Make a Donation to the New Books Network

The New Books Network is run by volunteers, but the network has expenses. If you like what we do, consider making a contribution

Nick WildingGalileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and the Politics of Knowledge

University of Chicago Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on March 15, 2015

Nick Wilding

View on Amazon

Nick Wilding’s new book is brilliant, thoughtful, and an absolute pleasure to read. Galileo’s Idol: Gianfrancesco Sagredo and The Politics of Knowledge (University of Chicago Press, 2014) takes an unusual approach to understanding Galileo and his context by focusing its narrative on his closest friend, student, and patron, the Venetian Gianfrancesco Sagredo. Though most readers might be familiar with Sagredo largely as one of the protagonists of Galileo’s 1632 Dialogue upon the Two Main Systems of the World, here he takes center stage. In order to bring Sagredo to life and help us understand his significance both for Galileo and for early modern science in context more broadly conceived, Wilding has worked with an impressive range of materials that include poems, paintings, ornamental woodcuts, epistolary hoaxes, intercepted letters, murder case files, and more. After a chapter that reads like a detective story as Wilding tracks down and expertly reads missing portraits of Sagredo, subsequent chapters explore the Venetian’s role in major disputes involving the Jesuits, his family’s mining interests, his time as treasurer for a fortress and a consul to Syria, and his performance as a “rich, old, slightly batty widow” in the context of a rather hilarious epistolary hoax. We also come to understand Galileo anew, as Wilding pays careful attention to his use of scribal publication to control and disseminate his writing and the relationship between instrument and text in his work. (In one wonderful chapter, Wilding reads woodcuts associated with the Sidereus nuncius in order to reframe how we understand the history of production and publication of this text in the context of transalpine book smuggling.) Along the way, the chapters make significant interventions in the historiography of science, suggesting ways that Sagredo helps us think anew about the use of visual sources, the agency of “intermediaries and go-betweens” in creating their own networks, the importance of understanding the sense of humor of our historical actors, the social nature of early modern authorship, and the need to reassess the historiography of the global scientific network of the Jesuits.

There are also some really, horribly, wonderfully bad puns. (Consider yourselves forewarned.)


Justin MartinRebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians

March 10, 2015

Biography is, both etymologically and in its conventional forms, the writing of a life. But what is the role of place within that? And how do the stories of lives- some of them well known, others less so- realign when we see them through the lens of a particular place? That's Justin Martin's way in […]

Read the full article →

Alina García-LapuertaLa Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris

February 18, 2015

One of the fundamental functions of biography is the preservation of stories. But it also acts to resurrect the stories that may have fallen from view, reinvigorating the tales of people who, with the passage of time, have become merely names on plaques. In La Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris […]

Read the full article →

Georges Nzongola-NtalajaPatrice Lumumba

February 2, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in African Studies] Patrice Lumumba was a leader of the independence struggle, as well as the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After a meteoric rise in the colonial civil service and the African political elite, he became a major figure in […]

Read the full article →

James Mace WardPriest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia

December 25, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Eastern European Studies] In his biography of Jozef Tiso, Catholic priest and president of independent Slovakia (1939-1944), James Ward provides a deeper understanding of a man who has been both honored and vilified since his execution as a Nazi collaborator in 1947. Priest, Politician, Collaborator: Jozef Tiso and the Making of Fascist Slovakia (Cornell University […]

Read the full article →

S. Duncan ReidCal Tjader: The Life and Recordings of the Man Who Revolutionized Latin Jazz

December 18, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Jazz] S. Duncan Reid has written a meticulously researched and detailed account of the performances and recording career of Bay Area-born and small group Latin-jazz innovator and vibraphonist Cal Tjader. Tjader’s high-energy yet lyrical and melodic playing introduced new demographics of jazz listeners to the soulful sound of Latin jazz for four […]

Read the full article →

Janet Sims-WoodDorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History

October 15, 2014

There was once a notion that black people had no meaningful history. It's a notion Dorothy Porter Wesley spent her entire career debunking. Through her 43 years at Howard University, where she helped create the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, her own publishing endeavors and collecting, and her unfettered support of the researchers she encountered, Wesley devoted […]

Read the full article →

Mark EpsteinThe Trauma of Everyday Life

October 13, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Psychoanalysis] Being human, much of our energy goes into resisting the basic mess of life, but messy it is nonetheless. The trick (as psychoanalysts know) is to embrace it all anyway.  “Trauma is an indivisible part of human existence. It takes many forms but spares no one,” so writes psychiatrist and […]

Read the full article →

Ernest Harsch Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary

October 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in African Studies]  Thomas Sankara, often called the African Che Guevara, was president of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa, until his assassination during a military coup that brought down his government. Although his time in office was relatively short, Sankara left an indelible mark on his country’s […]

Read the full article →

Rebecca RogersA Frenchwoman’s Imperial Story: Madame Luce in Nineteenth-Century Algeria

October 2, 2014

In the early 1830s, the French school teacher Eugénie Luce migrated to Algeria. A decade later, she was a major force in the debates around educational practices there, insisting that not only were women entitled to quality education, but that women's education served a fundamental role in the French mission in the colonies. "Woman is the […]

Read the full article →