Perfection can't be rushed:
Again, very interesting and constructive is a correspond-
ence which took place in 1637-38 between the astronomer
Galileo and his former pupil the Servite monk, Fra Fulgentius
Micanzio, concerning a violin which Galileo wished to procure
for his nephew.
Galileo writes to Father Fulgentius Micanzio, in Venice,
as follows: -
ARCTERI, (*Near Florence) Nov. 20th, 1637.
... When you receive the amount of my small pension, please
keep it until my nephew Alberto, who is in the service of His Serene
Highness the Prince of Bavaria, and is now staying with me here,
passes through Venice on his return journey to Munich and pays his
respect to your Most Reverend Paternity. He wishes to purchase
a violin there, either of Cremonese or Brescian make, being a very
good performer on that instrument; and the said small pension will
help to pay for it. I suppose that these instruments, though made
elsewhere, can be found in Venice; but should that be not so, and it
becomes necessary to obtain one from somewhere else, you will greatly
oblige me by making arrangements so that some competent musician
shall select one from Brescia, an instrument of the highest order. ...
In reply Father Micanzio writes: -
VENICE, December 5th, 1637.
I have received your kind letter of the 20th of last month,
and I have already obtained the amount of your small pension by
inducing the Most Illustrious Baitello to give an assurance to that
scamp Arisio that you are still alive. Concerning the violin which
your nephew on passing through here wishes to buy, I have spoken
to the Musical Director of the Concerts of St. Mark's (Maestro di
Concerti di S. Marco), who tells me that I can easily find Brescian
violins, but that those of Cremona are incomparably the better - in
fact, they represent the non plus ultra; and by the medium of the
Cremonese Signor Monteverdi, Chapel-Master of St. Mark's, who has
a nephew living in Cremona, I have given the order for a violin
to be sent here. The difference in the price will show you the
superiority, for those of Cremona at the lowest twelve ducats
each, whilst the others (Brescian) can be had for less than four ducats.
As your nephew is in the service of His Highness of Bavaria, I think
he will prefer by far the one ordered to be sent to Venice as soon as
A second letter from Father Micanzio, dated Venice,
January 16th, 1638, says: -
If I have delayed writing to you it is only because I am
still awaiting that blessed violin from Cremona, for which Signor
Monteverdi assures me he has made so many repeated applications;
yet, notwithstanding, it does not appear. ...
A third letter, dated Venice, March 20th, 1638, says: -
I am still pinning for that blessed violin. Every day I am shown
letters which explain that in order to construct a perfect instrument
it has been found necessary to wait until the cold weather has passed
away, and that in a couple of days it will be ready; still, there is
no end to the delay. You may rest assured that I do not cease from
pressing them. ...
A fourth letter, dated Venice, April 24th, 1638, says: -
Concerning the violin, Signor Monteverdi has recently shown me
a letter in which his nephew writes him that the new one is in
progress, but as he wishes to send an instrument of exquisite work,
it cannot be brought to perfection without the strong heat of the
sun; he can, however, offer an old one of superlative merit, but the
price asked is two ducats more - that is, fourteen. I have requested
him to have this one sent at once, irrespective of the price; he has
promised to do so, and I am expecting it from day to day.
Having oblidged to negociate this matter through other hands
you must excuse me (for the delay). I give you my word of honor
that I have not neglected it; on the contrary, I have left no stone
unturned. And now, kissing your hands, believe me, etc., etc.
A fifth letter, dated Venice, May 28th, 1638, says: -
... As regards the violin, Signor Monteverdi read me a letter
which he had received from his nephew, in which he wrote that
he had the violin, and that it proved on trial to be a singularly
successful instrument; that he had consigned it to a boatman who
lay at anchor, and was on the point of starting for Venice; that he
had not been able to get it for less than fifteen ducats, beside the
expenses of the carriages and the case. I replied that I would settle
everything, and begged the gentleman not to delay any longer, as
too much time had already been wasted over such a trifle. As
soon as it arrives I will at once consign it to the Illustrious Signor
Residente Rinuzzini. ...*
It is again to be regretted that throughout of this corre-
spondence the Cremonese violin-maker's name is unmentioned;
as in the previous instance, we cannot but assume that he
was one of the Amati family, - most probably Nicolo, who
at this date had reached his maturity as a craftsman.
*"Opera di G. Galilei", Firenze, 1842-56. The letter of May 28th,
1638, is an unpublished one in the Galileian MSS, in the bib. Nat., Florence:
Vol. XII., 1st part, leaf 62.
His Life and Work (1644 - 1737)
W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill, F.S.A., and Alfred E. Hill
William E. Hill and Sons, 1902
Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1963. pp 240 - 243.
The Man Higher Up
The Blind Men and the Elephant
Five Weeks in a Balloon
The first man I saw