Kircher, Athanasius (1602-1680).
Ars Magna Sciendi, In XII Libros Digesta, qua Nova & Universali Methodo Per Artificiosum Combinationum contextum de omni re proposita plurimis & prope infinitis rationibus disputari, omniumque summaria quaedam cognitio comparari potest.... Amsterdam, Johann Jansson van Waesberghe and the Widow of Elizeus Weyerstraet, 1669.
Two parts in one volume, large folio (447x282 mm). The two parts with running collation and foliation. Collation: *4, **4, A-Z4, Aa-Hh4, Kk-Zz4, Aaa-Ooo4, Ppp6. , 482,  pages. Roman and italic type. Text in two columns. Separate engraved title-pages to both parts, the second one bearing a woodcut printer's device. Between fols. *2 and *3, an engraved portrait of Emperor Leopold, one engraved plate between fols. Ii1 and Ii2 depicting the 'Arbor Philosophica Universae cognitionis Typus'. Four double-page letter-press tables, one folding; engraved diagrams in the text, those on fols. B3r and Y3r with volvelles. Numerous woodcut illustrations, decorated initials, and large tailpieces. Contemporary Amsterdam binding, red morocco over pasteboards. Covers profusely gilt with massed floral and arabesque tools, partly au pointillé. Spine with seven raised bands, similarly gilt; title lettered in gilt 'A. KIRCHE. ARS COMBINAT.'. Comb-marbled pastedowns; board edges decorated with gilt frieze; inside dentelles. Edges speckled red and blue. Binding in very fine condition, especially for a volume of this size; extremities of the spine slightly repaired. A good copy, some browning and foxing, sometimes heavy, as expected. On the title-page, two early inked shelfmarks.
Provenance: Giovanni Paolo Oliva (1600-1681; contemporary ownership inscription on the title-page 'Bibl. P[raepositi] Olivae'); Martin Breslauer, Fine Books and Manuscripts in Fine Bindings. Catalogue 110, New York 1992, no. 107 (his bibliographical notes, dated 22 July 1990, on the front flyleaf); Joost R. Ritman, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (bookplate on the front pastedown).
A splendid, large-paper copy of the first edition of the Ars magna sciendi, in a stunning morocco binding executed on behalf of Athanasius Kircher for presentation to Giovanni Paolo Oliva (1600-1681), eleventh general of the Jesuits, whose name appears printed on the approbation leaf in this edition. Oliva was a very close friend of Kircher, demonstrated great interest in his polyhedric research and studies, and gave several formal permissions to print his works.
The Ars magna sciendi is one of the most influential works by the well-known German Jesuit, who was an eclectic scholar, inventor, collector, and founder of the Museum Kircherianum in the Roman College (see no. 226). In this monumental work, which is dedicated to Emperor Leopold I, Kircher builds an exhaustive scientific system based on logical combinations and symbolic logic formulae capable of expressing each truth; it thus represents one of the most celebrated seventeenth-century attempts at creating a universal language for scientists and philosophers to describe and circumscribe all knowledge into a unified system.
In 1661, Kircher – who never left Rome after settling there in 1633 – came into epistolary contact with the Dutch publisher Joannes Jansson van Waesberghe (Janssonius). Jansson was active in Amsterdam from 1651 to 1681; in his later years he entered into partnership with his son-in-law, Elizaeus Weyerstraet. Of Kircher's thirty-four books printed during his lifetime, fourteen were published by Janssonius. As Kircher wrote in his Vita, “It was my wish then that all the books I had previously published should be dedicated by posterity to the magnanimous emperor Ferdinand III and those that appeared after his death to his son the emperor Leopold. All those who read these in later times will admire their splendid production by the Amsterdam bookseller Johannes Janssonius, who has assumed responsibility for the publication and printing of all my books” (The Life of the Reverend Father Athanasius Kircher of the Society of Jesus, p. 495). The Archives of the Jesuit Gregorian University in Rome preserves Jansson's draft contract, written in Amsterdam and dated 29 July 1661, establishing the sum of 2,200 scudi for 'tutti li suoi libri', that is, for publishing all Kircher's books (PUG 563, fol. 244). Kircher also commissioned Jansson to produce luxury bindings for presentation copies, which were to be executed on his behalf by the most renowned binders active in Amsterdam. Among the various craftsmen active in the city at that time, Mirjam Foot has been able to identify a group of 'Kircher-binders' based on the fact that four of the eight luxury bindings she has seen from this group contained works by Athanasius Kircher. This includes the Latium printed by Jansson in 1671, which was perhaps bound for Pope Clemens X and is now preserved in Copenhagen's Koninklijke Bibliotheek.
Father Oliva's presentation copy of the Ars magna sciendi is housed in a sumptuous binding which bears comparison with those executed by Albert Magnus (1642-1689), the most important Dutch bookbinder of the age. Anthony Hobson has attributed to Magnus a very similar binding found on the famous Landau Hely-Hutchinson copy of the same work, held at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York (PLM 49213; see the Sotheby's sales of 13 July 1948 and 13 March 1956). According to Foot, however, the Morgan binding was in fact not executed by Albert Magnus, but represents rather the only work of an Amsterdam bookbinder of the same professional stature who also belonged to the group of the 'Kircher binders'.
It is very likely this individual used tools based directly on those employed by Magnus, and was probably active in Jansson's printing house.
“One of the binders commissioned was Magnus, another Dr. Foot's 'Kircher Binder' of which she knew eight bindings, four on Kircher's works. Are the two presentation bindings on the 'Ars Magna' the only survivers of a shortlived attempt by Janssonius to establish a bindery of his own, for which he had special tools cut and for which he temporarily employed one of Magnus' craftsmen?” (Breslauer, Catalogue 107, p. 188).
Merrill 22; Caillet II, 360.5771; Clendening 10.17; J. E. Fletcher - E. Fletcher, Study of the Life and Works of Athanasius Kircher, ‘Germanus Incredibilis'. With a Selection of his Unpublished Correspondence and an Annotated Translation of his Autobiography, Leiden-Boston 2011; H. de la Fontaine Verwey, “The Binder Albert Magnus and the Collectors of his Age”, Quaerendo, 1 (1971), pp. 158-178; M. M. Foot, Studies in the History of Bookbinding, London 1979; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 212.