Matrix and the Whittington Press

Long may Matrix continue to excite mind, fingertips, and eye, for it is the unique                     ability of printing to be able to appeal to and satisfy these three senses                                       simultaneously that has given Matrix such a wide variety of material to choose from             in its first five issues.

                                                                                                                              —John Randle, Matrix I

          Print is a visual music which requires a highly trained organ of sensibility.

                                                                                                                     —Richard Kennedy, Matrix I

The Whittington Press was founded in 1971 by John and Rosalind Randall. An internationally acclaimed press, Whittington prints and publishes all of its work in letterpress. They have published over 250 books as well as thirty-four issues of Matrix, a periodical of book arts that is a triumph of letterpress and fine printing in and of itself. The Burns Library holds an entire run of Matrix as part of its fine print collection. The journal is concerned with fine printing and typography and serves as an annual review for printers and bibliophiles. Beautifully crafted, each issue contains tipped in items such as paper samples, pamphlets, and illustrations, providing a tactile as well as visual reading experience.

The Whittington Press is located in Whittington, Gloucestershire, England where it holds an Open Day every year, welcoming printers, book lovers, and other interested parties to view Whittington’s three presses in action as well as vendors, published materials, and other fine-printing resources. The press’s archive, including the only complete library collection of every book the press has published, is held by the University of Minnesota Library. If you would like to see the Burns Library’s collection of Matrix journals they are available in the Reading Room. Please call (617)-552-4861 or email to schedule an appointment.

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  • Rachel A. Ernst, Burns Library Reading Room Assistant & PhD candidate in the English Department
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Boston College Remembers J. Donald Monan, SJ (1924-2017)


Fr. Monan at Desk

Fr. Monan, 1974. BC2000_005_ref1266_001. Boston College faculty and staff photographs, Boston College. John J. Burns Library

J. Donald Monan, SJ, the 24th president and first chancellor of Boston College, died on March 18, 2017. The significance of Fr. Monan’s contributions to Boston College and the Boston College Libraries over his decades in office cannot be overstated. His tremendous efforts resulted in the building of many new campus buildings, including O’Neill Library. In acknowledgment of his many contributions and in his memory, the Libraries created several exhibits:

  • Bapst Library, Gargan Hall landing: Si monumentum requiris circumspice (if you seek [his] monument, look around)

Fr. Monan led the University throughout a particularly transformative period. From 1972 to 1996, every aspect of Boston College – academics, facilities, and campus culture – experienced profound change.

Featuring material from the University Archives in Burns Library, these cases feature the advancement of BC’s academic mission under Fr. Monan, with not only the addition of new graduate programs, departments, and interdisciplinary areas of study, but also an expansion of campus facilities to create state of the art teaching, learning, research, and student spaces. Also highlighted is how the BC Libraries benefitted from Fr. Monan’s vision for research, with the construction of the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Library (1984), the complete renovation of Bapst Library (1986), and building of the Law Library (1996). Fr. Monan set the BC Libraries on the path to becoming a member of the Association of Research Libraries, which was achieved under the leadership of Fr. Leahy in 2000. 

  • O’Neill Library, Level 3: The Libraries Millionth Volume 
Fr. Monan at millionth volume ceremony

Father Monan, flanked by University Librarian Mary Cronin and Academic Vice President William B. Neenan, S.J., at 1987 celebration marking the acquisition of BC Libraries’ one-millionth volume. (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

Fr. Monan and then University Librarian Mary Cronin commemorated the acquisition of the Libraries millionth volume in a celebration in held Gargan Hall on September 22, 1987. The volume and a photo of the event are currently on display in the main entrance lobby of O’Neill Library opposite the circulation desk.

The volume is a copy of the Decretals with commentary of Pope Gregory IX, printed in 1473 in Mainz, Germany by Peter Schoeffer, an apprentice of Johann Gutenberg. It was purchased by anonymous donor for Burns Library in 1986.

