Celebrated Galileo manuscript deemed a fake

The professor believes that Tobia Nicotra, a prominent forger active in the 1930s, was responsible for the fake

Updated: August 22, 2022 - 7:14pm

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The University of Michigan has deemed a manuscript it has long attributed to Galileo Galilei to be a forgery created in the 1930s.

"After an internal investigation of the findings of Nick Wilding, professor of history at Georgia State University, the library has concluded that its 'Galileo manuscript' is in fact a 20th-century forgery," the University stated, per the Washington Examiner. "We're grateful to Professor Wilding for sharing his findings, and are now working to reconsider the manuscript's role in our collection."

The forgery contained a fake copy of a sketch by Galileo of the moons orbiting Jupiter. Said sketch was "the first time someone had documented a celestial body orbiting a planet that was not Earth," according to the Examiner.

Wilding suspected the sketch was a forgery after discovering a "BMO" watermark, indicating the Italian city of Bergamo. The use of BMO in documents to represent the city has not been seen prior to 1770. Galilei died in 1642.

The professor believes that Tobia Nicotra, a prominent forger active in the 1930s, was responsible for the fake. He was convicted in 1934 and had made other forgeries of Galilei's works.

The University announced it would keep the fake, asserting it still had research value.

"Our view is that the document still has research value, and there is much to learn from it, as it is a very good forgery that is seemingly connected to many other forgeries," it said, per the outlet. "We will make sure that the information attached to the document online and in our catalog makes it clear that this piece is a forgery, and we will include the suspected dates of creation, and we will make the item available for research as we would other pieces of our collection."