John Pazmino 
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2015 November 14

    November 11, 2015, was Veterans Day, a holiday from work. Altho 
the day is observed nationally, there were listed in NYC Events for 
November 2015 several interesting events. I planned to attend two, the 
SatCon satellite industry show and an astronomy talk. 
    The plan was to do the SatCon in the afternoon, take supper, and 
sit the lecture in evening. This left me the morning to reflect on my 
late father's military service for World War II, for whom I hold many 
artifacts from that era. 
    When a few days before the 11th I went to sign up for SatCon I 
found that I missed a little-noticed deadline for the free ticket. 
This deadline may have been at end of October, slipping notice for the 
November NYC Events.After the deadline, this ticket would cost $50. 
    I passed up SatCon and took a late afternoon train to the City for 
the evening lecture, 'Forging the Moon: How to spot a false Galileo'. 
It described the detection and exposure of a forged Galileo 'Sidereus 
Nuncius' by Nick Wilding of New York Public Library and Georgia State 
    The talk was at the City University Graduate Center starting at 
6PM. The Center hosts many astronomy and science presentations. The 
Center for me on a regular work day is a short walk from my office. 
Today it was a train ride to, yes, the very station I normally get off 
for work! 
    I arrived at the Center at about 5:30PM, munched on a few fruit 
bars from my shoulder bag, and was seated in the lecture room for the 
6PM talk. 

Sidereus Nuncius 
    When Galileo wrote up his initial findings, he issued about 550 
copies of his book. They were a sell-out within a couple weeks, mostly 
to other scholars and scientists. Historians accepted that all of the 
copies were accounted for as held in collections, lost, or destroyed. 
    When an authentic Nuncius comes into the book-selling world, it is 
carefully documented to update its paper trail of record. Prices for a 
genuine Nuncius are in the high hundred-thousand to a million of 
    Sidereus Nuncius is a small book, about 65 pages, written in latin 
with cuts or engravings of his eyepiece views of the stars. The star 
fields, like Beehive cluster and Orion nebula, are stylized with pop-
art five-pointed stars. The Jupiter moons are are big asterisks.. 
    His drawings of the Moon are most intriguing, with details of the 
craters and terminator shadows. 
    Internet has very good digital editions, reproduced from a real 
printed copy of a library. Such digital versions allow any astronomer 
to obtain a 'reading copy', altho not at all looking real or having 
any bibliophilic value. 
    In 1964 a modern replica edition of Nunciusn as the book is 
commonly called for short, was published that at least looks and fells 
like the real book. Close inspection reveals its present-day vintage. 

The New York Nuncius
     Wilding opened the talk by describing the appearance of a 'new' 
copy of Nuncius in New York! In 2005 Richard Lan, of the Martayan Lan 
antiquarian house on Manhattan, came to him about a Nuncius valued 
for, uh, $10 million. This is quite ten times the current assessed 
value for real Nuncius copies. 
    The book was offered to Lan by two Italians, Mario De Caro and 
Filipo Romolo, who  showed papers shwoing that book's owner wanted to 
sell it off as surplus. All of this mateial was later proved bogus. 
     Wilding sent images of the book to other wxpertes for anique 
books. The inital opinion was that this new book was genuine and had 
extra features that could justify its astronomical price. 
    Lan negotiated with the agents and eventually purchased the book 
for, uh, $500,000. This was 1/20 of tis claimed value. 
    In the antiquarian circles this book is usually cited as SNML' for 
'Sidereus Nuncius, Martayan Lan'. Because his store is in New York, 
and the story broke into the public news in the City, the book is also 
called the 'NYN', for 'New York Nuncius'. I here refer to it by either 
    As it ultimately turned out, this book is a forgery, an excellent 
one, but one foiled by historical goofs. I can not go thru all the 
ways the fake was detected, there being several lengthy discussions in 
the book-collection webs. 
    One excellent account is 'A very rare book' by Schmidle in the 
2013 December 18 issue of New Yorker magazine. An other from the 
antique book world is 'Faking Galileo' by Mazotti in LARB Quarterly 
Journal, spring 2014. 
    Here I illustrate several features of antique books that can to 
enhance your bibliophilic interest.They are helpful for examining 
specimina offered at bookfairs. 

