KIRCHER Athanasius, OBELISCUS PAMPHILIUS, Rome, Grignano, 1650



OBELISCUS PAMPHILIUS – hoc est, interpretatio nova & hucusque intentata obelisci hieroglyphici quem non ita pridem ex veteri Hippodromo Antonini Caracallae Caesaris, in Agonale Forum transtulit, integritati restituit, & in vrbis aeternae ornamentum erexit Innocentius X, Pont. Max. In quo post varia Aegyptiacae, Chaldaicae, Hebraicae, Graecanicae antiquitatis, doctrinaeque quà sacrae, quà profanae monumenta, veterum tandem theologia, hieroglyphicis involuta symbolis, detecta è tenebris in lucem asseritur.

Roma, Ludovico Grignano, 1650. 

In-folio, (32) leaves, including allegorical frontispiece, 560 [i.e. 558] pages,  (30) leaves, mistakes in numeration. Beautiful frontispiece engraved in copper by Conelis Bloemaert after Giovanni Angelo Canini’s drawing, portrait of Innocent X, 1 large folded plate, 5 full-page copper engravings (by Pietro Miotte), numerous woodcuts in the text,  woodcut Initials, head and tail-pieces; Latin, Jewish, Arabic, Greek type, Errata on penultimate leaf, printer’s device on the recto of last leaf, some minor foxing. Bound in contemporary vellum, ms title on spine, with stains.


First edition. Kircher exposes part of his long-prepared Egyptological theories (while their full publication in Oedipus Agyptiacus will have to wait a few more years) on the interpretation and translation of hieroglyphics. The book is accompanied by fascinating illustrations, with references to Egyptian mythology. The author uses his knowledge of the Coptic language and esoteric philosophies to explain how hieroglyphics represent a symbolic code intimately linked to stars and constellations. The work was commissioned by Pope Innocent X for the study and restoration of the obelisk, entrusted to Bernini, which was then placed in front of Palazzo Pamphili, in the center of Piazza Navona. Kircher conducted the work of excavation of the obelisk on the Appian Way and probably composed the inscription on the obelisk’s pedestal in the new location.

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