To the main page

The letter of Godefridus Aloysius Kinner to Athanasius Kircher (1667)

Reverend Father in Christ and Dear Friend

I wish you the Lord's blessings and best wishes for the New Year.

Since Father Schott our fast friend and true brother left the land of the living I have sent no letters to you, dearest Athanasius, nor almost anyone else who is distinguished for their knowledge of mathematical questions. Will not Care herself find a grave for Mathematical studies and for Mathematicians too? To us in these parts this is no vain fear unless it is actively hindered.

Schott, that fair ornament of mathematics in Germany and the darling of the world for his publications, has died. Our own Marcus, so widely known for his writings in mathematics and other studies has now fallen into the second infancy of old age. He barely understands everyday necessities, as I note with much sadness and distress whenever I happen to visit him. Georgius Behn, a man outstandingly at home in speculative mathematics, who might have been published if he had braved the mob, also died somewhat longer ago. Now these men are gone scarcely any are left who could be called mathematicians and those few are totally occupied with other studies and are obliged to sneak their glances at mathematics.

We shall soon reach the point that to win a professorial chair and the title of mathematician it will be more than sufficient to be able to explain arithmetical figures to the youth, to measure four paving stones with a rope or a square, to inscribe a sundial on a wall, to explain the circles of the square from Sacroboscus and such like basic things. There is a deep silence, not to say ban, on Euclid and Appollonius in this university so that we are now not even supposed to know the names let alone the thing. I do not think there has been a mathematical disputation here since Fr Stansel lectured on his Dioptrus Geodesicus before he left us. Since you can already make a good guess what is to be expected of this, I need not enlarge on it but simply lament it.

And now for other matters. Dominus Marcus has lost his memory of nearly everything but still remembers you. He very officially bids me salute you in his name and he wishes to know through me whether you have yet proved an Oedipus in solving that book which he sent via the Father Provincial last year and what mysteries you think it may contain. It will be a great solace to him if you are able to satisfy his curiosity on this point.

I do not know whether you are interested in having your Organum Mathematicum which you once prepared for our Archduke Carolus together with the copy of Schott. He wrote to me a few short weeks before his death that he had already absolved himself of his profits in it. Fr Frey confirmed the same thing: in letters sent to me he indicated that the dying man had entrusted him with the care of it. Several months have now gone by and he has sent no further reply to mine. This being so, do not forget to mention if you are concerned about the fate of the Organum Mathematicum. I have no corresponding news about your China Illustrata and Ars Combinatoria, but either volume will be in high demand hereabouts with those who think highly of Kircheriana, and believe me, that is no small number. Certainly many intelligent people here rate your Mundus Subterraneus highly: the one thing to be lamented about it is that it was so badly printed by the negligence of the typesetters.

It nearly escaped me that I was writing to a busy man, so I will finish at last and commend myself to your holy sacrifices and old affection and I remain

Prague 5 January 1667

Your old friend

Godefridus Aloysius Kinner

Dean at All Saints in the Citadel of Prague