Galileo sources: a starter kit

Following my last post, numerous people have asked me for book recommendations on Galileo and his opponents. What follows is a list of books that I have and have consulted to create my Galileo. I should add that over the years I have also read a cartload of academic papers on Galileo and related topics. What I list here is only a small fraction of the available literature on the topic. My friend Pierre, the editor of the Simon Marius book, who is a real Galileo expert, I’m not, has currently 1514 items listed in his Galileo bibliography and even that is only a small fraction.

L. Heilbron, Galileo, OUP, 2010

David Wootton, Galileo: Watcher of the Skies, Yale University Press, 2010

Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier: The Practice of Science in The Culture of Absolutism, University of Chicago Press, 1993

Mario Biagioli, Galileo’s Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy, University of Chicago Press, 2006

William R. Shea & Mariano Artigas, Galileo in Rome: The Rise and Fall of a Troublesome Genius, OUP, 2003

Maurice A. Finocchiaro, On Trial for Reason: Science, Religion, and Culture in the Galileo Affair, OUP, 2019


Galileo Galilei, trans. Albert van Helden, Sidereus Nuncius or The Sidereal Messenger, University of Chicago Press, 1989

Galileo Galilei, trans. Stillman Drake, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, University of California Press, 1967

Galileo Galilei, trans. Henry Crew & Alfonso de Salvio, Dialogues Concerning Two New Science, Dover, 1954

Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Stillman Drake, Anchor Books, 1957. (Starry Messenger, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, plus excerpts from Letters on Sunspots & The Assayer)

The Essential Galileo, Edited and Translated by Maurice A. Finocchiaro, Hackett Publishing Company, 2008

Galileo on the World Systems: A New Abridged Translation and Guide, Maurice A. Finocchiaro, University of California Press, 1997

Galileo Galilei & Christoph Scheiner, On Sunspots, Translated and Introduced by Eileen Reeves & Albert van Helden, University of Chicago Press, 2010

Eileen Reeves, Galileo’s Glassworks: The Telescope and the Mirror, Harvard University Press, 2008

Massimo Bucciantini, Michele Canmerota, Franco Giudice, Galileo’s Telescope’s: A European Story, Harvard University Press, 2015

James M Lattis, Between Copernicus and Galileo: Christoph Clavius and the Collapse of Ptolemaic Cosmology, University of Chicago Press, 1994

Franz Daxecker, Der Physiker und Astronom Christoph Scheiner, Universitätsverlag Wagner, 2006 (I don’t know of anything good on Scheiner in English)

Christopher M Graney, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicanism in the Age of Galileo, University of Notre Dame Press, 2015

Mordechai Feingold, Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters, MIT Press, 2002

Hans Gaab & Pierre Leich eds., Simon Marius and His Research, Springer, 2018






Filed under Book Reviews, History of Astronomy, History of science

11 responses to “Galileo sources: a starter kit

  1. For a working physicist, like me, Stillman Drake is the name I have most seen associated with Galileo. However, you recommend some other Galileo experts. How do you feel that Drake’s ideas and opinions on Galileo have stood the test of time?

  2. John Valean Baily

    So, of your list, which is the most fulsome, unbiased history of Galileo ?

  3. Dan S

    The first 45 pages or so of Finocchiaro’s ‘The Galileo Affair’ is a good balanced overview.

    Interestingly, from the cover blurb of Drake’s ‘Galileo: A Very Short Introduction’:
    “In a startling reinterpretation of Galileo’s trial, Stillman Drake advances the hypothesis that Galileo’s prosecution and condemnation by the Inquisition was caused not by his defiance of the Church but by the hostility of contemporary philosophers….”

    • Drake’s Very Short Introduction is not new, it was actually first published in 1980. It annoys me somewhat that OUP didn’t commision somebody, Finocchiaro perhaps, to write an up to date Very Short Introduction.

  4. Joe Fajerman

    this is a very impressive list. Have you read all of them?

  5. John Farrell

    If I could add a couple: Ernan McMullin’s collection of scholars essays, The Church and Galileo, 2005, from University of Notre Dame Press; and Richard Blackwell’s Galileo, Bellarmine and the Bible, 1991, also Notre Dame Press.

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