Rome: Ex Typographia Hæredum Francisci Corbelletti, 1650.
Folio: 32.4 x 22.8 cm. 2 volumes bound as 1: I. †4, ††6, A-Z4; Aa-Zz4; Aaa-Zzz4; Aaaa-Rrrr4, Ssss2. II. π1, A-Z4; Aa-Zz4; Aaa-Mmm4, Nnn6 (Leaf Nnn6 blank), Nnn-Ppp4. With an engraved t.p., engraved port., and 21 engraved plates (including one used as the frontis. to Vol. II)
Two volumes bound as one. With an added engraved title page engraved by Baronius (possibly Jean Baron) after Johannes Paul Schor, an engraved portrait of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria engraved by Paulus Pontius after Schor, and 21 added engraved plates, numbered I-III, IV/V, VI-X, XI/XII, XIII-XXIII, that is, with a single plate marked “Iconismus IV et V”, and another plate marked “Iconismus XI et XII”. The latter of the two (XI/XII), with an image (by Pierre Miotte) of Orpheus with Cerberus at his feet, serves as the frontispiece to Vol. II. (In this copy, plates III, IV/V, and VI are bound in the second volume rather than the first.)
The text is further illustrated with numerous woodcuts of instruments, musical notation, mathematical and philosophical diagrams in the text (some full-page.)
Bound in contemporary vellum, stained red (though much of the color has faded), the spine very neatly backed in later blind-stamped leather (paper label chipped, wear to extremities, corners bumped.) A very fine copy internally, with variable spotting, occ. light toning, and minor faults: sm. tear to upper margin of plate III (no loss), clean tear to leaf Lll4 (no loss), sig. Dd browned, ink corrosion to edge of title and first few leaves, just affecting the blank border of the engraved title and a slim portion along the lower edge of the engraved portrait plate. Provenance: from the estate of the French novelist, screenwriter, and actor Jean-Claude Carrière, who collaborated with Luis Buñuel (d. 8 Feb. 2021).
"‘Musurgia Universalis’ is one of Kircher’s most important, enduring, and informative works. It gained immediate and lasting popularity [and] remained the standard exhaustive encyclopedia of music into the eighteenth century…
“Kircher attempted to compile in this book all the musical knowledge available in his day, making it the first exhaustive encyclopedia of music. For musicologists it has long been an invaluable source of information on baroque concepts of style and composition. Kircher wrote the ‘Musurgia’ at the time of the great transition when the old Renaissance polyphony, still in use in the Church, was giving way to the new baroque style in secular music, most notably in opera. Kircher reveals an astounding knowledge and understanding of contemporary music and of this transition. Indeed, he gives the earliest account of the ‘doctrine of affections’, the baroque idea that music should imitate emotions.
“Kircher reproduces many complete musical pieces of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to illustrate various styles -he even includes a three-part fantasy of his own- and musicologists have Kircher to thank for preserving many instrumental pieces of Frescobaldi, Froberger, and other early baroque composers. The work even features a musical composition by Emperor Ferdinand III. Kircher was aided in his research by the Italian composer Antonio Maria Abbatini, the maestro di capella at the Lateran. Besides his interest in contemporary music theory, Kircher was also firmly established in classical music theory. Like many of his predecessors and contemporaries, [Kircher] followed Boethius and emphasized the mathematics of music and its relationship to the harmony of the body, per Robert Fludd, and of the solar system, per Kepler.
“A portion of the work is devoted to ancient Hebrew and Greek music, but Kircher’s speculations on ancient music were often grossly inaccurate...The ‘Musurgia’ is also interesting for the history of instrument-making. Many plates are of ancient and contemporary instruments. Kircher begins the work by illustrating the anatomy of voice and hearing, the most common instrument. He includes a treatise on acoustics, a subject he would take up again in the ‘Phonurgia nova’.
“Kircher also discusses many of his own inventions, like the talking statue, the megaphone, and numerous mechanical music-makers. One of these inventions, a product of his mathematical concept of music, is an ingenious composing computer called an ‘arca musarithmica’ or ‘musurgia mechanica’. The ‘arca’ was a chest containing numbered rods, which the composer could move about and combine to produce melodic and rhythmic patterns… A surviving example of the instrument can be seen today in the Pepysian Library, Cambridge.”(Merrill).
De Backer Sommervogel IV, col. 1051; Brunet III, col. 668; Caillet 5785; Graesse IV, p. 21; Gregory, p. 135; Honeyman 1816; Merrill 8