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This extraordinary volume is Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus subterraneus, in XII Libros digestus; Qvo Divinum Subterrestris Mundi Opificium, mira Ergasteriorum Naturæ in eo distributio, verbo Pantamorphon Protei Regnum, Universæ denique Naturæ majestas & divitiæ summa rerum varietate exponuntur, Abditorum effectuum Causæ acri indagine inquisitæ demonstrantur, cognitæ per Artis & Naturae conjugium ad Humanæ vitæ necessarium usum vario Experimentorum apparatu, necnon novo modo & ratione applicantur; Ad Alexandrum VII. Pontoon. Opt. Max….Editio tertia… I-II. The third edition of the work published in Amsterdam in 1678 by Joannem à Waesberge & Filios.
The work is bound in contemporary full blindtooled pigskin with metal clasps and fittings. There is on the upper board Maltese cross within laurel wreath and the initials AM, on lower board the initials MRA within oval, both under noble crown, spine in six compartments. This is two volumes bound into one.
The first volume is pages 1-366, second volume pages 1-507. There are two engraved title pages, one engraved title vignette, one engraved portrait of the author. It is absent the portrait of Pope Alexander VII but believed that this edition was issued without that plate. There are 22 full page or double-page engraved plates and maps. There are 67 engraved illustrations within the text. The two volvelles meant to be mounted to pages 165 and 167 are absent.
This work was based off Kircher’s visit to Sicily in 1637-8 when Etna and Stromboli both erupted. This observation led him to conclude that the earth’s center as a massive internal fire and that volcanoes acted as safety valves. His work speculated on geology, hidden lakes, rivers of fire, strange inhabitants, the sun, the moon, eclipses, currents, meteorology, medicines, poisons, and even fireworks. The work must always command a high place in the literature as the first effort to describe the earth from a physical standpoint. (Zittel, p. 25)
Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) was a Jesuit priest and scholar. He gathered and helped disseminate knowledge from around the world gathered by Jesuit missionaries. It is believed he was the first to depict the Pacific Ring of Fire on a map. He was one of the final Renaissance men. He lowered himself into Vesuvius after an eruption, experimented with bioluminescence as a light source, and make the first known Aeolian harp. He wrote 44 books, over 2000 manuscripts, and assembled one of the first natural history collections. Kircher’s work was itself fascinating for its thematic maps. His work was on the underground passages and subterranean networks of the globe. He created a map that was the first to show ocean currents.
Provenance: On first endpaper a mounted letter to Carl Sahlin from the prioress of the Altomünster monastery dated 1926. Originally owned by the Birgittine monastery in Altomünster, Upper Bavaria. With inscription of Simon Hörmann (1631-1701), 14th prior of the monastery in 1631, General prior of the Order in 1675, he also made the house of Saint Brigid in Rome a property of the Altomünster monastery. Later from the Library of Carl Sahlin (1861-1943) and industrialist and writer on science of mining and metallurgy. He was President of the Swedish Iron and Steel Works’ Association between 1904 and 1928. He was also a delegate of the Swedish Ironmasters’ Association. He was also one of the founders of the Technical museum in Stockholm, to which museum he also donated his vast collections on mining and related history, including part of his library in 1933.