Monthly Archives: September 2018

Gottfried Alois Kinner von Löwenthurn’s letters to Athanasius Kircher: transcriptions and translations

Athanasius Kircher, by Cornelis Bloemaert. 1665. Copper engraving, 33.2 by 21.9cm. (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

In an addendum to the August post on the Monumenta Kircheri project at the Historical Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University, we are delighted to announce this week the release in EMLO of the transcriptions and translations into English of twenty-eight letters sent from Gottfried Alois Kinner von Löwenthurn (born c. 1610) to Athanasius Kircher (1601–1680). These texts have been created and prepared for publication by Thomas E. Conlon (contributor to EMLO of the Caspar Schott (1608–1666) catalogue) and Philip Neal. Thomas Conlon and Philip Neal, together with Professor Dr Hans-Joachim Vollrath of the Institut für Mathematik at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, have also kindly shared their invaluable transcriptions with the Kircher project in Rome.

EMLO too is delighted to be collaborating with Monumenta Kircheri by supplying the metadata for Kircher’s letters currently on display in the union catalogue. Kircher’s correspondence has been pieced together over the years by a number of key scholars and projects, and users of EMLO may find interesting the account on the catalogue’s introductory page of the manner in which this inventory has come into being and how it has continued to evolve.

Gottfried Aloys Kinner von Löwenthurn was born in about 1610 in Reichenbach, Silesia (now Dzierżoniów, in south-west Poland). A doctor of theology, philosophy, and law, he was invited by the Holy Roman Emperor to oversee the education of the young Archduke Karl Joseph (1649–1664) and, in a letter of 11 October 1664, the tutor is found pouring out his grief to Kircher following the death of his young charge. Kinner’s surviving letters to Kircher, which span the years from 1652 until 1669, chart Kinner’s side of the friendship. Over nearly two decades, comets, experiments, geometry, alchemy, and England’s Royal Society are discussed. So too is sickness and old age — including the sad condition of Marcus Marci (Jan Marek Marci, 1595–1667) who, Kinner informs Kircher, ‘despite being forgetful of almost everything, still however remembers your name’. Kinner includes an account of the solar eclipse of 12 August 1654. The effect of Kircher’s work on the Republic of Letters is considered, and a hideous operation performed by an unnamed Englishman on the eye of a goose is described in graphic detail. Kinner is an engaging correspondent. His letters are rich in detail and (bar the incident with the goose) a joy to read.

 

Dr Johnson and Thomas Pennant on Tour: an exhibition

On Friday, 5 October, a new exhibition, ‘Curious Travellers’: Dr Johnson and Thomas Pennant on Tour’ , opens at Dr Johnson’s House in London. Organized as part of the four-year AHRC-funded research project Curious Travellers, this display explores the journeys and writings of — and investigates the complex links between — two of the most renowned eighteenth-century travel writers: the Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant (1726–98) and the English author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709–84). With the aid of contemporary maps and travel books, the fascinating exhibition examines and charts these authors’ accounts of Scotland and Wales, and considers the responses from their contemporary readers to the published Tours.

In addition to this exhibition on the two men’s journeys and travel writing, Curious Travellers, which is nearing the conclusion of its work, will be hosting a final conference, Thomas Pennant, Travel and the Making of Enlightenment Knowledge, on 15 November at the Linnean Society, London. Further information about the event will be provided on this blog in a forthcoming post. Meanwhile, in another strand of their work, and in partnership with EMLO, Curious Travellers is in the process of preparing and uploading into the union catalogue an inventory of the correspondence of Thomas Pennant, and progress of this catalogue may be followed on the introductory page.

With so much on the Pennant front to look forward to this autumn, we encourage EMLO’s users to stave off the ennui of which Dr Johnson warned, to tire neither of London nor of life, and to pay a visit to 17 Gough Square while Dr Johnson and Thomas Pennant on Tour is on display.1

Dr Johnson’s House, at 17 Gough Square, may be found tucked within the historic cluster of streets and alleyways to the north of Fleet Street and the east of Fetter Lane. Built at the end of the seventeenth century by the merchant and member of Parliament for Bramber, Sussex, Richard Gough (1655–1728), it is the sole house from this period to survive in the square. Johnson lived as a tenant on the premises with his wife Elizabeth (and presumably ‘a very fine cat’ or two). It was here in the attic rooms that he worked on and saw through to publication his renowned A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Following the death of his wife in 1752, Johnson’s household expanded to include the infamous ‘strange cast of derelicts and waifs’.2 He moved from Gough Square in 1759.

 

  1. ‘Curious Travellers’: Dr Johnson and Thomas Pennant on Tour’ runs at Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE, between 5 October 2018 and 12 January 2019. Details of the exhibition’s opening times may be found on the Museum’s website.
  2. For the ‘strange cast of derelicts and waifs’, see Pat Rogers, ‘Johnson, Samuel‘, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (Oxford University Press, 21 May 2009), https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/14918.