History: the 18th Century
the Collection of Giovan Battista Clemente de Nelli

The unknown prehistory of Nelli's collection (1703 - 1750)

The fate of Galileo's manuscripts after VincenzoViviani's death in 1703 (that is, after its 17thcentury history) is not entirely clear; see, on this subject, BERTI1875-76; FAVARO1885. What is clear is that the manuscripts had become scattered dueto the negligence of the brothers Carlo and Angelo Panzanini, heirs ofthe Abbot Jacopo Panzanini who had received Viviani's collection of manuscriptsthrough inheritance, see NELLI1793, II, pp. 761-765, pp. 874-875; BERTI 1875-76, p. 99; FAVARO 1885,pp. 51-58, pp. 201-205.

The Nelli collection (1750 - 1793)

Between 1750 and 1754, the Florentine senator GiovanniBattista Clemente de' Nelli purchased a great many autographs of bothGalileo and his disciples. Nelli made use of the manuscripts as documentarysources for his massive biography of Galileo, which was published onlyafter his death in 1793. By purchasing the autographs, Nelli was able tosave the core of the present Collezione Galileiana from the threat of destruction.

The fate of the collection after Nelli's death (1793 - 1818)

After Nelli's death his sons were trying to sell the manuscripts, butthe Tuscan government intervened to stop them, promulgating a decree ofattachment. The index of Nelli´s collection (see below), which isstill preserved in Ms. Gal. 323, was used during this juridical dispute.In 1806 Florentine magistracy entrusted Francesco Del Furia, a librarianin the Laurenziana library, to check the state of the collection. The inspectionwas carried out with the help of Nelli's catalogue, as indicated by thenumeration used to mark the manuscripts; see FAVARO1885, pp. 207-209. (Del Furia noticed the disappearance of 18 manuscriptslisted in Nelli's catalogue.) The whole of Nelli collection was eventuallypurchased by the Lorraine house, the Tuscan ruling family after the extinctionof the Medici in 1737. The Abbot Francesco Fontani was asked to estimatethe worth of the Nelli collection. In Fontani's report we find a mentionof what probably corresponds to the present Ms. 72, marked by the Nellianclassification "Ms. 471," see FAVARO 1885, p. 212. In October1818, Ferdinando III of Lorena, Grand Duke of Tuscany, acquired the Nellicollection at the price of 1046 sequins, see FAVARO 1885, pp. 58-60, pp.206-223. It appears that the state of what is today Codex 72 remained moreor less unchanged from the time in which Nelli described it in his catalogueuntil the acquirement of the collection in 1818 by the Lorraine house.

Galileo's notes on motion and mechanics in the catalogue of the Nellicollection

The current Ms. Gal. 323 in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence containsan index of the manuscripts in the Nelli collection in which entries enteredare quite consistent with the contents of the present Codex 72 (or, moreexactly, with the part comprising the notes on motion and mechanics):

"Galileo Galilei. 471. Named Tome IX, comprising the original volumesIII and IV of the published works of Galileo Galilei. They are:

("Galileo Galilei. 471, Detto Tomo IX, che comprende gli originalidel Tom. III e IV delle Opere stampate di Galileo Galilei e sono:

The third item of the inventory ("Non-ordered sheets belongingto the Dialogues on New Sciences") refers unequivocally to the presentMs. Gal. 72, folio 33 to folio 194; see also FAVARO1886, p. 28. The mention of volumes III and IVof Galileo's works refers to the Paduan edition of 1744, edited by GiuseppeToaldo (Opere di Galileo Galilei divise in quattro tomi, in questanuova edizione accresciute di molte cose inedite, Nella stamperia del Seminario,Padova, 1744, 4 volumes). The third volume of Toaldo's edition comprisesthe Discorsi, the report on the Bisenzio River and a miscellanyof writings entitled "Problemi varij di Galileo" ("Variousproblems of Galileo"). The title "Tomo IX" in Nelli's indexprobably refers to the original classification of the manuscript in thelibrary of Viviani. The number "471" relates to the positionof the codex in Nelli´s collection, of which the above mentionedMs. Gal. 323 was the catalogue.

A comparison between Viviani's and Nelli's lists

It is quite likely that the entries in Viviani'slist and Nelli's list essentially refer to the same works, althoughthis may not be obvious at first glance. In particular, Viviani's listmentions documents regarding a dispute between Galileo and Nozzolinion the estimation of a horse. These documents are, however, not explicitlymentioned in Nelli's list. But that is understandable since they were partlylost by the editors of the 1718 edition of Galileo's works (Opere di GalileoGalilei Nobile Fiorentino, In Firenze, Per G. Tartini e S. Franchi, 1718),see Avvertimento, in Opere, VI, p. 566. What remained of the documentsconcerning this dispute was possibly covered by the heading "Variousproblems" in Nelli's list. In fact, in the third volume of the 1718edition, the remaining documents pertaining to the quarrel with Nozzoliniare placed after a collection of fragments entitled "Problemi varj"di Galileo Galilei, see volume III of the 1718 edition, pp. 47-89. (Theremaining documents on the dispute are Galileo's "resolution"of the matter and a letter to AndreaArrighetti; these documents are now in the Ms. Gal. 84, ff. 44r-56r.)

The only other apparent discrepancy between Nelli's index and Viviani'snote concerns precisely the drafts entitled "Non-ordered sheets belongingto the Dialogues on New Sciences" which correspond, in Viviani's list,to the entry "Treatise on Mechanics etc." But in spite of thedifference in wording, the latter reference probably comprises the noteson motion and mechanics in today's Codex 72, as well as a folio dealingwith the properties of the lever (folio 27r-v). The first draft of LeMecaniche (folios 9-26, see otherwritings in Codex 72) was, however, not initially in the codex, contraryto what Viviani's list might suggest. It rather came from the BibliotecaRiccardiana in Florence; see Ms. Gal. 72, f.2r ("Delle utilita' chesi traggono dalla Scienza Meccanica, e dai suoi strumenti, Trattato diGalileo in copia del tempo, pervenuto dalla Riccardiana e mancante").

Ms. Gal. 318, f. 710r (Viviani's note)Ms. Gal. 323, f. 9r (Nelli's index)
[1] - Un discorso sopra il fiume Bisenzio1. Discorso sopra il fiume Bisenzio.
[2] - Tutta la disputa tra il Sig. Galileo et

il Nozzolini circa la stima d'un cavallo

2. Problemi varii.
[3] - Trattato di Meccaniche etc.3. Fogli senz'ordine appartenuti ai Dialoghi

delle nuove Scienze.

[4] - Varie cose attenenti al Dialogo proibito4. Fogli appartenenti ai Dialoghi dei Massimi Sistemi.

History: the 18th Century
the Collection of Giovan Battista Clemente de Nelli