Physica Curiosa (Physica curiosa, sive Mirabilia naturae et artis libris XII. comprehensa; Mirabilia naturae et artis libris XII. comprehensa) 1667 Gaspar Schott

563G Gaspar Schott 1608-1666

P. Gasparis Schotti Regis Curiani E Societate Jesu, Olim in Panormitano Siciliæ, nunc in Herbipolitano Franconiæ Gymnasio ejusdem Societatis Jesu Matheseos Professoris, Physica Curiosa, Sive Mirabilia Naturæ Et Artis Libris XII. Comprehensa, Quibus pleraq;, quæ de Angelis, Dæmonibus, Hominibus, Spectris, Energumenis, Monstris, Portentis, Animalibus, Meteoris, &c. rara, arcana, curiosaq; circumferuntur, ad Veritatis trutinam expenduntur, Variis ex Historia ac Philosophia petitis disquisitionibus excutiuntur, & innumeris exemplis illustrantur. Ad Serenissimum Ac Potentissimum Principem Carolum Ludovicum, S.R.I. Electorem, &c. Cum figuris æri incisis, & Privilegio. Editio altera auctior.

Herbipolus [i.e., Wurzburg]: Sumptibus Johannis Andreæ Endteri & Wolffgangi Jun. Hæredum. Excudebat Jobus Hertz Typographus Herbipol, 1667. $6,600

Quarto     π1 [a]² b-g⁴ A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, Aaa-Zzz4 Aaaa-Zzzz4 Aaaaa-Zzzzz4 Aaaaaa-Zzzzzz4 Aaaaaaaa-Pppppppp⁴ Qqqqqqqq² 1389 pages 

[T.p. to vol. 1 printed in red and black./ Woodcut armorial vignette with motto “Honi soit qui mal y pense” (arms of Karl Ludwig, Elector Palatine, to whom the work is dedicated?) on t.p. verso to vol. 1./ Vol. 2 has divisional half-t.p. reading “Physicae curiosae correctae et auctae pars II. Complectens sex posteriores libros, videlicet VII. Mirabilia animalium in genere. VIII. Mirabilia animalium terrestrium. IX. Mirabilium animalium volatilium. X. Mirabilia animalium aquatilium. XI. Mirabilia meteororum. XII. Mirabilia miscellanea” on leaf 4Q3r only; pagination and register is continuous between the two volumes./ Divisional half-t.p. reading “Physicae curiosae pars I. Complectens sex priores libros, videlicet I. Mirabilia angelorum ac daemonum. II. Mirabilia spectrorum. III. Mirabilia hominum. IV. Mirabilia energumenorum. V. Mirabilia monstrorum. VI. Mirabilia portentorum” on leaf g4v of vol. 1./ Signatures: vol. 1: [a]-g⁴ A-4P⁴ 4Q1-2; vol. 2: 4Q3-4 4R-8P⁴ 8Q²./ Includes index to both vols. at end of vol. 2./ Errata on leaf 8Q2 of vol. 2.].  

This copy has 60 (instead of 61) engraved plates many folded. copper plates. 27 sheets, , 11 sheets damaged. It is bound in original vellum with spine missing revealing sewing structure, but solid and complete. The book block loosened, endpapers renewed, front title verso backed, engraved title with ownership entry by an old hand, with a few old marginalia, two folding plates with a tear (some image loss), two folding plates backed, one plate unprofessionally colored, with a few small tears and tears, partly stained and browned.

Physica Curiosa is an encyclopedia of the natural sciences of the age. In keeping with Schott’s character, it compiles many of the illustrations and literature previously published. As with many natural history publications of the era, it depicted fantastical creatures alongside real ones. Divided into twelve books, the first six books are devoted to “miraculous” subjects, including Demons and Angels, spectres, demonic possessions, human and beastly monsters, and portents. Part I is mainly a treatise on demonology, huge encyclopedia of wonder and the occult.Chapters are devoted to angels and demons and their relationships with wizards, ghosts,vampires, incubi and succubi, In great detail, it is followed by depictions of Physical anomalies ( with many interesting images). 

The last six books deal with the “marvels” of nature – real creatures from exotic locales, such as elephants and rhinos.

These descriptions of remarkable animals, including the American sloth, armadillo, & Anteater, the first with the musical notes illustrating its strange song (which also fascinated Harsdörffer); one folding plate illustrates Diego de Gozon killing the dragon of Rhodes, 1345, the last two show the famous linden trees & antiquities of Neustadt am Kocher.

