Back to browse highlights

Athanasii Kircheri e Soc. Jesu China monumentis: qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata

Author: Athanasius Kircher (German, 1602–1680)

Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Janssonium a Waesberge, & Elizeum Weyerstraet, 1667
Printed book
H: 14 5/8 in. (37 cm)
Credit Line:
Jane E. Andrews in memory of her husband William Loring Andrews
Accession Number:
912.1 K63 Q
  • Description

    Kircher was ordained a Jesuit in 1628 in Mainz, Germany, but fled his homeland and settled in Rome in 1634 to escape the Thirty Years War. He remained in Rome most of his life researching a wide variety of disciplines, from geography and astronomy to medicine and music. He was a rigorous and sometimes unconventional scientist, yet all his writings retain some of his mystical and religious conceptions of nature. The "China Illustrata" was first published in Latin in 1667, in German in 1668, and in French two years later. The text is based on descriptions by European explorers (many of them Jesuits) in China, India, and other Asian countries. With this book Kircher hoped to demonstrate the origin of Oriental "customs, ceremonies, and idols . . . and to demonstrate the way to bring [back] those who have been turned away from Christ by devilish malice." The splendid engravings were based on explorers' sketches and original images imported from Asia. Not only are they clear visualizations of Kircher's philosophy toward Asian traditions but they are also the first complete illustrations of various aspects of the civilization.

    Illustrated: frontispiece

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History