Why make a fake? 
    Fake copies or fake originals of artwork is an ancient practice. 
It occurs with annoying frequency in art collection and historian 
circles. There are many reasons to forge a work, four detailed during 
Wilding's talk. 
    The forger simply wanted to prove that he can fool the 'experts'. 
His work, in our case a book, is crafted as perfectly as possible to 
pass scrutiny by the experts and be accepted as an authentic work. The 
book is introduced into the history and collection world by a 
conspiring dealer who fronts for the forgerer. 
    The forger may want to pass off the fake to earn a sale for 
himself. In this case the cost of making the fake, which can be many 
myriads of dollars or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, is 
recuped in the initial sale of the book. Once sold the forger fades 
from the scene to enjoy his gain.
    The fake book can be a replacement in a library for an authentic 
book. Sadly, most victim libraries have crude means of curating their 
collection. Altho the catalog notes the title page information about 
the book, the replacement fake merely shows the same information on 
its own title page. The library's property management system has no 
way to verify that the book is a properly validated real one. The real 
book is gone, stolen by the forger. The forger sells te real book to 
an other collection. 
    The fourth reason is to modify history by inserting a fake that 
adds false information about the author or his works. The fake book is 
in fact an  'original' in that it doesn't copy a known good one. It is 
presented as a 'new find' in some lost or obscure collection. 
    As example, and I'm making this up!, Galileo finds a star that 
shifted position among the other stars. He follows it for several 
months, until the drifting star is lost in evening twilight. Galileo 
never published these observations. They were found in some box of 
loose papers in an friend's house only in the 21st century. These 
notes reveal that Galileo was observing Uranus, actually recognizing 
it as a separate kind of star that moved like a planet. 
    Such a find would seriously modify the history of Galileo and the 
rediscovery of Uranus by Herschel. I said  this is a totally made-up 
example, but for a while these papers are circulated in the history 
world as a sensational newly-found artifact. 
    The SNML is like this fourth case because it claims Galileo had a 
complete proof-copy of his final book, by which he engaged with 
political figures probably to earn favor. We know this never happened 
and the book was partially shown to be phony from this historical 

Prooff copy 
    The NYN was claimed to be a 'proof copy' signed by Galileo and 
presented to prince Casi of Venice. The book had a notation by Galileo 
and a liber stamp of the prince, both real-looking. 
    In modern printing a single or a few copies of a book are printed 
from the author's manuscript. it is done on cheap paper, often with 
wells for the illustrations, and binded in paper covers.
    The author, and perhaps his collaborators, make corrections in the 
proof copy, from which a new prime original is built. In today's 
electronic publishing there is no physical 'printing plate'. The 
printing is driven by the manuscript's computer file. 
    When all is corrected the illustrations are added and the book is 
published for it full number of copies. It is printed on the good 
paper and binded in proper covers. The proof copies are discarded or 
sold at steep discount.  
    In the 1600s, and into the early 20th century it would be 
impractical to cut a few proof copies. A printing house usually had a 
supply of type slugs and tiles for only a few pages at a time. After 
these were done the type, laid out in the printing plate, was broken 
apart, alphabeticly sorted, returned to its storage cases. 
    This type is used to make the next set of pages, or to run an othr 
job. This process continues until all of the book's pages are finished 
and the whole pile of pages is sent into the binding stage.
    If the author had corrections in the first set of pages, the plate 
for those pages is dismantled. The printing house would not want to 
hold the plate intact for the corrections because it needs the type 
for its other jobs. It would be silly to set up the plate all over 
again with the corrections for the likely chance of creating new 
    The limits and practice of printing in Galileo's time made it most 
odd that the NYN was a proof copy. It could be a regular press run 
copy mistakenly called a proof copy. 

