Image from Kircher’s “Ars magna lucis et umbrae” Featured in New Book

August 1st, 2013

A large foldout engraving from our copy of Athanasius Kircher’s Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in X. libros digesta, published in Amsterdam in 1671, is featured on the dustjacket of a new book, To overcome oneself: The Jesuit ethic and spirit of global expansion 1520-1767, by Prof. J. Michelle Molina of Northwestern University.

Shown here are the two overlapping images from Kircher’s book (our overhead scanner especially designed for rare books, even large ones, could not readily accommodate the unwieldy original, hence the need for two images)

part of a foldout engraving suggesting the extent of the Jesuit enterprise, from Athanasius Kircher's Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in X. libros digesta (1671), from the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
part of a foldout engraving suggesting the extent of the Jesuit enterprise, from Athanasius Kircher's Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in X. libros digesta (1671), from the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

along with the adaptation for the dustjacket of Prof. Molina’s book.

dustjacket illustration for J. Michelle Molina, To overcome onself: The Jesuit ethic and spirit of global expansion 1520-1767

The image in full presents the extent of the Jesuit enterprise as a tree, with Rome at its center (indeed, its trunk) and far-flung branches. See, for example, references to the Jesuit presence in Canada, Brazil, and China in this detail from the upper half of the engraving:

detail showing Canada, Brazil, and China, from a foldout engraving suggesting the extent of the Jesuit enterprise, from Athanasius Kircher's Ars magna lucis et umbrae, in X. libros digesta (1671), from the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Prof. Molina spoke in Memorial Library in fall 2011 in the Science and Print Culture workshop organized by Prof. Florence Hsia of the UW-Madison history of science department. That workshop, sponsored by the Center for the Humanities as part of its A. W. Mellon Workshop program, took advantage of a large exhibit in Special Collections entitled “Jesuits and the Construction of Knowledge, 1540-1773.”

A digital humanities project in the Libraries, a joint undertaking of the Department of Special Collections and the UW Digital Collections Center, is producing a searchable database of early modern Jesuit iconography pertaining to scholarship and travel, drawing on the extensive holdings in Special Collections of illustrated works by Jesuit authors. A prototype of the database is available.