Athanasius Kircher's Theatre of the World

Athanasius Kircher's Theatre of the World

  1. Joscelyn Godwin
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  • ISBN 9780500258606
  • 28.00 x 25.00 cm
  • Hardback
  • 304pp
  • 410 Illustrations, 0 in colour
  • First published 2009
‘Beautifully produced … even a modern reader can scarcely withhold a widening of the eyes at the splendour, the richness, the sheer graphic power of the images on display here. Godwin is a learned and lightly treading guide … The author and the publisher have taken real, prolonged, and exhaustive pains to make a beautiful book, and succeeded. ’ – Philip Pullman, The Guardian


'… masses of Kircher’s fabulous images as a beautiful, absorbing and utterly wonderful book. Everyone concerned with this project deserves warmest congratulations’ – The Times Higher Education Supplement


‘The best general introduction to the man available’ – The Art Newspaper


‘A vast and beautiful book’– Spectator

In the 17th century Athanasius Kircher was a phenomenon. In the 21st he has become a cult. He had an extraordinary imagination, comparable to the most avant-garde modern artist, even (or often especially) when he was wrong.

By profession a Jesuit priest, he made himself an authority on almost every subject under the sun. His most vaunted achievement was to translate the Egyptian hieroglyphs, and though he got them wrong his work marked the beginning of Egyptology.

Kircher was the first to map ocean currents; the first to offer a comprehensive theory of vulcanism; the first to compile an encyclopaedia on China, a dictionary of Coptic, a book dedicated solely to acoustics; the first to construct a machine for coding messages and another for composing music.

Other interests included biblical archaeology and Christian and non-Christian history, the machinery of illusionism, the Kabbalah, the planets and the biology of animals and plants. His museum in Rome was among the most famous ‘cabinets of curiosities’, visited by everybody in the intellectual world.

In recent years the study of this fascinating man and his works has become an industry. His peculiar mind, his instinct for mystical meanings and the occult, and his talent for finding visual equivalents for his theories continue to intrigue.

While every other aspect of Kircher’s thought has been exhaustively analysed, his prolific illustrations have been left largely unexplained. This book fills that gap.

With over 400 illustrations, each with a detailed commentary, it proves how much more we still have to learn from this eccentric genius. Joscelyn Godwin’s unrivalled mastery of his subject gives a sure underpinning to the presentation of hundreds of engravings through which Kircher prepared his ideas and through which we can see the mind of one of the most memorable thinkers who has ever lived.

See the full review in The Guardian

Joscelyn Godwin was born in England and lives in the United States, where he is Professor of Music at Colgate University, New York state. Besides his previous book on Kircher, A Renaissance Man and the Quest for Lost Knowledge, he has published Harmonies of Heaven and Earth, Arktos: The Polar Myth, The Theosophical Enlightenment, The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance and The Golden Thread, and edited or translated nineteen other books, including the first complete English translation of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.