   The binding of books in the early years of publishing was still 
imperfect. The covers, spine, page attachments were the weakest 
feature of a book that after years of handling fell apart. The book 
was then rebinded in a contemporary style. This is a normal practice 
not considered an act of forgery. 
    I personally have several antique books with modern bindings. They 
add to the lifespan of the book and are not claimed as authenticly 
original. It's only if the rebinding is presented as part of the 
original work that the phony business arises. An original binding in 
quite  new condition adds to the sale value of the book. The SNML, the 
'proof copy' had the complete binding of a full book, not a cheap 
paper wrap. Would Galileo trouble to give this book a regular binding, 
knowing that it may have errors in it? And then give it as gift to a 
high public official for favor? 
    Questions like these impelled the closer inspection of the 
Nuncius, leading to its discredit as a fake book. 

Type defects 
    As type is used over and over for print jobs, the character tiles 
can be broken, bent, deformed. Certain letters have missing or 
distorted strokes. Prints from a given print house can  be recognized 
because its set of type suffered some specific damage. 
    The Galileo forgery had type that very nearly matched the set of 
the Venice printing house Galileo used for the Nuncius.. Closer 
inspection showed that certain letters in the fake book were bruised 
differently from those of genuine work from the house.
    Work from the house all had certain defects but the fake had 
different ones. It's as if a new type case was used only for the New 
York Nuncius and not used again. 

Spelling errors
    To make a fake book the forger starts with a known genuine copy to 
fabricate printing plates. He photographs the pages of the good copy 
and by photographic methods builds nw plates. The plates look much 
like traditional ones assembled from tiles of type. This plate is used 
in a modern replica of a traditional printing press, which is openly 
available thru the niche field of antique book-making. 
 to Besides the press, the forger gets antique paper, ink, string, 
fabric, &c and uses traditional book-making techniques to build the 
book. These methods and materials are routinely used to make replicas, 
short-run books for commemorative or artistic functions or simply to 
keep alive the original arts and skill of early manufacture of books.
    if the original good page has  typesetting or spelling errors, 
these will carry into the fake page. Unless the forger is diligent to 
fix up his forged page, an investigator could recognize the error from 
a prior experience with the genuine book. 
    In the NYN a word 'pepriodis' sits within text describing the 
aspects of the Moon. it COULD be a Latin word made from a contemporary 
other language. Latin can form nw words from other languages. But 
'pepriodis' in all cases and declensions made no sense in the text 
about the Moon. Wilding and his team found in real Nuncius copies that 
the word is 'periodis,' ablative or dative for 'stages' or 'phases'. 
The text was meaningful with this correction. 
    The team also found the mistake in an other good copy. In fact, 
this other copy displayed the same other blemishes as the forged book. 
The NYN page was duplicated from this other known genuine Nuncius. 

    Older methods of manufacturing paper included chemicals, 
unintentionally, that after decades form reddish brown patches. The 
color reminds of the stereotype fur of a fox, whence the name for this 
feature of antique books. The patches are harmless, tho they do 
detract cosmeticly from the book. The main cause of foxing seems to be 
traces of iron in the paper-making process that oxidizes to iron 
oxide, which is reddish-brown.
    There is no relief in the patch, it being level with the rest of 
the paper. When a fake replica of the page is produced by a modern 
photographic process, the foxing patches sometimes create false type. 
That is, where a fox patch sits in the original, a raised blip is made 
in the forger's printing plate, like an irregular shape of type. 
    The fake page gets the impression of this erratic type, of as an 
irregular blotch following the contour of the original fox patch.
    More over, the false patch is black, made from the black ink, and 
not at all the true fox color. It would be heroic task for a forger to 
hand color the patch to math real foxing. 
     An other clue is the mechanical indentation under it. Since the 
mark was made by pressing the false type into the paper, there is a 
relief within the patch. 
    This indentation is a give-away that the page may be a forgery. In 
the case of the SNML, some investigators recognized certain of its 
blotches as matching exactly the foxing on a known good copy of the 

    Form the earliest days of paper-making the paper mill put into his 
product a watermark. While the pulp is still wet after rolled out into 
sheets, a roller with an embnossed design is pressed over the pulp. 
The design is squeezed into the soft pulp, where it dries into a 
weakly translucent mark when viewed by backlight. 
    The design identifies the mill and the type of paper. Watermarks 
in fake books are easy to duplicate by making a new roller with a 
copied real design. Altho the watermark looks authentic it could be 
contextually or hisstoricly wrong. 
    It may be applied to a type of paper never made by the mill. The 
mill may never have served the printing house. The paper of the SNML 
had watermarks from a mill that was not in business when Galileo 
issued his Nuncius. 

