Thursday, July 9, 2015

Some wonderful 17th Century illustrations by Athanasius Kircher in the book Prodomo Apologetico, by Gioseffo Petrucci

Gioseffo Petrucci was a student, an assistant and protégé of the German Jesuit scholar, Athanasius Kircher, a polymath, scientist, traveler, author. In 1677 Petrucci published a synthesis of what he had learned with his teacher, Kircher, over many years. That synthesis was called Prodomo apologetico alli studi Chircheriani (1677), written in defense of his teacher, who was being criticized by other scholars at that time. In this book are included illustrations by Kircher, which are included below with a link to the entire book online. 

Kircher lived at a time in history right between the magical thinking of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the beginning of  modern science with its rational thinking.  His illustrations reflect that marvelously.

Here is a link to the entire book online. Click on the word "Vorschau" for the whole book in thumbnail images.

Kircher had an early interest in China, telling his superior in 1629 that he wished to become a missionary to that country. In 1667 he published a treatise whose full title was China monumentis, qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata, and which is commonly known simply as China Illustrata, i.e. “China Illustrated”. It was a work of encyclopedic breadth, combining material of unequal quality, from accurate cartography to mythical elements, such as a study of dragons. The work drew heavily on the reports of Jesuits working in China, in particular Michael Boym and Martino Martini.
China Illustrata emphasized the Christian elements of Chinese history, both real and imagined: the book noted the early presence of Nestorian Christians (with a Latin translation of the Nestorian Stele of Xi'an provided by Boym and his Chinese collaborator, Andrew Zheng), but also claimed that the Chinese were descended from the sons of Ham, that Confucius was Hermes Trismegistus/Moses and that the Chinese characters were abstracted hieroglyphs. 

Here’s the original Latin manuscript with pictures, and here’s the English translationVia EastIsEverywhere

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