The fascinating letters of Galileo's eldest daughter to her father
Placed in a convent at the age of thirteen, Virginia Galilei, Galileo’s eldest daughter, wrote to her father continually. Now Dava Sobel has translated into English all 124 surviving letters that Virginia (renamed Suor Maria Celeste at the convent) wrote to Galileo. The letters span a dramatic decade that included the Thirty Years’ War, the bubonic plague, and the development of Galileo’s own universe-changing discoveries. Suor Maria Celeste’s letters touch on these events, but mostly they focus on details of everyday life that connect her and her father: descriptions of confections she sent to him; news of his estate, which she managed while he was on trial; a request for Galileo to fix the convent clock. Her prose reveals an exceptional woman and presents a memorable portrait of deep affection between a father and daughter.
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About the Author
Dava Sobel is an award-winning former science writer for The New York Times. The author of the bestselling Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, Sobel’s work has also appeared in Audubon, Discover, Life, and The New Yorker.
Read an Excerpt
Most Illustrious and Beloved Lord Father,
As for the citron, which you commanded me, Sire, to make into candy, I have come up with only this little bit that I send you now, because I am afraid the fruit was not fresh enough for the confection to reach the state of perfection I would have liked, and indeed it did not turn out very well at all. Along with this I am sending you two baked pears for these festive days. But to present you with an even more special gift, I enclose a rose, which, as an extraordinary thing in this cold season, must be warmly welcomed by you. And all the more so since, together with the rose, you will be able to accept the thorns that represent the bitter suffering of our Lord; and also its green leaves, symbolizing the hope that we nurture (by virtue of this holy passion), of the reward that awaits us, after the brevity and darkness of the winter of the present life, when at last we will enter the clarity and happiness of the eternal spring of Heaven, which blessed God grants us by His mercy. And, ending here, I give you loving greetings, together with Suor Arcangela, and remind you, Sire, that both of us are all eagerness to hear the current state of your health. From San Matteo, the 19th of December 1625.
Most affectionate daughter, Suor M. Celeste
I am returning the tablecloth in which you wrapped the lamb you sent; and you, Sire have a pillowcase of ours, which we put over the shirts in the basket with the lid.
Excerpted from "Letters to Father"
Copyright © 2002 Suor Maria Celeste.
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Table of Contents
Galilei Genealogy viii
Letters to Father 1
Within a Decade's Correspondence 151
The Sisters of San Matteo 155
Florentine Weights, Measures, and Currency 157
What People are Saying About This
"Finely produced...clearly a labor of love." —Los Angeles Times
"Turn off CNN and leave behind the troubled modern world for a leisurely sojourn in a 17th-century convent." —Chicago Tribune
"The intelligent, pious, and literary nun comes across centuries as a compellingly intriguing woman in her own right." —Booklist
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Letters to father was one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Marie shows her love and devotion to her father unlike any daughter. Her sentences are straightforward and most beautiful. While reading this book you will notice that she can almost write and entire page without using a period. I highly recommend this short but timeless masterpiece. After reading this book you will agree with the fact that Marie really knows how to get what she wants.