To Father: The Letters of Sister Maria Celeste to Galileo, 1623–1633

The story of Galileo’s daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, as told through her letters to her father. A companion to the bestselling Galileo’s Daughter, the letters are edited and introduced by Dava Sobel.

Galileo Galilei was at the heart of the most dramatic collision in history between science and religion. But the great Italian scientist was also a loving father who treasured his illegitimate daughter, Virginia. She was perhaps her father’s equal in brilliance, industry and sensibility, and became his greatest source of strength during his most difficult years. Now readers can follow their story, as she told it, in this beautiful volume of her surviving 124 letters to Galileo. Both in their original Italian and translated into English by the author of Galileo’s Daughter, these entrancing letters still speak in the present tense, suspended in the urgency of their once current affairs.

Galileo’s daughter led a cloistered life in a gilded age. Since there could be no hope of marriage for her, at thirteen she entered a convent near Florence to spend the rest of her days within its walls as Sister Maria Celeste. Her letters span a decade, from 1623 to 1633. In that period, a new Pope battled the Protestant Reformation and filled Rome with artistic monuments. The Thirty Years’ War embroiled all of Europe. The bubonic plague erupted from Germany, ravaging Florence until stemmed by a miracle. And a new philosophy of science threatened to overturn the order of the universe. Maria Celeste’s evocative letters touch on all of these situations, but they dwell in the small details of everyday life. Through them, the man generally thought to have defied the Catholic Church is seen to depend on the prayers of a pious daughter.

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