An Extraordinary Document: The Constitutions of the Accademia dei Lincei – With Notes toward a History of the Society, A List of the Academy's Members, & A History of the Invention & Development of the Telescope

[Accademia dei Lincei] Vandelli, Domenico (1732-1815); Faber, Johann (1570-1640)

Considerazioni sopra la notizia degli Accademici Lincei Scritta dal Signor Giovanni Bianchi, E promissa all' Opera Intitolata Phytobasanos di Fabio Colonna Restampata in Firenze nel 1744 presso Pietro Gastano Viviani in quarto Reale, Opusculo di Domenico Vandelli. [Bound with, as issued:] Praescriptiones Lynceae Accademiae curante Joan. Fabro Lynceo Bamberg Interamnae, In typ. Guerrerii, 1624 " Hic liber typis editus extat Romae in Bibliotheca Barberina"

Modena: Bartolomeo Soliani, 1745


Quarto: 19.3 x 14 cm. [1]-48, [49]-64 p. With a divisional title page.

FIRST EDITION of Vandelli's contributions to a history of the Accademia dei Lincei, together with the SECOND EDITION (1sted. 1624) of the Academy's constitutions, the "Praescriptiones". Bound in later speckled boards. Aside from a few small paper repairs to the title (not affecting the text but obscuring a contemporary signature), both parts are in very fine condition. An engraved lynx, symbol of the Academy, appears on the title page of the "Praescriptiones".

I. "Praescriptiones Lynceae Accademiae"

Prepared for publication by Johann Faber, the Chancellor General of the Lincean Academy, the "Praescriptiones" articulated the society's founding principles and detailed the nature and scope of its activities. The document affirmed the Academy's core principle, as stated by its founder, Federico Cesi, that scientific knowledge must arise from the observation of facts and the theoretical elaboration of empirical data. The work goes on to describe the formal structure of the society, its publishing program, which by 1625 had produced such pivotal works as Galileo's "Istoria e Dimostrazioni intorno alle Macchie Solari"(1613) and, more recently, his "Il Saggiatore" (1623); and the plan of establishing an international system of laboratory schools that would boast their own gymnasiums, libraries, and printing presses.

Although the society's founder had drawn up earlier documents along these lines, the "Praescriptiones" was the only version to be published. The original 1624 edition is extraordinarily rare. It is represented by only 1 copy in North America (American Philosophical Society.) Although not as rare as the first, the 1745 "Praescriptiones" is also very scarce. There are 5 copies in North America: American Philosophical Society, Cal. Tech, Columbia, Oklahoma, and Yale.

Although the Accademia dei Lincei had been founded in 1603, the "Praescriptiones" marked the first time that such a document had been printed. From the time of the Academy's inception, its founder, Federico Cesi, had been reluctant to publish or otherwise publicize the Academy's program, especially while the grand project, an international network of educational colonies, was still in development. This despite the urgings of key members, such as Marc Welser and Francesco Stelluti, who believed that only through publication would prospective members be made aware of what was specifically expected of them. The published "Praescriptiones" were preceded by several "internal" documents of a similar nature, including the "Ristretto delle Costituzioni"(1612) and the "Istruzioni" (1620-1), as well as by Cesi's "Linceografo" (1603), the "Ur text" of the Academy's constitutions. For an exhaustive treatment of the various iterations of the Academy's founding principles and objectives, see Guardo-Orioli, "Cronache e statuti della prima Accademia dei Lincei: Gesta Lynceorum, 'ristretto' delle costituzioni, Praescriptiones Lynceae Accademiae" (2014).

The printed text:

The title page of the 1745 edition of the "Praescriptiones" closely reproduces that of the original (and already in the 18thc. extremely rare) 1624 edition, including the imprint "Interamnae [i.e. Terni], In Typographeio Guerrerii MDCXXIV". However, the typographer has also added a line indicating that the copy of the 1624 edition used for this project was to be found at Rome in the Barberini Library. There could be no more fitting provenance, considering that Maffeo Barberini (Pope Urban VIII) was a crucial supporter of the Lincei and his nephew, Francesco, was counted among the Academy's members. 

The Members:

A remarkable feature of this 1745 edition is the inclusion of a list that had been "written in pen at the end" of the Barberini copy of the 1624 edition, of the names of the Academy's members up to 1625. Thirty-two members are listed chronologically, based on date of admission to the society. The list also records each member's age at the time of admission, positions held within the Academy (chancellor, librarian, censor, etc.), and the years of death of the fourteen deceased members. The list begins with the four founding members (Federico Cesi, Johannes van Heeck, Francesco Stelluti, and Anastasio de Filiis) and includes such luminaries as Galileo (admitted in 1611) and Fabio Colonna (1612). The last signatory (1625) was the humanist Josse de Rycke, author of the "Apes Dianiae", the Academy's elegiac tribute to the Barberini pope.

II. Towards a History of the Accademia dei Lincei: Giovanni Bianchi & Domenico Vandelli.

The impetus for re-printing the "Praescriptiones" in 1745 was the publication, in 1744, of the second edition of the "Phytobasanos" of the Lynceus Fabio Colonna (d. 1640). The editor of that new edition was the physician and naturalist Giovanni Bianchi (1693-1775), who took it upon himself to resurrect the Accademia dei Lincei at Rimini in 1745, styling himself "Linceorum Restitutor". For his edition of "Phytobasanos", Bianchi wrote a biography of Colonna and a history of the original Lincean Academy, "Notizia degli Accademici Lincei". 

In response, the Modenese cartographer and mathematician Domenico Vandelli wrote his "Considerazioni", in which he corrected some of Bianchi's errors, challenged Bianchi's assertion that Cesi had invented the telescope, and sought to establish a comprehensive and accurate list of the Academy's members. In addition to the Barberini list (described above), Vandelli relied on other manuscript sources, including a list written in another copy of the 1624 "Praescriptiones", which was given to Vandelli in 1739 by the Roman cleric Domenico Maria Ricci.

Approximately half of the "Considerazioni" concerns the invention and history of the telescope and microscope. Whereas Bianchi asserted that Cesi, drawing on the investigations of della Porta, had invented both instruments, Vandelli attributes their invention to Galileo. He begins with della Porta's work on lenses, assesses the evidence for possible northern European inventors, draws evidence from Galileo's own writings (in particular the "Sidereus Nuncius"), and those of Galileo's disciples and contemporaries. Expanding on his theme, Vandelli continues his history of the telescope and microscope up through the middle of the 18thc., describing the innovations of Newton and the work of Robert Hooke.

The "Considerazioni" are followed by the reprinting of the "Praescriptiones" with its list of members taken from the Barberini copy of the 1624 edition.

Favaro, Bib. Galileiana, 483; Tiraboschi, Biblioteca Modenese, p. 342