Physica Curiosa’s target audience was other scholars, educators, and the rich nobility of the time, as this was the demographic that could afford the publication. Many other creatures presented by Schott exemplify the practice of misrepresenting real creatures, or imposing religious elements on natural entities. 

“Gaspar Schott, German physicist, born 5 February, 1608, at Konigshofen; died 12 or 22 May, 1666, at Augsburg. He entered the Society of Jesus 20 October, 1627, and on account 
of the disturbed political condition of Germany was sent to Sicily to complete his studies. While there he taught moral theology and mathematics in the college of his order at Palermo. He also studied for a time at Rome under the well known Athanasius Kircher. He finally returned to his native land after an absence of some thirty years, and spent the 
remained of his life at Augsburg engaged in the teaching of science and in literary work. Both as professor and as author he did much to awaken an interest in scientific studies in Germany. He was a laborious student and was considered on of the most learned men of his time, while his simple life and deep piety made him an object of veneration to the Protestants as well as to the Catholics of Augsburg. Schott also carried on an extensive correspondence with the leading scientific men of his time, notably with Otto von Guericke, the inventor of the air-pump, of whom he was an ardent admirer. He was the author of a number of works on mathematics, physics, and magic. They are a mine of curious facts and observations and were formerly much read.

He wrote many interesting works: the ‘Magia Universalis Naturae et Artis,’ 4 vols., Wurzburg, 1657-1659, which contains a collection of mathematical problems and large number of physical experiments, notably in optics and acoustics. His ‘Mechanicahydraulica-pneumatica’ (Wurzburg, 1657) contains the first description of von Guericke’s air pump. He also published ‘Pantometricum Kircherianum’ (Wurzburg, 1660); ‘Physica curiosa’ (Wurzburg, 1662), a supplement to the ‘Magia universalis;’ ‘Anatomia physico-hydrostatica fontium et fluminum’ (Wurzburg, 1663), and a ‘Cursus mathematicus’ which passed through several editions. He also edited the ‘Itinerarium exacticum’ of Kircher and the ‘Amussis Ferdinandea’ of Curtz.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII, page 589)

De Backer -Sommervogel /VII, 909 8; Caillet 498.VD 17 39:120052P. Dünnhaupt 7.2. Nissen 3746. Ferguson II, 340f. Caillet 10005.


645J Francesco Redi;  (1626-1697)   Lachmund, Friedrich,; 1635-1676. ; De ave diomedea dissertatio.

Francisci Redi, patritii aretini, Opusculorum pars prior, sive experimenta circa generationem insectorum … Accedit J.F. Lachmund de Ave Diomedea dissertatio. (F. Redi … Experimenta circa varias res naturales, speciatim illas quæ ex Indiis afferuntur. Observationes de viperis. Epistola de quibusdam objectionibus contra suas de viperis observationes. Observationes circa illas guttulas & fila ex vitro quæ rupta in quacunquesuiparte, diffiliunt 7 comminuuntur.)

[t. 1] Experimenta circa generationem insectorum. Lachmund, F. De ave diomedea dissertatio.–[t. 2] Experimenta circa varias res naturales, speciatum illas quae ex Indiis afferuntur. Observationes de viperis. Epistola … de viperis observationes. .Separate t.p. for Experimenta circa varias res naturales, dated 1685

Amstelaedami : Apud Henricum Wetstenium, 1685-1686 $3,800

Duodecimo 13½ x 7½ cm. Signatures: *6A-I12K10L-M12 (M12 blank). t.2 *3 A-O12 P4. The first frontispiece is a Woman scientist looking through a microscope by Romeyn de Hooghe dated 1670/ /The second frontispiece by Coenraert Decker (ca.1650-1685), is of Native American and a person in a turban making offered of natural specimens of natural oddities to a woman with a microscope who is taking notes.

12 Folded plates unnumbered and bound with text; with plates numbered I-XXVIII bound at end of t. 1 The second title has 13 Fooding plates , including a Mermaid, An Armadillo, Iguana and more for a total of 53 plates. This is a very clean copy bound in in carta rustica.

Redi was one of the most important scientists who challenged Aristotle’s traditional study of science. Redi gained fame for his controlled experiments. One set of experiments refuted the popular notion of spontaneous generation—a belief that living organisms could arise from nonliving matter. Redi has been called the “father of modern parasitology” and the “founder of experimental biology”.

