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Arithmologia sive De Abditis Numerorum Mysterijs

Gallery of 190 pages.

Arithmologia sive De Abditis Numerorum Mysterijs

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Illustrated by the engraved frontispiece, 3 folding tables, 1 full-page heraldic woodcut, and hundreds of in-text woodcuts and diagrams.

The full title reads as follows:

"Arithmologia / sive / De abditis Numerorum mysterijs. / Qua / Origo, Antiquitas & fabrica Numerorum exponitur; Abditae eorundem proprietates demonstrantur; Fontes superstitonum in Amuletorum fabrica aperiuntur; Denique post Cabalistarum, Arabum, Gnosticorum, aliorumque magicas impietates detectas, vera & licita numerorum mystica signification ostenditur. / Romae, Ex Typographia Varesij. MDCLXV. [1665]. / Superiorum Permissu."

Issue Points

The first edition.

Text Notes

Merrill writes the following of Kircher's 'Arithmologia':

“A veritable gold mine of curiosities: magic formulas, amulets, and symbolic matrices. For Kircher all knowledge was to some extent bound up in mystery, and this was particularly true of numerology. The mystical nature of numbers had been the object of volumes of both Hebraic and Greek treatises, from Pythagoras to the Cabbala. ‘He begins the book with a speculative history of the origin of the Greek and Roman numerals; he later gives the history of Hebrew and Arabic numerals. Much of the work deals with the alleged mystical numerology of the Gnostics, Cabbalists, and Neo-Pythagoreans. He was convinced that [universal] order could be represented by numbers in a mystical and meaningful way” (Merrill, Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) Jesuit Scholar).

Historical Importance

Margaret Osler writes of Kircher:

“At the height of his career, Kircher diverged from the path taken by such Jesuit astronomers as Christopher Clavius, Christoph Scheiner, and Giovanni Battista Riccioli, but he began his experimental work practicing a form of the "physicomathematics" they pioneered. In preferring the natural magic tradition to the mathematical sciences, Kircher envisioned experimentation as a demonstrative afterthought to a philosophy already in existence. Experiments played a rhetorical role in his natural philosophy; they were a means of visualizing a philosophy rather than creating one. To the extent that he remained interested in the study of mathematics, Kircher focused primarily on mystical, cabalistic, and numerological traditions, highlighting the 'chain of natural things expressed by numbers.'” (Margaret J. Osler, Rethinking the Scientific Revolution p. 239).

More précis information…


Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (sometimes erroneously spelled Kirchner; Latin: Athanasius Kircherus, 2 May 1602 – 28 November 1680) was a German Jesuit scholarand polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. Kircher has been compared to fellow Jesuit Roger Boscovich and to Leonardo da Vinci for his enormous range of interests, and has been honored with the title "Master of a Hundred Arts".[2] He taught for more than forty years at the Roman College, where he set up a wunderkammer. A resurgence of interest in Kircher has occurred within the scholarly community in recent decades.

Kircher claimed to have deciphered the hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Egyptian language, but most of his assumptions and translations in this field were later found to be incorrect. He did, however, correctly establish the link between the ancient Egyptian and the Coptic languages, and some commentators regard him as the founder of Egyptology. Kircher was also fascinated with Sinology and wrote an encyclopedia of China, in which he noted the early presence there of Nestorian Christians while also attempting to establish links with Egypt and Christianity.

Kircher's work in geology included studies of volcanoes and fossils. One of the first people to observe microbes through a microscope, Kircher was ahead of his time in proposing that the plague was caused by an infectious microorganism and in suggesting effective measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Kircher also displayed a keen interest in technology and mechanical inventions; inventions attributed to him include a magnetic clock, various automatons and the first megaphone. The invention of the magic lantern is often misattributed to Kircher, although he did conduct a study of the principles involved in his Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae.

A scientific star in his day, towards the end of his life he was eclipsed by the rationalism of René Descartes and others. In the late 20th century, however, the aesthetic qualities of his work again began to be appreciated. One modern scholar, Alan Cutler, described Kircher as "a giant among seventeenth-century scholars", and "one of the last thinkers who could rightfully claim all knowledge as his domain." Another scholar, Edward W. Schmidt, referred to Kircher as "the last Renaissance man". In A Man of Misconceptions, his 2012 book about Kircher, John Glassie writes that while "many of Kircher's actual ideas today seem wildly off-base, if not simply bizarre," he was "a champion of wonder, a man of awe-inspiring erudition and inventiveness," whose work was read "by the smartest minds of the time."


1. 17th or early 18th century ownership inscription no longer legible upon the title;

2. Mid-18th century ownership inscription upon the title reading ‘Inscript. Catal. 1765.’

Early Modern17th CenturyScientific RevolutionScienceMathematicsArithmeticArithmologyNumerologyArithmancyMagicOccultAlchemyCaballaCabalisticMysticismMysticalPhilosophyNatural PhilosophyJesuitsJesuit OrderJesuit PrintingFirst EditionsVarese Press

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