622G      Kircher, Athansius.              1602-1680

Ars Magna Sciendi, In XII Libros digesta. Qua Nova & Universali Methodo Per Artificiosum Combinationum contextum de omni re proposita plurimis & prope infinitis rationibus disputari, omniumque summaria quædam cognitio compari potest…


DSC_0008 (2)Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Janssonium à Waesberge, & Viduam Elizei Weyerstraet, 1669       $11,500


Folio, 14 1/2 X 9 inches. First edition. *4, **4, A-Z4, Aa-Gg4-Zz4, Aaa-Ooo4, Ppp6. In this copy the following illustrations appear: On the frontice of part one The Greek inscription, at the foot of the throne on which the Divine Sophia sits, translates as “Nothing is more beautiful than to know the all.” Next there is a full page engraved portrait of Leopold I; next full paged plate of the ‘Arbor Philosophica two engraved plates with six parts to make two volvelles (at pages 13 and 173 respectively) the vovelle plates are present’, and five double paged tables. There are also numerous engravings and woodcuts throughout the text. This copy is complete. It is bound in full original calf with a gilt spine with an expertly executed early rebacking.

DSC_0006“ Nothing is more beautiful than know all things” The ‘Ars Magna Sciendi’ is Kircher’s exploration and development of the ‘Combinatoric Art’ of Raymond Lull, the thirteenth century philosopher. Kircher attempts in this monumental work to classify knowledge under the nine ideal attributes of God, which were taken to constitute the pattern for all creation. In the third chapter of this book is presented a new and universal version of the Llullistic method of combination of notions. Kircher seems to be convinced that the Llullistic art of combination is a secret and mystical matter, some kind of esoteric doctrine. In contrast with Llull, who used Latin words, words with clearly defined significations for his combinations, Kircher began filling the tables with signs and symbols of a different kind. By doing this Kircher was attempting to penetrate symbolic representation itself. (forming a ‘symbolic-Logic)

Kircher tried to calculate the possible combinations of all limited alphabets (not only graphical, but also mathematical). He considered himself a grand master of decipherment and tried to (and thought he did) translate Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, he felt that knowledge was a process of encoding and decoding. His tabula generalis, the more mathematical way of thinking created the great difference between Llull and Kircher.

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Kircher used the same circle-figures of Llull, but the alphabet which Kircher proposes as material for his combination-machine reveals the difference to Llullus’ at first sight. It is not the signification in correlation with the position in the table, because all nine places in each table are filled with the same significations we find in the Llullistic tables, that makes the difference. It is the notation, which creates the difference. While making certain modifications, mainly in the interest of clarity, Kircher retains the main thesis of Raymond Lull in the search for a scientific approach to the classification of all branches of knowledge. The central aim of Llull’s and Kircher’s activity was to invent a type of logic or scientific approach capable of finding and expressing universal truth. Kircher and his seventeenth century contemporaries had discarded common language as a satisfactory vehicle for this undertaking. Kircher favored the use of symbols as a possible solution to his problem, which he had explored in his earlier work on a non-figurative universal language was not a primary concern of lull’s ‘Combinatoric Art,’ his approach lent itself naturally to the seventeenth century savants and their abiding interest in this subject. (see Brian L. Merrill, Athansius Kircher An Exhibition at Brigham Young University).

De Backer-Sommervogel  vol IV col.1066. no. 28; Merrill 22; Ferguson I. 467; Brunet III, 666; Caillet II, 360.5771; Clendening 10.17; De Backer I, 429-30.23; Graesse IV, 21; Reilly #26.


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A short bibliography.


Conor Reilly. Athanasius Kircher: a master of a hundred arts, 1602-1680. Studia Kircheriana, Wiesbaden: Edizioni del Mondo, 1974.

John Glassie.  A man of misconceptions, New York. Riverhead Books 2012

Paula Findlen, ed. Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Paula Findlen. Scientific Spectacle in Baroque Rome: Athanasius Kircher and the Roman College Museum. Roma Moderna e Contemporanea. 1995; 3: 625-665.

___________, Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Harry Evans. Exploring the kingdom of Saturn. Ann Arbor 2012

Joscelyn Godwin. Athanasius Kircher: A Renaissance man and the quest for lost knowledge. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.

Joscelyn Godwin. Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2009.

Ingrid Rowland. The Ecstatic Journey: Athanasius Kircher in Baroque Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Library, 2000 (catalogue of the exhibition on Kircher held at the Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Libraries, 2000).

Daniel Stolzenberg, ed. The Great Art of Knowing: The Baroque Encyclopedia of Athanasius Kircher. Stanford, California: Stanford University Libraries, 2001 (catalogue of the exhibition on Kircher held at the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, April to July 2001).

John Fletcher. A Study of the Life and works of Athanasius Kircher . Leiden/Boston Brill 2011

__________.Athanasius Kircher and his correspondence. In J. Fletcher (ed.). Athanasius Kircher und seine Beziehungen. cit.,pp. 139-195.

_________. A brief Survey of the unpublished Correspondence of Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (1602-1680). Manuscripta. 1969; 13(3): 150-160.

_________. Astronomy in the life and Correspondence of Athanasius Kircher. Isis. 1970; 61: 52-67.

_________. Johann Marcus Marci writes to Athanasius Kircher. Janus. 1972; 59: 95-118.

_________. Athanasius Kircher and Duke August of Brunswick-Lüneburg. A chronicle of friendship. In Fletcher (ed.). Athanasius Kircher und seine Beziehungen. cit.,pp. 99-138.

Eugenio Lo Sardo, ed. Athanasius Kircher: il museo del mondo. Roma: De Luca, 2001 (catalogue of the exhibition on Kircher’s museum held at the Palazzo Venezia, Rome, 28 febbraio-22 aprile 2001).

Aldagisa Lugli. Inquiry as Collection: The Athanasius Kircher Museum in Rome. RES. 1986; 12: 109-124.

Thomas L. Hankins and Robert J. Silverman. Instruments and the Imagination. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995, Chapters 2 and 3.

Martha Baldwin. The Snakestone Experiments: An Early Modern Medical Debate. Isis. 1995; 86 (3): 394-418 (on Kircher’s polemic with Francesco Redi about the efficacy of magnetic medicine).

Carlos Ziller Camenietzki. L’Extase interplanetaire d’Athanasius Kircher: philosophie, cosmologie et discipline dans la Compagnie de Jésus au XVIIe siècle. Nuncius. 1995; X (1): 3-32 (on Kircher’s Itinerarium Exstaticum, 1656).

Catherine Chevalley. L’Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae d’Athanase Kircher. Néoplatonisme, hermétisme et “nouvelle philosophie”. Baroque. 1987; 12: 95-109 (on Kircher’s optical encyclopedia, the Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, 1646).

George E. McCracken. Athanasius Kircher’s universal polygraphy. Isis. 1948; 39: 215-228 (on Kircher’s universal language, described in his 1663 Polygraphia nova).