Galileo Observing Challenge





  • an autograph manuscript of the Sidereus nuncius, with Galileo's original wash drawings tipped in, is available online: go to This manuscript was rebound in the nineteenth century, and may have been compiled at that period from autograph copies by Galileo and his assistants. The wash drawings (divorced from their manuscript context) were formerly available at:

Several digital facsimiles of the 1610 printed editions are online:

  • for the Venice edition, Galileo Galilei, Sidereus nuncius... (Venice: apud Thomam Baglionum, 1610), use the same search engine as for the Florence manuscript above (but don't click on the manuscript button, of course!)
  • the Frankfurt edition, Galileo Galilei, Sidereus nuncius... (Frankfurt: Prostat in Paltheniano, 1610), is even easier to access:


  • the best English translation is the authoritative Galileo Galilei, Siderius nuncius or the Sidereal Messenger, tr. Albert van Helden (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989: ISBN 0226279030)
  • a late-19th century translation, markedly less good than van Helden's, is online: Galileo Galilei, The Sidereal Messenger, tr. Edward Stafford Carlos (Oxford-Cambridge-London: Rivington's, 1880):


  • the fullest accounts are: Horst Bredekamp, "Gazing Hands and Blind Spots: Galileo as Draftsman" in Science in Context vol. 14 (2001), 153-192: and Horst Bredekamp, Galileo der Künstler: die Mond-die Sonne-die Hand (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2007). Those interested should also read the contributions by van Helden, Gingerich, Winkler, and Edgerton cited by Bredekamp.
  • for the context of Galileo's lunar drawings within the developing traditions of selenography see: Ewen A. Whitaker, "Selenography in the Seventeenth Century", in Planetary Astronomy from the Renaissance to the Rise of Physics.Renaissance to the Rise of Physics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton, ed. René Taton and Curtis Wilson, The General History of Astronomy, ed. Micahel Hoskin, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 119-143, and Ewen A. Whitaker, Mapping and Naming the Moon: A History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). For a dissenting view that: a) the manuscript wash drawings may not be by Galileo; and b), that the published illustrations in Sidereus nuncius are wholly impressionistic, search for T Pope's notes, formerly at: Note that this is very much a minority opinion on both issues.


  • two enlightening accounts presenting Galileo's instruments within their cultural contexts are: Mario Biagioli, Galileo's Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), and Eileen Reeves, Galileo's Glassworks: the Telescope and the Mirror (Cambridge MA-London: Harvard University Press, 2008).