Arts and sciences in new Kircher's catalogue
A new translation of an historic 17th catalogue recently published by the St Omers Press at Stonyhurst College brings together significant items from the collection of the Collegio Romano Museum. The facsimile of Kircher’s 1678 catalogue includes a selection of natural, scientific and cultural wonders and even illustrates what is probably the world’s first ever computer! It was recently launched at Stonyhurst College by its Curator, Mrs Jan Graffius.
Jesuit Father Athanasius Kircher SJ (1602-80) was known during his lifetime as one of the most prolific and prestigious natural-philosophers of the 17th century. He was so well regarded by his contemporaries in Rome and throughout Europe, that he has been described as the “arbiter and dictator of all arts and sciences in Europe”.
Working from his position as Chair of Mathematics at the Jesuits’ Roman College, Kircher published over 40 studies on subjects as varied as translations of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the secret power of magnets and magnetism, and Chinese culture and language. He also issued studies on the geologic forces underlying volcanic activity, the engineering of Noah’s Ark and the mathematical impossibility of the Tower of Babel, as well as treatises on optics, fossils, the plague, music and a form of Platonic dialectics.
The religious mission of Stonyhurst and the Jesuits
Jan Graffius, the Curator at Stonyhurst, describes the new translation and facsimile of Kircher's 1678 catalogue as “beautiful and elegant”. At an event to launch St Omers Press's latest publication (pictured right), she pointed out that it contains studies ranging from cherubs and obelisks, combinatory arks (the first ever computer) to Perfumed Mice of Muscovy. Copies can be ordered via the Stonyhurst Association.
St Omers Press takes its name from Stonyhurst’s previous home in France. Initially founded in 1593 by Fr Robert Persons SJ as the College of Saint-Omer in Artois, France (then part of the Spanish Netherlands), the English Jesuit College was forced to relocate twice due to the suppression of the Jesuits, first to Bruges in 1762 and then Liege in 1773, before migrating a third and final time in 1794 to Lancashire in England, where it became Stonyhurst College.
St Omers Press Ltd was established to publish works reflecting the life and culture of Stonyhurst College and its Jesuit heritage, specialising in the religious mission of the College and the promotion of its Jesuit ethos. By promoting the collections at Stonyhurst, it aims to make them more widely accessible and to publish continuing research on them, while at the same time providing a resource for education and the promotion of Catholic beliefs.