Folks at the University of Michigan's library were highly disappointed to discover that an alleged Galileo manuscript page was, in fact, not a Galileo manuscript page. From reading the article, it seems that Galileo's forgeries are a thing, which I guess makes sense but I didn't ever consider that their existence required experts to identify them. Perhaps there is an entire economy of forgery experts working to put themselves out of business, or do they dream of someday relaxing into a world where they never run across forgeries and just get to spend a lot of time contemplating the original works of their chosen artist?
"It was pretty gut-wrenching when we first learned our Galileo was not actually a Galileo," Donna L. Hayward, interim dean of the University of Michigan's libraries, told The New York Times. Nonetheless, the library opted for transparency and publicly announced the forgery. "To sweep it under the rug is counter to what we stand for," Hayward said.
The single-leaf manuscript in question purported to be a draft of an August 24, 1609, letter that Galileo wrote to the doge of Venice describing his observations with a telescope (occhiale) he had constructed. (The final letter is housed in the State Archives in Venice.) Galileo first heard of a marvelous new instrument for "seeing faraway things as though nearby" in a letter from a colleague named Paolo Sarpi, who had witnessed a demonstration in Venice. Unsatisfied with the performance of the available instruments, Galileo built his own, even learning to grind his own lenses to improve the optics.
The top half of the library's manuscript is the alleged draft of Galileo's letter to the doge of Venice, dated circa August 9, 1609. The bottom half, supposedly written months later, contains a series of "doodles" that depict Jupiter's moons—once thought to be original notes from Galileo's observations in January 1610.
Enter Nick Wilding, who has exposed Galileo-related forgeries in the past, most notably a copy of Sidereus Nuncius in the possession of a New York City rare-book dealer. This copy supposedly included an inscription by Galileo, as well as five of his watercolors of the Moon. Although the paper and binding of Sidereus appeared to be genuine, Wilding eventually found that it, along with another copy listed in the 2005 Sotheby's catalog, both had an identical blotch on the title page that could be traced back to a 1964 facsimile edition. "If [the forger] hadn't been greedy enough to make two copies, I wouldn't have been able to prove the forgery," Wilding told The New York Times in 2012.