Galileo's Telescopes To Date These Are The Worlds Finest Museum Quality  Replicas 
Made to order by Jim & Rhoda Morris

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07/22/2009 05:49:09 PM Last updated

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Replicating the art work of IMSS #2428

We do not believe that Galileo intended this beautiful and extraordinary telescope to go to just  a  colleague  but rather to a customer of high rank and station. This  is  an important part of the Galileo story. It is a symbol of Galileo's marketing and entrepreneurship. While there is no strong evidence that Galileo would have done the gold leather stamping himself his  choice of the artisan was as  critical to him as  the rest of the detail of producing this telescope. Beauty and flattery had to be part of his skill set.

Because of the very important symbolic nature of these telescopes it is more than worth while to reproduce them accurately. It is only fair to anyone who has taken the time to stop  to learn, to  admire and respect Galileo's work (in one of its finest moments of basic scientific research)  to have the best to visit and learn from.

Developing the art work from photos contains many complex issues. (such as correcting for barrel distortion in the camera etc.). It has been a slow and exacting process extracting the shape and detail of each of the deco elements from our high resolution photos which show each dent, scratch, warp and hand made irregularity. Rhoda and I have spent hundreds of pleasant hours deciphering and unfolded the detail to get as close a match to the orginal hot stamp as possible. the outcome of our work are more than 20 hot dies at about $200 a die, (We had to make 2 & 1/2 sets to get them  right) a considerable expense that both Galileo and we have shared in making these telescopes. Note  the  comment that we have high lighted in red in Galileo's 1610  letter  to the Tuscan court below.

Below is the translation of Galileo's letter 19th of March 1610 to the Tuscan court

From A English translation of Galileo's letter ref.1


 "In order to maintain and increase the renown of these discoveries, it appears to me necessary to have the truth seen and recognized, by means of the effect itself, by as many people as possible.

I have done, and am doing, this in Venice and Padua. But "spyglasses" that are most exquisite and capable of showing all the observations are very rare, and among the sixty that I have made, at great cost and effort, I have been able to find only a very small number. These few, however, I have planned to send to great princes, and in particular to the relatives of the Most Serene Grand Duke. And already I have been asked for instruments[ by the Most Serene Duke of Bavaria and the Elector of Cologne, and also by the Most Illustrious and Reverend Cardinal Del Monte, to whom I shall send [spyglasses] as soon as possible, together with the treatise. My desire would be to send them also to France, Spain, Poland, Austria, Mantua, Modena, Urbino, and wherever else it would please His Most Serene Highness."


Below is a fairly detailed discussion of the methods we have used to select build up, and clean up, the photo images for the art work we have been using to make the black on white figures to engrave the hot stamps that are used to make the gold  impression on the leather of the telescope. Details like the black and white drawings also have to take into account the impression process leaves a figure that is somewhat different than the engraving on the stamp. p.s. (Even the description of how it is done is long and tedious. But the results have been satisfying). To make a faithful replication of the gold art work on the telescope one needs a lot of high resolution photos of the telescope showing this detail.( our visits to Florence and Chicago produced them and, the wonderful here-to unnoticed structural features of the telescope). Even so it takes some time to get a feeling for what the original figure looks like because each component although made with the same stamp experiences a different history of application and ware and tear. .


6A & 7A Below are photos of the original telescope at IMSS and a replica displayed in the Adler planetarium Chicago Ill. Florence, Italy c 1930. We have modified the photos of the replica substantially to make the decorations stand out more clearly. This has altered the colors from their true appearance. One can see substantial differences between the two scopes in the deco details as well as the eyepiece which does not show the small sliding focus lens holder.

Figure 6, Above the objective end of the original telescope

Figure 6A replica at the Adler planetarium. We have altered the colors to show more contrast in the decorations.

Objective end; Low resolution photos. There may be as many as 30 separate art components in the repeating pattern shown in the above design each requiring a separate embossing stamp. The Adler planetarium replica has clearer impressions of many of the figures but there are difference between the original in many of the details

figure 7,Above the eyepiece end of the original Telescope

Figure 7A, replica at the Adler planetarium. We have altered the colors to show more contrast in the decorations.

 Eyepiece end; low resolution photos. Most of the art elements are remarkably different than the objective end. The literature reports that the original eyepiece lens was lost. Was the holder lost as well or restored using different tooling. The sliding part of the eyepiece is covered with a red and green marbled paper.
The Adler replica doesn't have a separate sliding eyepiece holder and there are strong difference in the gold decorations.


