Description

    Athanasius Kircher. China Monumentis, Qua Sacris quà Profanis, Nec non variis Naturæ & Artis Spectaculis, Aliarumque rerum memorabilium Argumentis Illustrata...Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Janssonium à Wæsberge & Elizeum Weyerstraet, 1667.

    First edition. Large folio (13.5 x 9.125 inches; 343 x 232 mm.). [16], 237, [11] pages. Text in double columns. Added engraved title ("China illustrata"), included in pagination, engraved title vignette, engraved portrait of Kircher, two double-page engraved maps (one folding), twenty-three engraved plates (two folding), and fifty-nine engravings in the text. Decorative woodcut tail-pieces and initials.

    Contemporary half brown roan over marbled boards (worn). Smooth spine decoratively tooled in gilt with brown calf label ruled and lettered in gilt. Marbled pastedowns. Small paper shelf label at head of spine (partially torn away). Front cover and spine separated from text block, with several leaves detached. Some slight browning and occasional foxing. Light to moderate worming to the spine and to the text block, mostly in the gutter and heaviest at the beginning and end, additional wormtrack in the lower blank margin of F2-G3 (pp. 43-54), affecting the double-page folding map ("Tabula Geodoborica") facing p. 46. A few small holes in added engraved title. Leaf A4 (pp. 7/8) with five-inch tear into the text, Y3 (pp. 173/174) with four-inch tear into the text, Z4 (pp. 183/184) and Bb3 (pp. 197/198) torn across at lower plate mark (not affecting text), Bb1 (pp. 193/194) with small paper repair at outer blank margin (not affecting text), a few additional short marginal tears. Red ink stamp and a few early ink inscriptions crossed out on title. Small bookseller's label on front pastedown and ink inscription in Japanese on front free endpaper. A complete copy of the "plus belle" edition (Cordier), with good impressions of the engravings.

    "In 1667 the learned German Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher (1601-80) published his China illustrata at Amsterdam. Gathering his material from other members of the Society [of Jesuits], Kircher wrote one of the century's most influential treatises on China. His primary purpose was to establish the authenticity of the Nestorian monument discovered in Sian, and to that end he produced in print the original Chinese and Syriac inscriptions on the monument, the Chinese text in Romanization, and finally a Latin translation and his explication of the Chinese and Syriac texts. In addition, Kircher included a sizable description of China and other places in Asia. For example, in a section devoted to the various routes to China and the history of Christianity in China, he sketched all the old overland routes, including that of Johann Grueber and Albert d'Orville from Agra to Peking, as well as giving a description of Tibet...Following what he thought to be the spread of idolatry from the Near East to Persia, India, and finally to East Asia, Kircher described the religions of China, Japan, and India...There are several chapters on government, customs, geography, fauna, flora, and mechanical arts of China, and a very interesting scholarly discussion of the Chinese language, which indicates that Kircher had made considerable progress in it. There is a long Chinese-Latin dictionary, and finally Father Johann Grueber's (1623-80) responses to a long series of questions posed by the duke of Tuscany. Kircher's volume contains several beautiful pictures taken from Chinese and Mughul originals, which Grueber had brought back to Europe with him in 1664. Although the China illustrata was not the product of Kircher's own experience in China, it was frequently used or cited as a source of information by later writers. Some of the information contained in it, for example the text of the Nestorian monument, Roth's description of Hindu religion, and Grueber's description of Tibet, had not appeared in print before. Published originally in Latin, the China illustrata was translated into Dutch in 1668 and into French in 1670. All three editions were published by Jan Janszoon van Waesberge and Eliza Weyerstraet in Amsterdam" (Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe, III, pp. 485-486).

    "Two editions of the China illustrata were published at Amsterdam in 1667, the first by Jan Janzoon van Waesberge and the widow Eliza Weyerstraet, Kircher's regular publishers; the other a pirated reprint by Jacob van Meurs" (Lach, p. 485 note).

    Cordier, Sinica, 96. DeBacker/Sommervogel IV, cols. 1063-1064. Merrill 20 (describing the Meurs edition).


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    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
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