The weird and wonderful world of Athanasius Kircher (book launch)

Join us on Thursday 3 December from 5.30 - 7.00 p.m. at Campion Hall to celebrate St. Omers Press' publication of a careful facsimile of the catalogue of the Collegio Romano by the 17th century Jesuit polymath Athanisus Kircher, SJ.

The lavishly-illustrated catalogue of the collections assembled at the Collegio Romano, the Jesuit University in Rome, by the polymath Athanasius Kircher SJ ("the last man who knew everything") was published in 1678. This is one of the most splendid of baroque illustrated books and an invaluable document for the understanding both of the early museum and of the culture of the old Society of Jesus. Kircher was a polymath, interested in everything, asking questions about science, optics, languages, machines, mirrors and nature. Sometimes, notoriously, he got the wrong answers, as with the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian obelisks which are represented on extra-large fold-out plates. Sometimes, as with the projected images from glass slides which are illustrated in the book, he appears to occupy the status of a forerunner, discerning the future, albeit dimly, as he does also with his artificial  intelligence machines (for decoding and for the harmonisation of music) which are almost anticipations of the computer. The ethnographic and world art collections of the museum were exceptionally strong, reflecting the global reach and cultural sensitivity of the Jesuits. The book is given in facsimile, complete with its fold-out plates and a full translation, commentary and afterword are appended, thus making available for the first time in English this crucial docuemnt for the history of ideas, of museums, and of the Jesuits.