The Historical Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University (henceforth APUG) preserve 14 volumes of letters sent by and to Athanasius Kircher and other five manuscripts, mostly unpublished. Years ago, Stanford University digitized all the letters and made them available through the LunaImaging software, enriching them with detailed metadata. Today, metadata of the letters are also available at Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO).
Recalling the tradition of Monumenta, within Monumenta Kircheri we want to continue and complete this work. Each letter will be transcribed, commented and annotated with the help of GATE contributors; a selection of Kircher's published works will be also transcribed. In addition, we have set up the Bibliographia Kircheriana, a useful tool for Kircher scholars that today records 651 bibliographic entries.
Athanasius Kircher, a case study
Umberto Eco famously defined the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) as ‘the most contemporary among our ancestors, and the most outdated among our contemporaries’. We propose to focus on Kircher's Correspondence and on his works. Athanasius Kircher is as a case study to explore the complexities and paradoxes of a ‘long’ modernity, starting from the seventeenth century up to our own world.
In fact, the fundamental aim of this project is to articulate more clearly what is often hidden in every historical research: what matters to us is not in the past, but in the present. From a methodological point of view, we want this project to be not simply inter-disciplinary, but indeed trans-disciplinary. We start from Kircher’s crucial role in the early modern Republic of Letters and we insert Kircher’s case within a larger context involving the question of the nature of knowledge as both a kind of savoir faire and a kind of savoir vivre. From this perspective, we propose to reconsider Kircher’s vast bibliographical production and the methods of its dissemination, highlighting how Kircher grappled with, and contributed to develop, the concept of novitas or curiositas. Our project is also concerned with the material aspect of culture, and more specifically with the early modern changes in the modes and methods of communicating and disseminating knowledge. The way in which Kircher managed, reproduced, and created knowledge is a lens through which we can understand several fundamental aspects of both the early modern and the modern world, which have been the object of a recent surge of scholarly interest, such as the exponential growth of information and consequently the development of new and more effective techniques to digest, store, and select this new amount of knowledge.
Thanks to last years’ activities, which have been carried out with high schools students, APUG decided to involve about 70 boys and girls in working on this project. In addition to transcription tasks, they also have to annotate the texts, finding entities such as Names, Works, Places, Terms and Objects.
We would like to thank:
- Fiammetta Iovine for her valuable and unique contribution to this project
- prof. Hans-Joachim Vollrath (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Mathematisches Institut) and dr. Thomas Conlon for their kindness in sharing transcriptions and translations of the Athanasius Kircher correspondence
- prof. Sven Knebel (Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Philosophie Department) for the transcription of several letters from the Athanasius Kircher correspondence
Monumenta Kircheri is generously supported by Fondazione Sorgente Group.
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