6.An example of generating the data to make a stamp for Gold embossing the Decorations.

Alder Replica
First Guess at Shape of Die. Not good enough. By the way this is reported to be a dolphin.

Original Telescope
Even these beautiful photo show the loss of data in the flowers on the top and one of the feet below. In this case we have had to take a parts of one image and add it to another to get the lost detail.
there has been a loss of symmetry in the two branches because of the way that the craftsman applied the hot stamp.
So all of the individual deco's are a composite of several of our photos of the original.
With our discovery of the c 1930 Guilio Cipriani, replica at the Adler planetarium presumably made from the original number 2 in Italy we found substantial difference between the original and the Adler. But the Adler was important because of its finer detail than what is left of the original. Thus we were fortunate to obtain more detailed photos and provenance. before we committed to an order for the stamps. This has turned out to be very important to the project

To reiterate, there are a number of reasons for the differences of the components of the decorations.

  • 1, damage to the figure, scratches or digs
  • 2, different application pressure
  • 3, different orientation by the artist applying the figure.
  • 4, previous restoration, stretching of the leather, etc.
  • 5, the selection of the particular design component

    The above black and white figure so far is a composite of the best images of the original telescope. The Adler Guilio Cipriani, replica has given us some added detail for a better replica.



    Art work on monitor is from Cipriani replica The art work on the telescope has at least 20 near 30 distinct components

    Again Art work on monitor is from Cipriani
    The deco components are of course on a cylindrical surface and the camera records them on a flat surface distorting in a cylindrical sense the figure you are trying to replicate. The technique we developed to unfold this image distortion incorporated both mathematical and non-mathematical methods. We printed out the best estimate of the components of decos bands and fixed them to a solid wood mockup of the scope. Then took photos of our work and superimposed them, using Adobe Photoshop, on to our photos of the original. This technique gave us a very clear view of the over all comparison of the replication. It gave us at a single glance a highlighted view of the differences especially the ones that needed correction. It also clearly showed the precision of the orginal artist making the gold imposed stampings. The authors also made cylinders of each ring to use in a hot stamping jig discussed below. Last but not least the mockup can be handled roughly giving the craftsman a real time three dimensional over view a guide of the location, sequence, and arrangement that the stamps that have to be applied to the leather. This method helps us make a truly unique and precise replica.

    One of the tricky things about supplying the art work is that the impressions on the leather from the hot stamp are not exactly the same as the black and white art work supplied! The gold embossed images are broader and less sharp than the stamp. The deeper the stamp impression the broader the outline of the image. Obviously the impression has walls which are coated with the gold leaf. The walls are not truly vertical but slant, the slant making the image broader to the observer. The slope depends on the physical characteristics of the leather and the depth of the impression. The softer the interior and the harder the surface of the leather the shallower the slope of the walls and the broader the art work.

    The comparison above of the variations of a single component in the art work of Galileo's telescope versus  a number of die's and  a 1920's  replica by Cipriani shows how different the outcome can be. We made several sets of stamps until we were satisfied  by the tests described below. Extracting data  from the figures on the orginal to obtain a suitable reproduction is a challenge. Especially because it was quite clear that the stamping was done on the leather after it was wraped around to wooden base

     Finally a skilled craftsman applying the hot stamped decorations with the aid of our self orienting "T" square. The telescope is nearing completion. The final step is a slight darkening step to the leather to reach the correct color scheme of the original when it was new as described by Van Helden .

    In summary
    Click here to see A two  minute unedited video

     of the stamping operation. Rhoda is using an enlarged photograph out of dozens we took of the original telescope  along with measurements at the IMSS in Florence Italy, to help guide this work. In the video To left is a hot plate to heat the die. To its right is a water soaked pad to aid in setting its temperature. One can see the placement of the gold foil under the "T" square. and the embossing process. The telescope is indexed by hand to next location and the process is repeated There are over 400 impressions.
    We have been asked why not speed up this operation by any one of a dozen ways saving time and money. We considered most of them but in the end the most visible thing about the telescope, these decoration, in our view, would have been seriously compromised for museum use .

    All photos and written material are by Jim & Rhoda Morris unless noted otherwise. Free personal and educational use and reproduction is encouraged--- Acknowledgment is appreciated. All commercial rights are reserved.  HOME PAGE 

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    Copyright 04/18/2005 Jim & Rhoda Morris