Friday, October 12th, 2012...2:18 pm

You’ve Got Mail: Your Illustrious Lordship’s Most Obliged Servant, Galileo Galilei

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The recipient of this 1601 Galileo letter is Giovanni Battista Strozzi, a member of a wealthy and powerful Florentine family, whose status is reflected in the flattery Galileo lavishes on a poem Strozzi has sent him.

The very beautiful poem and the most pleasing letter from you, Sir, have given me double contentment, the latter giving proof of the good memory you retain of me and the former of the opinion which your Lordship has, in thinking me still able to enjoy the beauties of poetry…. I thank you therefore infinitely and beg you to do me often similar favors, and I conclude this letter, kissing your hands with all my reverence, and offer myself as ever your ready servant.

Galileo Galilei, letter to Giovanni Battista Strozzi, 1601. MS Ital 95

The letter is one of the few to survive from Galileo’s time as a mathematics professor at the University of Padua, where he taught from 1592-1610, leaving just a month after the publication of his landmark Sidereus Nuncius. Many of Galileo’s letters were destroyed after his condemnation by the Inquisition, or by his heirs shortly after his death. Many of those that do survive suffer from the corrosion caused by the iron gall ink of the period, as is easy to see in this detail shot taken with a contrasting background [click to enlarge].

Galileo Galilei, letter to Giovanni Battista Strozzi, 1601. MS Ital 95 (detail)

For more information on Galileo’s correspondence, see “Mapping Galileo” at the Republic of Letters project website.

This post is part of a weekly feature on the Houghton Library blog, “You’ve Got Mail,” based on letters in Houghton Library. Every Friday this year a Houghton staff member will select a letter from the diverse collections in the Library and put that letter into context. All posts associated with this series may be viewed by clicking on the You’veGotMail tag.

[This post was contributed by John Overholt, Curator of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts.]

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