Fr. Monan at O'Neill Library Dedication, 1984

BC1991.098e, University Archives, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Boston College Libraries have created a digital exhibit in tribute to Fr. Monan’s many contributions. Drawing from available digital content, the exhibit includes multimedia content reflecting some of the ways in which Fr. Monan transformed the Boston College Libraries and the impact he had on the Boston College community.

Additional information, links, and resources can be found at

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Irish Women Rising: Kathleen Clarke (1878 – 1972)

Kathleen Clarke

Kathleen Daly Clarke, unknown photographer, 1924. Box 2, folder 5, Kathleen Daly Clarke Papers and Collection of Thomas Clarke and Irish Political Materials (MS.2001.007), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Kathleen Daly was born in County Limerick in 1878 to a  family of strong nationalists; her father and uncle were prominent Fenians (republicans). Kathleen was raised in a home where sacrifice for an independent Ireland was encouraged, and sacrifice to the death was seen as an honorable one. After a seamstress apprenticeship, she started her own successful dressmaking business before she was eighteen.

Through her uncle, John Daly, she met republican activist Thomas Clarke. Twenty years older than she, and somewhat diminished physically by his time spent in prison for revolutionary actions, he was yet an heroic figure to Kathleen, and, in 1901, she left Ireland to marry him. They ran a shop in New York City, but, by 1907, Tom was anxious to resume his Fenian efforts and they returned to Ireland. They settled in Dublin and ran shops there, as well.

As a prominent advanced nationalist and a feminist, Clarke co-founded the militant women’s organization Cumman na mBan in 1914, and became president of its central branch. She also assisted with the production of the Irish Republican Brotherhood newspaper Irish Freedom, sold at her husband’s store in Dublin. Thomas Clarke was a key leader in the Easter Rising and a signatory of the Proclamation who was executed immediately after the Rising.  Shortly after her husband’s execution, Kathleen heard that her young brother suffered the same fate.

Kathleen Clarke

Kathleen Clarke with sons (L-R) Tom, John, and Emmet, unknown photographer, circa 1916-1917. Box 7, Kathleen Daly Clarke Papers and Collection of Thomas Clarke and Irish Political Materials (MS.2001.007), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Though Clarke lost both her husband and her brother to the Rising, she remained a committed Irish nationalist, feminist, humanitarian, and successful politician.

A bag of gold entrusted to her by Tom was the base from which Kathleen established the Volunteer Dependents’ Fund to distribute assistance to families of Irish Volunteer troops who participated in the Rising. Four years later, she continued her humanitarian work when she co-founded the Irish White Cross to distribute funds raised by the American Committee for Relief in Ireland.

Clarke also became an active politician after the Rising. At the 1917 Sinn Féin convention, Clarke was an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, and successfully lobbied for the party’s policy platform to include equal rights for men and women. Clarke rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, but continued her political career after the Civil War. She was elected to the Second Dáil as a founding member of the Fianna Fáil party and in the Seanad (senate) from 1928 to 1936. Then, in 1939, she was the first woman to be elected Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Clarke remained involved in humanitarian and political causes for the rest of her life. She died in 1972 and was given a state funeral in Dublin. Kathleen Clarke was a living embodiment of the political power that Irish feminist women demanded and then wielded in the early twentieth century.

See other posts in the Irish Women Rising series, commemorating prominent women of the revolutionary period, 1900 to 1923.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library

Works consulted:

Clarke, Kathleen (ed. Litton, Helen). Revolutionary Woman. Dublin: O’Brien Press, 1991

Frances Clarke. “Clarke, Kathleen (Caitlín Bean Uí Chléirigh) Daly”. Dictionary of Irish Biography(ed.) James McGuire, James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 


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Irish Women Rising: Hanna (Johanna) Sheehy Skeffington (1877 – 1946)

photo of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington in graduation robes

University College Dublin MA degree? . Stanley, photographer, 1902. Loretta Clarke Murray Collection (MS2016.016), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Johanna “Hanna” Sheehy Skeffington, a champion of Irish feminism, an active advanced nationalist, and a socialist, was born in County Cork in 1877. She was the oldest child of  Elizabeth (Bessie) Sheehy and David Sheehy, a mill owner, member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and, eventually, nationalist MP (Member of Parliament). In 1887, the family settled  in Dublin, where Hanna attended the Dominican Convent on Eccles Street before leaving  for Europe in 1895 in an effort to recover from early stage tuberculosis. In that same year, Hanna won a scholarship to the Dominican St. Mary’s College. In 1899, she graduated with honors from the Royal University of Ireland, earning a BA in Modern languages and an MA in 1902.

