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Year 37 – 1897: Galileo a Madama Cristina di Lorena (1615) by Galileo Galilei

Published: Padua, 1897

Galileo’s letter to his friend Cristina di Lorena, originally published in 1636, is an appeal for the reconciliation of science and religion. This was a common struggle for scientists in his day. Indeed, few would have understood this struggle better than Galileo, an alleged heretic who claimed that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the known universe. For this assertion, he remained under house arrest by order of the Roman Inquisition from 1633 to the end of his life.

What is most striking about this book, however, is its incredibly diminutive size.  “For many years this tiny book which is only half the size of an ordinary postage stamp was considered the smallest printed from movable type,” Louis Bondy wrote in his Miniature Books: Their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day.

The Libraries hold other miniature titles – one contains four addresses by Abraham Lincoln; the other, extracts from Calvin Coolidge’s autobiography. Both are roughly the same size as this volume, but neither was set from movable type as tiny as that used in the Galileo work. As recently as 1961, at least one expert speculated that Galileo a Madama Cristina di Lorena remained the smallest ever set from movable type.

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