March 12, 2021

Athanasius Kircher: the Polymath and China

By:
Lark Mason III
Kircher, Athanasius. Jesu China Monumentis qua
sacris qua profanis, Amsterdam: 1667

Athanasius Kircher was a polymath. He was a German Jesuit priest and truly a Renaissance man. He is considered by many to be the founder of Egyptology. He had a wide range of methods from scholastic research to wild experiments. Soon after an eruption, he had himself lowered into the crater of Vesuvius to make observations. He wrote 44 books, was the inventor of the Aeolian Harp, and once experimented to test whether firefly extract could be used to light houses. This text, China Monumentis, was not the first book to be published on China, but it was certainly one of the most influential. This first edition was published in Latin 1667, the book was soon after published in German in 1668, and French, Dutch, and English after.

Kircher, Athanasius. Jesu China Monumentis qua
sacris qua profanis, Amsterdam: 1667

Kircher studied the works of and spoke with many Jesuit priests and other travelers to Asia. He based the engravings on sketches of these intrepid individuals as well as original images brought back from Asia.

Kircher, Athanasius. Jesu China Monumentis qua
sacris qua profanis, Amsterdam: 1667


This book represents a milestone in the study of Chinese language. Kircher learned from missionary Michael Boym of the now-famous Nestorian inscription at His-an fu, which showed that Christian missionaries reached China in A.D. 781. The transcription and transliteration of the His-an fu inscription, printed here for the first time, make up “the first Chinese vocabulary ever printed in the West . . . the standard text for the study of Chinese until the nineteenth century” (Merrill).

Kircher, Athanasius. Jesu China Monumentis qua
sacris qua profanis, Amsterdam: 1667
Kircher, Athanasius. Jesu China Monumentis qua
sacris qua profanis, Amsterdam: 1667

This book is part of a collection of over 200 other  books, ranging from extremely rare 15th and 16th century texts to signed first editions of Ayn Rand, this sale encompasses 6 centuries of man's drive to record and share information. The sale is open for bidding on the iGavel Auctions website until March 30. Click here to view all lots in the sale.

Works like these are held in great libraries throughout the world; they influenced the Founding Fathers in their creation of our great nation, and helped form the foundation for the Western world as we know it today. We are happy to share this important collection with those able to visit our Texas gallery.

Auction Exhibition
Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm, now until March 30, 2021
Lark Mason Gallery, 210 W. Mill Street, New Braunfels, TX 78130

For More Information Contact:
Lark Mason III | Lark@LarkMasonAssociates.com or +1 (212) 289-5524