Galileo Galilei’s letter turned out to be a fake

The letter of the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, kept in the library of the University of Michigan, turned out to be a fake. This is evidenced by ink, handwriting, some words and watermarks on paper. It turned out to be made in the early 20th century.

A detailed letter from Galileo Galilei. Source:

Letter of Galileo Galilei

The letter of the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, known as the discoverer of the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn, was for many years considered the pearl of the collection of the library of the University of Michigan. It was dated 1609 and was sent to the Doge of Venice on the occasion of the presentation of the new telescope.

The university received the letter in 1938 as an inheritance from Detroit businessman Tracy McGregor, who purchased it at auction in 1934. The auction catalog indicated that the Archbishop of Pisa Pietro Maffi compared it with two other letters of Galileo that were in his collection and recognized its authenticity.

The text of the letter consists of two parts, repeating the famous texts of Galileo. The first is actually a draft of the letter, the final version of which is kept in the State Archives of Venice. The second also contains a variation of the famous astronomer’s text about the moons of Jupiter. Based on this, the document was considered authentic, although not unique.


Everything changed when historian Nick Wilding saw the document. He drew attention to uncharacteristic words, handwriting and ink for the beginning of the 17th century. Oddly enough, the university administration paid attention to the letter of the scientist and began its investigation.

And now the University of Michigan has admitted that Galileo Galilei’s letter is a forgery. The final evidence of this was watermarks on paper. Manufacturers often labeled their products with them. In particular, on the sheet on which the message of the famous astronomer is written, there are the letters AS and BMO.

The first are the initials of the manufacturer, and the second mean the city of Bergamo in Italy. The only problem is that the three letters denoting this locality appeared only in 1770. And this is more than a hundred years after the death of the astronomer.

In the end, the university staff managed to establish that their document was not mentioned anywhere until the 1930s. It was made at the beginning of the 20th century by the famous counterfeiter Tobia Nicotra. Moreover, two letters with which Cardinal Maffi allegedly compared him also turned out to be the work of this talented fraudster.

In addition, Nick Wilding discovered that he had found another forgery of Nicotra’s authorship. We are talking about a letter from Galileo, which dated back to 1607 and was kept in the Morgan Library in Washington. The University of Michigan does not know what to do with all this, but they hope that new discoveries will serve to develop the science of forgery.

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time