as textbooks. Can, or should, a digital project seek to address these collections behind the collection?


Michele Camerota has indicated several manuscripts that Galileo likely owned.6 By revisiting the archives that Favaro consulted, I was able to add a manuscript copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses to that list.7

Galileo’s Library General Information

Chronological Information

Geographical Information

Network Graphs


[1] Ryan Cordell, “Representing the ‘Known Unknowns’ in Humanities Visualizations.” Blog post. 3/27/14.

[2] Ugo Rozzo, La letteratura italiana negli “Indici” del Cinquecento (Udine: FORUM, 2005): 33-130.

[3] Marino Zorzi, “Le biblioteche a Venezia nell’età di Galileo,” in Galileo Galilei e la cultura veneziana. Atti del Convegno di Studio promosso nell’ambito delle celebrazioni galileiane indette dall’Universita’ degli Studi di Padova (1592-1992) Venezia, 18-20 giugno 1992 (Venice: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 1992): 161-189.

[4] Marino Zorzi, “Le biblioteche a Venezia nell’età di Galileo,” p. 164.

[5] Nick Wilding, Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

[6] Michele Camerota, La biblioteca di Galileo: alcune integrazioni e aggiunte desunte dal carteggio, in Francesca Maria Crasta (ed.), Biblioteche filosofiche e private in età moderna e contemporanea, Firenze, Le Lettere, 2010, pp. 81-95.

[7] Florence, Archivio di Stato. Arch. 3483.3, f. 115r, line 18 “manuscritta mettamorfosi”. Favaro either overlooked this entry in the inventory, or combined it with his generic Metamorfosi catalog entry 359.