Athanasius Kircher, S.J. was a German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 .. The Musurgia Universalis () sets out Kircher’s views on music: he believed that the harmony of music reflected the proportions of the. Musurgia universalis sive ars magna consoni et dissoni in. X. libros digesta. Romae: Ex typographia Haeredum Francisci. Corbelletti, Kircher, Athanasius. German born, Jesuit trained, Athanasius Kircher () survived the varied contemporary musical standing was his Musurgia universalis sire ars magna.

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St Andrews copy r17f ML Kircher was a German Jesuit scholar and a true Renaissance man. He published over 40 works during his life in widely varying fields such as medicine, optics, geology, natural philosophy and music. Musurgia Universalis is a combination of a scholarly study of the history of music and musical instruments and an attempt at a scientific explanation of musical harmony and sound theory.

Kircher also theorized that the harmony of music reflected the divine proportions of the Universe as embodied in the plate Harmonia Nascentis Mundi above. By the middle of the 17 th century the Jesuit missions had spread as far abroad as China, the Americas and Japan, and Kircher regularly communicated with these missions to add to his knowledge of the subject he was writing on.


In Musurgia UniversalisKircher applies his scientific method to almost every aspect of music and noise. The two plates above illustrate his anatomical descriptions of the music receiving and music producing organs found in humans and musurgka animals.

Athanasius Kircher SJ – ‘Musurgia Universalis’, – SOCKS

Much of Musurgia is given over to the description of contemporary and historic musical instruments from various parts of the world. Kircher also described many experiments that he had attempted, as well as new instruments which musurtia had witnessed or constructed.

Above is perhaps his most famous musical invention: Kircher, in this work, also describes various experiments with acoustic spaces and sound theory.

The two illustrations above show his findings of voice and musical echo in a galleried space versus a round space, and where best to place a singer or performer in such spaces. This type of sound and space theory was of keen interest to him, and led to his Phonurgia nova published in He also experimented with the acoustic resonance of various elements of nature: A plan for a piazza-listening device: This large, two volume set was printed in copies by the Heirs of Francesco Corbelletti and Lodovico Grignani and copies were given to a large group of visiting Jesuits in who came to Rome from all over the world to elect a new Superior General.


A full digital edition of this book can be viewed on the Hathi Trust database. This book is a case in point. Hi Julia, Thank you for the lovely comment. There is no bookplate or marks of provenance, and very little sign of usage. We do have another work by Kircher, his work on sound theory, which came in with the JD Forbes library.

Highlight from the stacks: Music or Animal Abuse?

Musurgia Universalis (Kircher, Athanasius)

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Kircher Musurgia Universalis

Learn how your comment data is processed. Wholly concur — wonderfully informative series.

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