After graduation, Hanna worked part-time as a teacher for the Dominicans on Eccles Street and, in 1903, married Francis (Frank) Skeffington. She and Frank both held strong beliefs about feminism and gender equality, and thus took one another’s last names.

Hanna was active in co-founding the Women Graduates’ and Candidate Graduates’ Association and the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL). In 1912, she was imprisoned with other IWFL women for smashing government building windows. She was also a founding member of  the Irish Women Workers Union.

Photo of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (left), Irish Women's Franchise League Rally.

Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (left), Irish Women’s Franchise League Rally. Unknown photographer.

Hanna and Frank, with fellow suffragist James Cousins, co-founded the feminist newspaper, The Irish Citizen, in May, 1912, and, by 1913, the Sheehy Skeffingtons held sole proprietorship.

Though a nationalist, Hanna did not join  Inghinidhe na hEireann or Cumann na mBan. She believed that nationalist women were relegated to a lower position than men in the movement, and thought that the fight for the vote was of utmost importance. She did, however, support the the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, as they had included language about equality for women and men in their Proclamation. On Easter Monday, she delivered food and supplies to those rebels who held the General Post Office, but did not participate in any military activity due to her ardent pacifism.

Frank attempted to organize a militia to stop looting during the Rising, but was arrested and executed without trial. Shortly thereafter, Hanna toured the United States to raise awareness of the situation in Ireland. Due to her well-known activism, she was able to secure a meeting with President Woodrow Wilson and impress upon him the need for Irish independence. A version of a major speech she gave was published in New York under the title British Militarism as I Have Known It and the publication was banned in the United Kingdom.

Like many other activist women featured in the Irish Women Rising series of blog posts, Hanna remained politically active despite the hardship of losing her husband during  the Rising. Hanna became a member of the political party Sinn Féin in 1918, and successfully ran for office in 1920. She served on  the Dublin Corporation (now Dublin City Council), and aligned herself with Éamon de Valera in opposing the Anglo-Irish treaty. She later criticized his policies for restricting women’s rights and freedoms.

Hanna never received a pension, supported herself through teaching and writing, and continued her activism and journalism until she died in 1946.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library
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These are a few of our favorite things…

Special Collections Matchmaking InviteHave you always wondered just what is at the Burns Library that makes it so special? Do you wish that someone at Burns would just show you something they love? On Tuesday, February 15, 2017 – when love was still in the air – Burns Library Staff picked beloved items from the collections and played matchmakers, introducing Boston College Libraries staff to a wide array of special collections items in short, three-minute sessions. It was a diverse group of things almost as unique as the Burns staff: from Dante to Spiderman, whale teeth to beard hair, and canned fan mail responses to record carrying cases. Visitor turnout was high, and Burns staff enjoyed the chance to share the items they love and demonstrate a little bit more about why we love them.

The Boston College Libraries Employee Growth Group (EGG) co-sponsored this event.

Below is a sampling of the well-loved items selected, information on why the staff chose them, and search strategies to help you discover more about these items or similar items.

Lynn Moulton (Processing Archivist): St. Elizabeth’s Hospital School of Nursing collection

img_0156-1I chose a St. Elizabeth’s Hospital School of Nursing “cupcake” style nursing cap, complete with hatbox, for the recent matchmaking event. In processing the St. Elizabeth’s records (MS.2000.018B), I saw much of substance, as well as of charm. Their records include a complete run of yearbooks and graduation programs, many course descriptions, faculty committee minutes, and photographs of student life, but, for me, there was something about this little pleated and starched cap that really evoked the care that the students took in their attire and in their training. The careful preservation of this one cap, with the color of its velvet ribbon showing that its owner had achieved graduate status, made the pride the students felt on completing their rigorous training tangible for me.

