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Book Reviews

Galileo - Images of the Universe from Antiquity to the Telescope
Editor: Paolo Galuuzi

Publisher: Giunti

ISBN: 978-88-98-74233-8

Price: £32 (Hb), 442pp

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Timed to coincide with the IYA’s global celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of Galileo’s groundbreaking work in viewing both the Moon and Jupiter, this epic book, sponsored by dozens of institutions and with a preface and forward list that lasts over 20 pages, sets its stall firmly in the realms of coffee table-sized masterpiece. Every page has exquisite photographs and imagery, depicting not only the work of the great Italian upon which the title rests, but also the most notable epochs in the history of astronomy itself. Each section is written with such attention to detail and passion by the separate authors that, in its own right, they could each be expanded into complete works themselves.

Going from ancient Egypt, Greece and Persia the book, which accompanies a major exhibition in Florence, does not even get to Galileo’s work on the Moon until page 246, a testament to the depth of research that has gone into creating this magnificent tome. Many of Galileo’s drawings are faithfully reproduced, and the image quality throughout is just glorious. Each chapter has an accompanying bibliography, which enables the reader to follow up on specific topics. The images of items in the exhibition make you want to hop on the first flight out to Italy to see these wonders in the flesh.

Whilst not diving into pure academic language, at times the text tends to over-inflate simple concepts and combined with sometimes strange translation anomalies, it can make the book a struggle to read, but as a collection of reference pieces to dip into it is worth sticking with.

Although the focus for IYA is on Galileo, I found it a glaringly huge omission, in a book of this magnitude and scope, that Thomas Harriot gets barely a mention, although it is true that his work on solar and lunar observations went largely unknown due to being unpublished for hundreds of years. The few mentions he gets in this book almost dismiss him and his work, in particular his maps of the Moon, which arguably were not bettered for decades.

Taken as a whole, though, the book is a superb piece of work and anyone visiting the exhibition in Florence would do well to pick up a copy.

Nick Howes

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