Würzburg: Johann J. Hertz, 1660. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION OF A WORK BY GASPAR SCHOTT ABOUT A ‘PANTOMETRUM’, A SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT INVENTED BY ATHANASIUS KIRCHER. SCHOTT DESCRIBES THE INSTRUMENT, DETAILS ITS INVENTION, CONSTRUCTION, SPECIFICATIONS, AND USES. Schott also provides a manual for operating the instrument. Illustrated with 32 copperplates.
Though sometimes described as a surveying instrument, Schott describes Kircher’s pantometrum as an “all-in-one instrument, ‘that [will] singly measure all, witness latitudes, longitudes, altitudes, depths, and surfaces, terrestrial and celestial bodies, and whatever indeed we are all accustomed to doing with other instruments, and beyond that it has other innumerable uses’” (Cocco, Watching Vesuvius, 142).
While Kircher did not invent the pantometrum, Schott believed he perfected it and thus, in Kircher’s honor, Schott named the instrument the ‘Pantometrum Kircherianum’ referenced in the title. The name "pantometer" originates from Greek where "pan" means "all" and "metron" means "measure", so this instrument can "measure all".
Gaspar Schott (1608-1666) was a German Jesuit and scientist specializing in mathematics, natural philosophy, and physics. Kircher was first his professor and then his assistant. Schott spent years assembling details and specifications about Kircher’s pantometrum itself and its uses; he is also thought to have been particularly adept at using the instrument.
Kircher is thought to have first imagined such an instrument in 1623. However he did not build his first pantometrum until 1631 (some scholars argue 1624). Regardless, the instrument Kircher built was created to measure the "...length, breadth, heights, depths, areas, of both earthly and heavenly bodies..." (Hankins, Instruments and the Imagination, 14).
Kircher’s first mention of the device in print did not come until 1637 in Specula Melitensis, wherein he makes a simple and brief reference to his invention as “somewhat like a multi-sectional draughts board which when pointed at various earthly and celestial bodies calculates respectively distances, weights and dimensions – altogether a most desirable instrument” (Specula Melitensis, Proposition LXIX). In his 1641 Ars Magnesia, Kircher goes a little further, writing of “a surveying instrument, which he describes as an" instrumentum pantometrum (all-knife), ichnographicum (cartographic), magneticum (magnetic)” (Uni-wuerzburg de).
It is Schott who, in the work offered here, provides an extensively detailed manual and history. Schott describes “a kind of measuring table” – a square wooden frame and a ruler -- the use of which [in a simplified explanation] involves “a point of sight… aimed at from the endpoints of a position line in the area. At the same time [the instrument draws sight lines on paper] so that a triangle is formed”, thus allowing for in field determinations of distance, height, etc. (Sotheran, Suppl. II, 2412); Uni-wuerzburg).
Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) is sometimes referred to as “the last man who knew everything” (Findlen, Athanasius Kircher). “A German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine”, “for most of his professional life, Kircher was one of the scientific stars of his world: according to historian Paula Findlen, he was "the first scholar with a global reputation" (Wikipedia; Biography Web Portal). Item #1201
CONDITION & DETAILS: 4to [22 x 18 cm]. , 408, . Fully indexed. 32 copperplates. Provenance: Front pastedown bears the armorial bookplate Bibliothèque de Mr de Joubert and the small label of Erwin Tomash, renowned collector of books and manuscripts related to the history of computing. Lacking engraved frontispiece, otherwise complete. Bound in browned contemporary vellum; 5 raised bands at the gilt-lettered and tooled spine, chipped at the head and foot. Small professional repair at the head of the half-title. Toned throughout. Woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces.