Musurgia universalis sive ars magna consoni et dissoni in. X. libros digesta. Romae: Ex typographia Haeredum Francisci. Corbelletti, Kircher, Athanasius. 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. We have selected the printing of Athanasius Kircher’s Musurgia Universalis, printed in two volumes and illustrated with over 30 leaves of.

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Its author lived and worked at the Collegio Romano in Rome for most of his life and his position at the hub of a huge international jusurgia – the 40, or so strong Society of Jesus – had two very important effects: The second effect was the converse of this: Kircher’s books were printed in large numbers – there were copies printed in of the Musurgia Universalis alone – and widely distributed through Jesuit kurcher.

Athanasius Kircher SJ – ‘Musurgia Universalis’, 1650

Infor example, more than Jesuits came to Rome from all over the world to elect a new Superior General: The cockerel’s music has the familiar portamento at the end of each phrase; as usual musuegia cuckoo’s call is notated as a falling minor third. Perhaps most strangely of all, apart from a nineteenth century translation of the work into German, there are no translations of the book, which is written in rather ponderous Latin with occasional excursions into Greek and Hebrew.

Some of the musical scores printed in the book are found in no other form, despite the fame of some of the composers. The frontispiece to the first volume was engraved by Baronius of Rome after a drawing by John Paul Schor. It makes reference to similar pages in some of Kircher’s other volumes, particularly the triangle and globe symbols.

Kircher’s ‘Musurgia Universalis’ (The Diary of Samuel Pepys)

The colouring of this page by an unknown artist, perhaps a previous owner is one of the more successful attempts at the art in the two volumes of the work held by the University of Glasgow. The triangle at the top is the symbol of the Holy Trinity and sheds its rays over the whole of musrgia top of the picture.

Kircher held to the medieval idea that music is a reflection muurgia the essential mathematics and proportions inherent in all Creation so the Trinity was not only a symbol but a real dogma. Under the Trinity we find the nine angelic, four-voice choirs, singing a part canon by Romano Micheli.


The canon is properly described as “canoni sopra le vocali di piu parole” “on the vowels of a few words” although in the present case the words ascribed are those of the angelic choirs in the Trishagion – “Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus”, as described in Revelation. The strip of text reads: The middle section is dominated by a globe of the World, on which is seated Musica, holding the lyre of Apollo and the panpipes of Marsyas. The lowest part of the picture shows blacksmiths in a cave: The muse on the right may be Polymnia who appears in standard pose surrounded by musical instruments of various kinds.

The six scenes follow Genesis as drawn by Robert Fludd, showing seas, earth, plants, planets, animals and man. The illustration below depicts a piazza-listening device: Kircher’s keen interest in anatomy is shown in the cut-away style of these anatomical drawings of the human head and ear, kirrcher to show how the ear actually hears and responds to music.

The panel below bears a legend which translates as: The arca musarythmica is a device by which a non-musician could compose a piece of four-part music using prearranged musical fragments inscribed in univrsalis arranged in columns inside the box.

Each type of wand corresponded to a particular metrical unit e.

Once the phrase to be set had been analyzed into its fundamental syllabic units, each of these could be set to an example taken from a wand of the appropriate type. There are many arcas still extant, including one in the Pepys Library of Magdalene College Cambridge.

Others sent him chocolate and other presents to keep his interest in them from flagging. A man of obviously vast erudition and incredibly wide ranging interests, Kircher wrote more than forty books while he lived and worked in Rome; many of these astonishing volumes are available for consultation in Special Univerxalis.

Other items mksurgia interest Other copies of the edition of the Musurgia Universalis: Some other works by Kircher in Special Collections: Arca Noe, in tres libros digesta Ars magna lucis et umbrae in decem libros musuurgia Id est, nova et parallela Latii tum veteris tum novi descriptio The books shelved at Ferguson Af-x. See the Athanasius Kircher on the web site for further biographical details and other links of interest. Return to main Special Collections Exhibition Page. Part of the Library and University Services.

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The quater-centenary of the birth of the Jesuit universslis, Father Athanasius Kircherseemed an appropriate moment to examine one of the most famous volumes of his works in Special Collections – the Musurgia Universalis published in two volumes in Rome in Our copy is outstanding for its finely hand coloured illustrations.


The Musurgia Universalis kircner is hugely famous and has been since it appeared in Its most famous image is probably that of the birds with their songs written out in musical notation beside their pictures.

Rameau and Beethoven may well have been influenced by this picture which still appears in musical textbooks used in the United Kingdom for year-olds. The German publishing house of Olm produced a facsimile edition universakis it in but it is already out of print. A closer inspection of the cylinder shows how it works – the perforations allowing poles to slip through, hence opening the pipe above.

The names of the notes are clearly visible. An actual example of Kircher’s design is still on display in the Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome. The book is one of the seminal works of musicology and was hugely influential in the development of Western univeralis – in particular on J.


Bach and Beethoven The nightingale’s song is given first, followed by those of the cock, the hen laying eggs and calling her chicks, the cuckoo, quail and parrot; the latter says “Hello” in Greek.

The rest of the content of the book, however, is much less well-known, although a small number of the same restricted group of bitonal images from it regularly appears on websites. The plate shown above to the left depicts ‘The Harmony of the Birth of the World’ Harmonia Nascentis Mundirepresented by a cosmic organ with six registers corresponding to the days of creation.

This is a wonderful illustration of the hydraulic organ’s mechanism; it is shown universaois several automata simultaneously, like the Pythagorean blacksmiths on the left and the creatures dancing round the skeleton on the right. Of the plucked instruments displayed here: The plate above, meanwhile, is from the section discussing Hebrew musufgia.

The various earbones are laid out for comparison: The Athanasius Kircher Correspondence Projectbetween the Universities of Stanford and Milan, shows us something of the quality and variety of Kircher’s eight hundred-plus regular correspondents:

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