  • Tip: Learn all about the nurses at St. E’s School of Nursing through the finding aid
  • Tip: Find other nursing collections at the Burns Library through an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Local Collection Name,” and entering “nursing” as your search term.

Christian Dupont (Burns Librarian & Associate University Librarian, Burns Library): Dante’s Divine Comedy

dante2I selfishly chose a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy as a representative “old book” to see whether I might find other readers of Dante in the BC Libraries. A couple people said that they had read a bit of Dante at one time or another, but only one got into a sustained conversation with me about him. This person followed up with me afterwards, allowing us to compare translations, and provided me with the names of two BC professors who taught and published on Dante.

  • Tip: Compare editions of Divina commedia at the Burns Library through an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Title” and entering “Divina commedia.” Then change the search scope (lower right) from “BC Collections” to “Burns Library.”

Katherine Fox (Head Librarian, Public Services & Engagement)Anansi Company

anansi3I have loved the 13 unique, screen-printed and wire puppets from this artist’s book since I first discovered them soon after arriving at Burns Library. Not many people realize the strength of the Caribbean related material at Burns, and this piece adds a new dimension to them. In fact, the poetry by Roy Risher is based upon a title we have in the collections: Walter Jekyll’s Jamaican Song and Story, 1907.  I find it fascinating that this story of a trickster spider moved from West Africa to the Caribbean to a Caribbean neighborhood of London, where this  fine press just happens to be located.

  • Tip: Find more fine print book at the Burns Library through an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Local Collection Name,” and entering “fine print” as your search term.
  • Tip: Find more Caribbean related material through an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Local Collection Name,” and entering “Williams” as your search term.
  • Tip: Must see the puppets again? Do an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Title” and entering “Anansi Company: A Collection of Thirteen Hand-Made Wire and Card Rod-Puppets Animated in Colour and Verse.” This is a unique piece, so you don’t have to change the search scope (lower right) from “BC Collections” to “Burns Library,” but you could.

Shelley Barber (Reference & Archives Specialist): John Boyle O’Reilly Papers


To John A. McGowan, son of Father’s old friend, this whale’s tooth brought ashore by Father when he landed from the bark “Gazelle.” Mary Boyle O’Reilly, 1928

I chose the souvenir of a daring adventure that connects to the history of both Ireland and Boston. Among the “papers” of John Boyle O’Reilly at the Burns Library is the tooth of a sperm whale. An Irish nationalist, O’Reilly (1844-1890) was arrested and imprisoned by the British and transported to Australia’s Fremantle Prison from which he escaped with the assistance of a local Catholic priest in 1869. The Gazelle was the New Bedford whaling vessel that rescued O’Reilly off the coast of Australia. After his escape, he came to the United States and settled in Boston, where he became the editor of the Boston Pilot and a well-known author, sportsman, poet, and lecturer.

  • Tip: Must see the whale tooth again? Do an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Title” and entering “John Boyle O’Reilly papers.” This is a unique piece, so you don’t have to change the search scope (lower right) from “BC Collections” to “Burns Library,” but you could.

Kathleen  Williams (Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies):  The Tain (Táin bó Cúailnge)

lebrocquy2I chose this special edition of Táin bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) because I love dipping into the mythological tales that seem to spring from the mists of the distant past. The tale, which scholars date to the 8th or 9th century, is translated here by the poet Thomas Kinsella to portray the characters as they might have been in that distant past. It features King Conor, his hero Cuchulainn (the Hound of Ulster), and the invasion of Ulster by Queen Medb of Connaught in an attempt to capture the brown bull of Cualaigne. I love that the artist, Louis le Brocquy, impressed upon my mind the characters and scenes of fantastic feats, bloody battles, spells, curses, and mythical creatures in unforgettable, stark, black and white brush drawings. Lastly, I love that publisher, Liam Miller of Dolmen Press, fused all of these elements to produce a remarkable book!

