7 The 1558 Print Run of the Nova scientia and Its Translation


The present work is an edition of the 1558 second print run of the 1550 and second edition of the Nova scientia. As Tartaglia died in 1557, this is the first print of the work that was not checked and authorized by Tartaglia himself. As is known, Tartaglia left many of his works and manuscripts in the hands of typographers or people with whom he had business contacts. It is unclear why exactly he did so, but it can be speculated that he was either trying to settle debts or to collect a sum as an inheritance. According to the number of copies held in archives and in libraries today, it is safe to infer that considerably more copies of the 1558 print run were produced than of the 1537 and the 1550 editions and, therefore, that it may have been more influential than the earlier published works. Certainly, it contributed the most to the diffusion of Tartaglia’s science of ballistics. 

However, the 1558 print run does show certain peculiarities. First of all, the printer took the freedom of changing Tartaglia’s text. The syntax, which Tartaglia wrote with no regard for any rules, is slightly improved. Some of the wording is also changed to improve readability. Tartaglia himself had already implemented similar changes. For instance, while the first edition still shows a considerable number of Latinisms and a heavy use of titles when referring to people, the edition published thirteen years later in 1550 already replaced Latin with Italian wording and deleted the titles. 

As mentioned while discussing the second book of the Nova scientia in Section 2.3, the maker of the 1558 print run is responsible for systematically replacing the verb “transire.” Tartaglia used this verb in order to denote any sort of movement. The printer replaced it with different verbs appropriate to the context defined in the sentence or in the paragraph. “Transire” was replaced, for instance, by “andare” (to go) or “muovere” (to move). Only in a couple of cases, and probably only because he overlooked them, did the original verb appear. Nevertheless, he never replaced “transire” when Tartaglia used it in its substantive form: “transito.” The overall impression that emergences from these changes is that “transito” denotes a specific scientific meaning, a mechanical technical term. “Transit” indeed denotes the line that joins together the point where the violent motion starts, that is, the beginning of the first straight line that comprises the trajectory of a projectile, with the point where the violent motion ends, that is, the last point of the curvilinear portion of the trajectory. While the use of such a term in the 1537 and the 1550 editions appears natural, the printer’s work in the 1558 edition created the conditions for the emergence of a specific terminus and therefore for a specific concept inherent to the science of ballistics. This is one of the reasons why the 1558 edition was selected for the present work. 

The same printer, however, is also responsible for a series of mistakes probably caused by insufficient editing before publishing. Particularly troublesome are a few mistakes concerning calculations (numbers) and references to the explanatory geometric diagrams (letters denoting lines or figures). 

Abbreviations are present both in the 1537 and 1550 editions and in the 1558 print run, though different in each. On the basis of an overall consideration, however, the 1558 edition is certainly the most readable of the works because of a more open layout and a better selection of characters. 

The present transcription and translation are compared with the texts of the previous editions and prints. The differences among them, when relevant in terms of content, are indicated in footnotes. All kinds of mistakes, whether caused by the printer or not, are highlighted either in the text or in the footnotes as well. A translation of a text of the sixteenth century consequently changes the structure of the original text. However, improvement to its readability was not the primary goal of this translation. In fact, the goal was to render the fundamental tension experienced by Tartaglia in connecting two previously disconnected domains of knowledge, and in using a language that was not yet sufficiently developed to function as scientific language. In a few cases, however, and especially while translating the third book, certain words that tend to denote a wide spectrum of meanings have been translated with less general terms. This has been done when a long and elaborated explanatory apparatus would have been necessary for the understanding of literal translations of particular procedures, such as for instance, actions to be accomplished whilst holding a mathematical instrument.