The Annotations in Stillman Drake’s Personal Copy of his Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo

Sub-Series II: Off My Quarantined Bookshelf, Post 2

First posted  Friday, September 18,  2020 /  Yom shishi, 29 Elul, 5780, Erev Rosh Ha-Shonah

In my previous blog post I introduced, from off my quarantined bookshelf, Stillman Drake’s Personal Copy of Discoveries and Opinions Of Galileo. I also told you where and how I got it. It’s thoroughly annotated, in all likelihood by Drake himself. So I presented my reasons why it is likely he added these annotations and why there appears to be no second edition.

Today we’ll look at some of Drake’s actual notation. I’ll be using the flowing conventions:

< Printed text >,  “ Holograph annotation ” , # Printed text crossed out by Drake #, @ Annotation crossed out by Drake @

These annotations start on the front flyleaf’s recto side with extensive page number references, for example:

“see p 136 re circ[?] mertio[?] & planets MT”

They continue through to “Appendix II / Bibliographical Notes”, where he amends, adds and deletes.

The short autobiographical note just over the page on the verso has extensive changes. Drake wants to remove his membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and his previous (non-academic) job at San Francisco’s Blythe & Co. Instead, Drake proudly states that he is a “corresponding member of the / International Academy of History / of Science. He is professor / in the Institute for History and / Philosophy of Science and / Technology at the / University of Toronto.”

On page viii of the preface  Drake explains why he sees the need for a new edition:

“The appearance of a new edition / of this book in larger format / after many years is a source / of great satisfaction to me .  / I have revised the text, with / care an {sic} order to eliminate / inaccuracies that have been / discovered by reviewers of the  / original or revealed by later researches.”

There are then four parts to the main text each with a long Introduction followed by Drake’s own Translation of respectively:

First Part: The Starry Messenger.

Second Part: Letters on Sunspots.

Third Part: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina.

Fourth Part: Excerpts from The Assayer.

There are many examples of changes for these sections, but for the sake of brevity let’s skip to the end matter.

Drake wanted to make two changes to the one page EPILOGUE. First, the February 1616 warning by Catholic church authorities to abandon Copernicnanism was not <a #previous promise# never to discuss the Copernican system again.> Instead it was a “secret @command@ order”.

As to Galileo’s age Drake had said <he was seventy-#five# years old ….>. But that’s corrected to <seventy-“four” years old….>

The four page APPENDIX I / CHRONOLOGICAL SUMMARY  / OF GALILEO’S LIFE has no changes indicated. The situation is quite different for the seven pages of APPENDIX II. In these BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES there are amendments, removals and additions.

On page 288, a blank page preceding the Appendix II text, Drake wrote

“Letter on moon to S. Prete

Against the                                          -Buffalo

Letter to Peiresc   tr S Drake

1619 – Discourse on comets – SD]

]    Penn 1960

1623 – Sagg.   Tr S Drake            ]”

Then the NOTES are presented in three sections:

  1. Other English translations of works by Galileo……
  2. Selected works in English relating to Galileo’s life and discoveries….
  3. Selected general works (edition cited is the latest rather than the first)….

For example in section 1., Drake starts, on p. 289, by suggesting the addition of two more works by Galileo:

“1590?      Sermones de motu tr Drake in 1960

Dialogus de motu   ^     ^     1967


Galileo’s  <1612.  Discorso … cose che stanno in sù l’acqua> had a first <Translation by Thomas Salusbury: A Discourse  …. 1663> which Drake notes was “Reprinted London 1966”. In the margin to left of this <1612….> entry is added “B) / Repr[inted] with / intr[oduction] & notes / by SD Urbana / 1960”.

The <1632. Dialogo … Sistemi del Mondo….> already had its < 2. Translation by Stillman Drake….1953>. But added is that there was a “2d{superscript} rev[ised] ed[ition] 1966”.

The French translation  of  <1634. Les Méchaniques de Galilée….was the first published edition of this work , which had long circulated in manuscript.)> Drake now knew that the “Italian first pub[lication was probably in] 1647”.

The most revealing annotation in this section of the Bibliography was regarding the <1638. Discorsi… intorno a due nuove scienze ….> and its <3. Translation by Henry Crew and Alfonso De Salvio: Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences. New York, 1914.> Drake had originally published this comment on it (pp. 290-291):

<(this work has been reprinted many times

and is currently available. The translation

#cannot be too highly praised, though by

using the word ‘Dialogues’ in place of ‘Dis-

courses,’ the translators have introduced

some confusion in English references to Ga-

lileo’s works.)#>

Now Drake wanted the replacement of the crossed out passage (here between # …. #’s) by:

“is readable but not accurate

with respect to several im-

portant technical matters in

Galileo’s  physics.)”

These annotations allow us to see the mind of one of the greats of our field at work. The personal association resonates strongly with me. I hope to complete the transcription of the annotations and make them electronically available soon.

I prize this volume, but no one else in my family does. I should be looking to find it a good home for when the time comes. Possibly in the Stillman Drake Galileo Collection in the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library.

This Sub-series of Blog Posts, Off My Quarantined Bookshelf, will continue. Coming up next: the two volume Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on Mathematical Education, held in Quebec City in 1992.

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