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This extraordinary first edition engraving is from Athanasius Kirchir’s Mundus Subterraneus, in XII libros digestus, quo divinum subterrestris mundi opificium, mira ergasteriorum naturae in eo distributio […] The work was published by J. Janssonius & Elizeum Weyerstraten in 1665 in Amsterdam.
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.