Roma: Vitale Mascardi, 1661. Item #03235
First Edition of One of the Rarest of Athanasius Kircher's Books
KIRCHER, Athanasius. Diatribe de prodigiosi Crucibus: quae tam supra vestes hominum, quam res alias, non pridem post vltimum incendium Vesuuij Montis Neapoli Comparuerunt. Roma: Vitale Mascardi, 1661.
First edition. Small octavo (6 1/2 x 4 1/16 inches; 164 x 103 mm). [viii], 103, [1, blank] pp., one fold-out plate. Roman and italic type. Woodcut initials, head- tailpieces.
Nineteenth century full vellum, spine lettered in manuscript. Slight burn mark affecting 1/4 x 1/2 inch of top blank margin of last three leaves of text and rear endleaves (not affecting any text). Later endpapers with original marbled endpapers bound in. An excellent copy of a very rare book.
"During 1661 a further work was published by Kircher which brought a refreshingly rational approach to a problem worrying the people of Naples. Mysterious crosses had been appearing on clothing and all manner of fabrics. In this Diatribe de prodigiosis crucibus Kircher proved that the suspected indication of heavenly wrath was little more than the presence in the air around Vesuvius-dominated Naples of minute specks of volcanic ash, settling on the texture of woven cloth." (John Fletcher. A study of the life and works of Athanasius Kircher, p. 51).
One of the rarest of all works in first edition by Kircher and near impossible to find in the marketplace, Diatribe de Prodigiosis Crucibus "attempts to explain the uncanny appearance of crosses on clothing and other objects immediately after an eruption of Vesuvius in 1660. He begins by discussing the history of similar appearances and the nature of miracles in general. God, he says, works by natural means, and miracles can therefore be explained rationally…Nevertheless, he argues, the crosses are a portent from God warning the people to repent. This approach is an excellent illustration of Kircher's position between the two worlds of the seventeenth century, the scientific and the orthodox" (Merrill).
Kircher: Merrill 16. Brunet III, 67. Graesse IV, 21. Sommervogel IV, 1059.18. Clendening 9.12.