Evening News: Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe

By Eileen Reeves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Jesuits on the Moon

Though his astronomical activity generated so much news, Galileo manifested little overt interest in current events. The correspondence of some of his closest friends, particularly Paolo Sarpi, Daniello Antonini, Gianfrancesco Sagredo, and Paolo Gualdo, by contrast, offers a varied budget of news ranging from international events, Venetian politics, and the endless skirmishes within clerical, university, and literary circles. Whether Galileo’s apparent silence is an index of circumspection or indifference is difficult to gauge, and it would be in any case unwise to assume that what remains to us of his correspondence is representative, especially in an era where news enjoyed oral as well as printed and manuscript circulation.1

An important exception to this seeming distance from current events, and one that survived the transition from private letter to published treatise, was Galileo’s curious comparison of an oversized lunar crater, generally identified as Albategnius, with Bohemia.2 The association first arose in his letter of January 7, 1610, best known not for its lengthy synopsis of his telescopic observations of the moon, but rather for its casual reference to phenomena newly encountered only that evening, the moons of Jupiter.3 Scholars then and now have rightly been more concerned with this latter and wholly unexpected discovery, for the detection of those satellites was an unrivaled novelty, unlike the observations of the moon’s rough surface and secondary light, or of the numberless new stars in particular constellations and in the Milky Way, or even of the eventual phases of Venus or the sunspots, all of which had been either seen or hypothesized prior to the invention of the telescope.

In terms of the popular imagination, however, the impact of telescopic observation of the moon was without parallel. A traditional symbol of the Church, its new depiction as an opaque and rugged sphere was startling, and

-29-

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Evening News: Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Jesuits on the Moon 29
  • Chapter 2 - Medici Stars and the Medici Regency 57
  • Chapter 3 - Galileo Gazzettante 101
  • Chapter 4 - Cameras That Don’t Lie 135
  • Chapter 5 - Cameras That Do 165
  • Chapter 6 - Rapid Transport 206
  • Conclusion 231
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 303
  • Acknowledgments 307
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