The Moon and the Telescope

Galileo's World at a Glance | Gallery at the Exhibit Website
What is the artistic and scientific heritage of the Moon?

Galileo’s Starry Messenger (1610) set off the 17th-century race for the Moon – not a race to go there, but a race to map its surface. To stare directly at the Full Moon is blinding at night; surface detail is entirely washed out. To map the Moon, one must examine the “shadow line” night by night as it passes across the face of the Moon. Light moves back and forth, first one way and then the other, casting shadows in both directions at opposite phases. The lunar map gradually emerges as a composite representation of many individual topographical studies. From the Renaissance to the dawn of the modern age, art and science fused together in the representation of the Moon.

1. Galileo, Sidereus nuncius (Venice, 1610), photograph of Moon engravings.
2. William Gilbert, De mundo nostro sublunari philosophia nova (Amsterdam, 1651), "New Philosophy, about our World beneath the Moon"
3. Francesco Fontana, Novae coelestium terrestriumq[ue] rerum observationes (Naples, 1646), "New Celestial and Terrestrial Observations"
4. Johann Hevelius, Selenographia (Gdansk, 1647), "Map of the Moon"
5. Giambattista Riccioli, Almagestum novum (Bologna, 1651), Part 1, "The New Almagest."
6. Chérubin d’Orléans, La dioptrique oculaire (Paris, 1671), "The Optics of the Eye"
7. James Nasmyth and James Carpenter, Der Mond (Leipzig, 1876), "The Moon"

Further reading:
  • Scott L. Montgomery, The Moon and the Western Imagination (University of Arizona, 1999)
  • Andrew Planck, What's Hot on the Moon Tonight (Moonscape Publishing, 2014)
Curators: Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple. Links are to the exhibit website, For more information, download the comprehensive, free Exhibit Guide from the iBook Store. Open Educational Resources are available at and ShareOK.

Works listed here are on display in Bizzell Memorial Library (Fall 2015, Summer-Spring 2016) and also at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art (Spring 2016). We thank Mark White, Director of the Fred Jones Museum, Francesca Giani (curator), Melissa Smith (educator) and all the Museum staff for incorporating many books described in “Galileo and the Telescope,” “The Moon and the Telescope,” “Galileo and Perspective Drawing,” and “The Sky at Night,” into their Spring 2016 exhibition, “An Artful Observation of the Cosmos.” Each of these galleries takes its point of departure from Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius (1610), which is listed as the first item for each of these galleries. Museum curator Francesca Giani took these themes to heart and illustrated them with art from the Museum. Her captions for that exhibit, relating the books to the art, were based in varying degrees upon the original captions provided beforehand in the Exhibit Guide and the Exhibit website. The melding of art and science by the Fred Jones Museum in their exhibit is a powerful example of the ability of Galileo’s World to throw light upon the world of OU today.