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Fine early map of China, Korea and Japan, from the first edition of Kircher's China Illustrata.

Kircher's map of China, Korea and Japan is based on the work compiled by Jesuit Father Martino Martini. Father Martini's map was gathered from Chinese sources between 1643 and 1650. The publication of theMartiini map greatly advanced European knowledge of the region including the correct locations of many cities and topographical features. The trade route between Canton and Peking is noted and the Great Wall and the Gobi Desert are both graphically pictured.

There were two editions of this map, this being the more decorative of the two, including images of 2 indigenous Chinese men and a more decorative title cartouche than the other edition.

From Kircher's book on China; illustrates land & sea trade routes from Middle East to China.

Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) was one of the great scholars and travel writers of his time. A German born Jesuit scholar, he has been described as inventor, composer, geographer, geologist, Egyptologist, historian, adventurer, philosopher, proprietor of one of the first public museums, physicist, mathematician, naturalist, astronomer, archaeologist, and author of more than 40 published works. Kircher began teaching mathematics, ethics, and ancient languages at the University of Würzburg. In 1630 and 1637, Kircher petitioned to travel to China, but was unsuccessful in both requests, instead, his China Illustrata, first published in 1667, was a compilation of the most important works of the period, including Martino's Atlas of China published by Blaeu (1655), and the Journals of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), Alvaro Semedo (1586-1658), Michael Boym (1612-1659 and Melchisedech Thevenot.

Athanasius Kircher Biography

Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) was a Jesuit priest and a well-respected scholar known for his role in disseminating knowledge. Kircher was educated in Greek, Hebrew, and the humanities at Fulda, Paderborn, Cologne, Koblenz, and Mainz. After fleeing the Thirty Years’ War in Germany, Kircher worked as an academic at Avignon and, from 1634, Rome.

In Rome, Kircher served as an intellectual node, spreading information sent from around the world by Jesuit missionaries. Particular interests included ancient Egypt, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, music, and languages (both ancient and modern). He also made several maps and was a geographic compiler. It is likely he was the first person to depict the Pacific Ring of Fire on a map.

Kircher combined a mixture of hermeticism with nascent scientific inquiry, gaining him a reputation as one of the final Renaissance men. For example, he observed the eruptions of Etna and Stromboli. He had himself lowered into the crater of Vesuvius soon after an eruption to observe the changes wrought by the cataclysm. He experimented with bioluminescence by seeking the applications of firefly extract as a light source. He also made the first known Aeolian harp.

Kircher wrote 44 books, while over 2,000 of his manuscripts and letters survive. He also assembled one of the first natural history collections, the Museo Kircheriano or the Kircherianum, which was broken up after his death and became the foundation of several institutional collections.