Nissen, C., Zoologische Buchillustration,; 3320

 Francesco Redi is known for his early use of controlled experiments and his challenge to the theory of spontaneous generation and had a bit of a very interesting exchange with Kircher. In 1668, in one of the first examples of a biological experiment with proper controls, Redi set up a series of flasks containing different meats, half of the flasks sealed, half open. He then repeated the experiment but, instead of sealing the flasks, covered half of them with gauze so that air could enter.

There are many parallels between Francesco Redi and Galileo Galilei. Both were radical thinkers that challenged Aristotelian thought. It was Aristotle who proposed life-forms such as maggots spontaneously generated, and it was Redi who proved this false. Both wrote in Italian instead of Latin. Both graduated from the University of Pisa and went on to be associated with the court of the Medicis. Both are associated with advances in scientific methods.There was one big difference between the two. Galileo had a major clash with the church later in life (the Galileo Affair) and Francesco died without encountering any major dispute with the church. This is odd. Francesco Redi was defending scientific ideas that were as radical as Galileo’s yet his experience was completely different. Could Galileo’s personality and his personal and professional disagreements with the other scientists of the day explain the difference? And leaving personality aside, could the difference be that Francesco Redi provided better arguments than did Galileo?


567J Kircher,Athanasius. (1602-1680)

567J    Kircher, Athanasius. (1602-1680) 

Romani Collegii Societatis Jesu Musaeum Celeberrimum, Cujus magnum Antiquariae rei, statuarum, imaginum, picturarumque partem Ex Legato Alphonsi Donini, S.P.Q.R. A Secretis, munifica Liberalitate relictum. P. Athanasius Kircherus Soc. Jesu, novis & raris inventis locupletatum, compluriumque Principum curiosis donariis magno rerum apparatu instruxit; Innumeris insuper rebus ditatum, ad plurimorum, maxime exterorum, curiositatisque doctrinae avidorum instantiam urgentesque preces novis compluribusque machinis, tum peregrinis ex Indiis allatis rebus publicae luci votisque exponit Georgius de Sepibus Valesius, Authoris in Machinis concinnandis Executor.

Amsterdam: Ex Officina Janssonio-Waesbergiana 1678    $18,700 

Folio, 37 x 23.5 cm. Signatures: *4, A-I4. Complete with all  [19leaves of plates (9 folded) : illustrations, portrait ; First plate has engraved title page on recto and blank verso. Printer’s device on title page./ Dedication (unnumbered pages 5-6) by Athanasius Kircher, dated Jan. 25, 1678./ Includes index. a list of books by Kircher and a List of Illustrations.  First edition. 

The many fantastic illustrations in this copy include a frontispiece view of the museum’s interior display, nine large folding engravings of obelisks, seven full paged engravings, nineteen text woodcuts, and three text engravings. Bound in full early vellum, smooth spine with title in ink (contemporary binding). A very nice large copy. 

I have found three digital/internet virtual copies:,1

“Athanasius Kircher, who was (is still) celebrated for the versatility of his knowledge and particularly distinguished for his knowledge of the natural sciences.” Collected physical representation of his intellectual voyages and his Museum/Cabinet is its manifestation.

“This book is the only description of Kircher’s museum in the Collegio Romano as it appeared in his lifetime, with the only extant depiction of the museum in all its fantastic glory.”(P.Dowling.)

The breath of the polymatical [ or polyhistorc?] territory represented in this work, certainly was a life source of the energy which birthed the possibility of concept of Enlightenment. And places Kircher beyond Bacon as the true homo universalis of his century. A quick look at the index of this book shows the precursor of Diderot and D’Alembert 1751, who were among the last who did not suffer from “the cult of specialisation” which in a short time redirected the epistem of western culture, fueled by capitalistic energies and moralities.

As a Historical Snapshot of Early-modern sensibilities I can think of no better book.