Moon drawings 
    Because the NYN was described as a proof copy, Galileo left out 
his engravings of the Moon, Their place in the book was fitted with 
blank placeholder space to show the type in its final layout. In the 
fake book these spaces were filled with watercolor drawings of the 
Moon. The story was that this book was also a preentation copy to 
Prince Casi which needed something to fill the blanks. 
    An initial inspection of the book concluded that the pictures were 
authentic work by Galileo. As the book was further investigated the 
drawings were found to be faked. For one thing, Galileo would not have 
offered a proof copy, a book with reasonable expectation of having 
errors, to a high official.  He could have waited a week or so for the 
corrected and finished book. 
    An other is that in real copies of the Nuncius, the lunar 
terminator is always vertical. In the phony copy one or two had an 
inclined terminator, as if to better fit the whole Moon into its space 
in the page. 
    Closer inspection showed that the drawings did not contain all the 
detail of the real engraved pictures, with no apparent logic for the 
missing features. Given the skill and labor of making an engraving, a 
drawing on paper would plausibly have MORE detail. 

Liber stamps
    A liner stamp is a property mark showing that the book belongs to 
its owner, such as a library. Today a library may call this an 
accession stamp and a person, for his own books, a book plate. The 
book plate commonly starts with the phrase 'ex libris ...' with a 
fill-in space for the owner's name. I may write in '... Johaniis 
Pazminii' making the complete phrase 'From the books of John Pazmino'. 
I used here my modern Latiny name. 
    The NYN has a liber stamp from the Academia dei Linmcei, which 
Prince Casi founded. When compared to stamps on other Academia books, 
the Nuncius stamp looks newer with no worn spots. A real stamp shows 
the wear and tear of repeatedly use of the stamping block. 
    More over, the Academia's histoical inventory has no Nuncius in 
its collection. A book of such importance as one telling of new worlds 
and celestial wonders would be carefully recorded in the collection. 
And there is no paperwork for releasing of the SNML from the library 
for sale. 

Specks and beading
    The printing plate is inked to coat the top of the type tiles. No 
ink is supposed to drip into the land around the type or seams between 
the tiles. It usually happens that a droplet of ink does fall on the 
land or seams, causing a speck or beading in the printed paper. 
    Unlike the ink on top of the type, there is no pressure on these 
bits of ink. The paper, squeezed under the press, may pick up a minute 
bit of this extraneous ink, making a spot or line in the printed 
sheet. The pattern is unique for each sheet in the print run, no two 
being exactly alike. 
    These are recognized as defects by the absence of indentation, as 
imposed by the press for the proper type. This indentation can be felt 
by gently gliding the fingers over the printed sheet. The specks and 
beading are level with the rest of the paper, having dried on its 
surface in open air. 
    When the plates for the fake are generated by a photographic 
process, there is no way for the imaging mechanism to tell a real ink 
impression from type and an erratic speck or beading. It converts all 
of these marks into raised type surfaces on the plate. 
    The forged page can be detected by a scholar recalling certain 
blemishes in it march exactly those of a known genuine specimen. An 
other way is to feel that the bogus marks are indented by pressure 
from the printing press while duplicating the genuine page. 