Kircher was born 2 May, 1601, at Geisa a small town on the northern bank of the Upper Rhone (Buchonia); died at Rome, 28 November, 1680. From his birthplace he was accustomed to add the Latin epithet Bucho, or Buchonius, to his name, although later he preferred calling himself Fuldensis after Fulda, the capital of his native country. The name Athanasius was given him in honor of the saint on whose feast he was born. John Kircher, the father of Athanasius, had studied philosophy and theology at Mainz, without, however, embracing the priestly calling. As soon as he had obtained the doctor’s degree in the latter faculty, he went to lecture on theology in the Benedictine house at Seligenstadt. Athanasius studied humanities at the Jesuit College in Fulda, and on 2 October, 1618, entered the Society of Jesus at Paderborn. At the end of his novitiate he repaired to Cologne for his philosophical studies. The journey thither was, on account of the confusion caused by the Thirty Years’ War, attended with great danger. Together with his study of speculative philosophy the talented young student devoted himself especially to the natural sciences and the classical languages, for which reason he was shortly afterwards called to teach these branches at the Jesuit colleges in Coblenz and Heiligenstadt. In Mainz, where Kircher (1625) began his theological studies, he attracted the notice of the elector through his ability and his skill as an experimentalist. In 1628 he was ordained priest, and hardly had he finished his last year of probation at Speyer when the chair of ethics and mathematics was given to him by the University of Wurzburg, while at the same time he had to give instructions in the Syrian and Hebrew Languages. However, the disorders consequent on the wars obliged him to go first to Lyons in France (1631) and later to Avignon.

“The discovery of some hieroglyphic characters in the library of Speyer led Kircher to make his first attempt to solve the problem of hieroglyphical writing, which still baffled all scholars. At Aix he made the acquaintance of the well-known French senator, Nicolas Peiresc, whose magnificent collections aroused in Kircher the highest interest. Recognizing in Kircher the right man to solve the old Egyptian riddle, Periesc applied direct to Rome and to the General of the Jesuits to have Kircher’s call to Vienna by the emperor set aside and to procure a summons for the scholar to the Eternal City. This generous intention was favored by Providence, inasmuch as Kircher on his way to Vienna was shipwrecked near Civita Vecchia, and arrived in Rome before the knowledge of his call thither had reached him. Until his death, Rome was now to be the principal scene of Kircher’s many-sided activity, which soon developed in such an astonishing way that the pope, emperor, princes, and prelates vied with one another in furthering and supporting the investigations of the learned scholar. After six years of successful teaching in the Roman College, where he lectured on physics, mathematics, and Oriental languages, he was released from these duties that he might have freedom in his studies and might devote himself to formal scientific research, especially in Southern Italy and Sicily. He took advantage of a trip to Malta to explore thoroughly the various volcanoes which exist between Naples and that island. He studied especially in 1638 the Strait of Messina, where, besides the noise of the surge, a dull subterranean rumble attracted his attention.

 At Trapani and Palermo his interest was aroused by the remains of antediluvian elephants. But before all else he tried to discover the subterranean power of the volcanoes at Aetna and Stromboli, then in eruption; public attention had been called to such mysterious phenomena by the frightful eruption of Vesuvius in 1630.

“When Kircher left Messina in 1638 to return to Naples, a terrible earthquake occurred which destroyed the city of Euphemia. Like Pliny before him Kircher wished to study at close range this powerful convulsion of nature. On reaching Naples he at once climbed Vesuvius, and had himself lowered by means of a rope into the crater and its inner structure. As the firstfruits of his travels he published, for the Knights of Malta, “Specula Melitensis Encyclica sive syntagma novum instrumentorum physico-mathematicorum” (Messina, 1638). It was forty years later that the fully matured results of these investigations appeared in Kircher’s great work, the “Mundus Subterraneus,” in two volumes (Amsterdam, 1678), which enjoyed the greatest repute in his time; not only did it give an incentive to the more searching investigation of subterranean forces, but it contributed much to their final explanation. When again in Rome, Kircher began collecting all kinds of antiquities and ethnologically important remains, thus laying the foundation of the well-known museum, which as the ‘Museum Kircherianum,’ still attracts today so many visitors to the Roman College. Epoch-making also were Kircher’s labors in the domain of deciphering hieroglyphics, and on the excavation of the so-called Pamphylian obelisk, he succeeded in supplying correctly the portions which had been concealed from him. [An engraving of the Pamphylian obelisk is part of the Kircher museum book.] It must be remembered that in those days little or no attention was paid to this subject, and that it was therefore in itself a great service to have taken the initiative in this branch of investigation, however lacking his efforts may have been in the fundamental principles of the science as it is known today. Kircher also gave an impetus to the intimate study of the relations between the different languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldaic, Syrian, Samaritan, Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Persian, Ethiopian, Italian,…

DeBacker-Sommervogel Vol.IV Col. 1076 Nº ; 

 Grasse; IV,p21; .Caillet, A.L. Manuel bibliographique des sciences psychiques ou occultes,; 5784;

 Rooms of wonder, New York, The Grolier Club, 2012, n° 20 : Not in Merrill.