    The printing house gets its paper from a paper mill, who offers a 
variety of styles, sizes, composition, quality of paper. We know where 
the Galileo printer got its paper via correspondence, news items, and 
examples of printing jobs. 
    For some reason a detailed examination of the Nuncius paper was 
not done until late in the forgery inquest. When inspected under a 
microscope, the Nuncius paper showed it was made of pulp and cotton 
mixture. While cotton threads were used in early 1600s paper 
manufacture, they were not used in the specific paper for Galileo's 
    The structure of the NYN cotton-pulp paper was far more developed 
than what was available in the 17th century. The peculiar mixture was 
first used in the late 18th century, some 150 years after Galileo.. 
    This feature alone would have been enough to declare this Nuncius 
as a fraudlent copy. There were plenty of other circumstances to prove 
the fake already in hand but it would have been quicker and simpler if 
the paper was looked at in the early stages of the inquest. 

Who made the fake? 
    After rounds of investigation the SNML in 2012 was accepted as a 
forgery. Richard Lan tried to get his money back from the Italian 
agents, with no success as at the time of Wilding's talk. In the 
meanwhile the book is circulated to workshops and conferences on 
antiquarian forgeries as a testbed for scholars to exercise on. It was 
during one of these sessions that the phony printing paper was 
    In a separate episode in the antiquarian world Italian and other 
police were tracking down Mario De Caro, a knoen forger of many 
antique books. He bluffed his way to run the Girolanini Library in 
Naples and began to loot it. He sold off genuine books from its 
holdings on the pretense tht he needed the revenus to meet expenses of 
the library. He pocketed the money and let the library lapse into 
disuse and disarray. 
    He was finally convicted of several crimes, including the 
forgeries, and sentenced to jail. Part of his sentence was commuted to 
house arrest. During his trail he admitted to fabricating the SNML, 
among many other suspected fakes. 
    In late 2012 the De Caro episode broke into general news and the 
story of the New York Nuncius was complete. Since then several 
articles and lectures, like Wilding's at the Graduate Center, 
elaborated on the fake as a bibliophilic and New York history event. 
    Why wasn't the SNML treated as a forgery from the start, since it 
was offered by a known forger? De Caro did sell genuine books, even 
tho many were later found to be loot from libraries. At the time of 
the Lan deal, it may have seemed that the Nuncius could be a real 
Galileo work and the early look-over of it seemed to agree. 

Latin lapses
    Wilding surely has to know Latin in order to conduct his duties at 
the New York Public Library and his university. He was working on a 
study of Mediaeval Italian philosophers, an era when litterature was 
written in Latin. Yet he flubbed on three instances I can recall 
during his presentation. 
    The library stamps put in books, to show property, are often 
called 'liber stamps'. Wilding consistently said 'LIGH-berr'.. The 
word is 'LEE-ber', Latin for 'book'. 
    When he described Galileo's notation on the forged book, he read a 
word 'FEE-sitt'. This was the word 'fect', 'FAY-sitt', Latin for 'he 
made, did'. 
    He wanted to refer to several Galileo Nuncius books and flubbed 
trying to say the plural of 'Sidereus Nuncius'.  After a couple 
aborted tries, he used a work-around phrase. 
    The plural is 'Siderei Nuncii' but this would be bad speech for 
Latin speech. The words are a slug in a book title, not declined in 
proper prose. The grammatical function would be handled by a satellite 
word like 'libri', 'libelli', 'specimina' as in 'Habeo tres libri 
Sidereus Nuncius'. 
    I found this peculiar since Wilding pronounced Italian words and 
phrases quite well, with crisp accents. Yet even then there was a 
glitch. His account of De Caro called the man 'dee-KA-roh'. This word 
I wrote in my notes as 'Dicaro' or 'Dicarro'. After the talk while 
reading filler material I learned the right's 'deh-KA-toh'. 

    This was one fascinating lecture! I as a lover of books often 
wondered how a fake could be positively found out. Once in a while the 
general news coves a forged painting or sculpture. The account usually 
says the item was after scrutiny discovered to be a fake, with little 
insight into the unravelling of the forgery. 
    Wilding's careful step-by-step explanation of the SNML will help 
me in examining potential antique books I may acquire. As far as I 
know, none in my library are actual fakes, altho some were rebinded or 
are replicas. 
    The features examined in the Nuncius for forgery clues are those 
to look for when inquiring about an offered book at the next 
antiquarian bookfair. Even just a banter about these features may earn 
you a higher consideration from the book dealer