  • Tip: How do I see more illustrations like in The Tain? Do an advanced search by entering Louis Le Brocquy” in the “Anywhere in record,” then change the search scope (lower right) from “BC Collections” to “Burns Library” or “Bapst Library.”
  • Tip: To compare editions of Táin bó Cúailnge at the Burns Library, do an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Title” and entering “Táin bó Cúailnge.” Then change the search scope (lower right) from “BC Collections” to “Burns Library.”
  • Tip: Find more Dolmen Press books at the Burns Library through an advanced search by changing “Anywhere in record” to “Local Collection Name,” and entering “dolmen press” as your search term.

Amy Braitsch (Head Archivist): Graham Greene Papers

Ray Bradbury's SignatureThe correspondence between Ray Bradbury and Graham Greene found in the Graham Greene papers has always thrilled me, and, so, they were my selection. They are a single file of 11 letters (box 12, folder 48) in a collection that includes thousands of letters exchanged by Greene with many interesting and notable people. Most of these letters are by Bradbury, who begins the correspondence in 1979 exuberantly thanking Greene “for being my companion in writing, my helper, and my introducer to Carol [Reed]” and begs for Greene to write “another novel, please! or, God, more stories!” Their exchange continues pleasantly over years, with each seemingly interested in the other’s writing and whereabouts, but never connecting for a face-to-face visit despite their overlapping worlds of fiction and film. Bradbury’s lively letters are on his unusual stationary and include his large, legible signature; in contrast, Greene’s letters are faint carbon copies that lack personality and make him seem less present. I love the physicality and dichotomy of these letters — each typewritten and corrected, with ink or tape; one set so “real,” and the other a mechanical shadow.

Do you have a favorite thing at Burns? What is it? Let us know, and we can help you find more material related to it.


Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, Fine Press, Irish Studies, Rare books, Staff Posts | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Irish Women Rising: Margaret Skinnider (1893-1971)


Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Doing My Bit for Ireland. NY: Century, 1921.

The New York Times called  Margaret Skinnider “the schoolteacher turned sniper,” which was both a testament and a slight to her remarkable life. Born to Irish parents in Scotland, she spent summers in the countryside of County Monaghan as a child , and it was there that she noticed the disparity between the wealthy Anglo-Irish, who held authority in most instances, and the poorer Irish living side by side with them. The need for radical action was very clear to Skinnider by the early 1900’s.

While she worked as a math teacher in Glasgow, Skinnider joined the Irish Volunteers and the Glasgow branch of Cumann na mBan (the Women’s Council). Skinnider was a feminist and nationalist who did not hesitate to embrace roles traditionally defined as masculine. Word of her skill as a markswoman and of her affiliation with radical nationalist organizations reached Constance Markievicz who invited Skinnider to visit her in Dublin. They became close friends, engaging in shooting practice in the Dublin Hills, and Skinnider always referred to the Countess as “Madam.”  


Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Doing My Bit for Ireland. NY: Century, 1921.

When Madam suggested visits to museums and galleries, Skinnider expressed her desire to see the very poorest part of the city instead. Upon visiting the Ash St. section of Dublin, Skinnider saw the once beautiful old mansions that had belonged to Dublin’s well-to-do.  These residences, where many families huddled together in one room, now stood as witnesses to and ugly evidence of the destitution that plagued many unskilled workers and the countless unemployed.

In support of the Rebellion, Skinnider used at least one of her frequent trips to Ireland to smuggle detonators and bomb-making material for nationalist causes:

In my hat I was carrying to Ireland detonators for bombs, and the wires were wrapped around me under my coat.”

Not surprisingly, Skinnider was one of the most active female participants in the Easter Rising. She served with the St. Stephen’s Green contingent under Michael Mallin and her friend, Madam Markievicz, who was second in command. According to the Proclamation published by the leaders of the rebellion, women were equal to men—fact Skinnider reminded Commander Mallin of when he stopped her from throwing a bomb. She argued that women have as much right to risk their lives as men. In fact, Skinnider did risk her life and suffered the worst injury of any woman during the conflict. She took three bullets, and spent seven weeks recovering in the hospital. Arrested for her actions, she spent no time in jail due to the intervention of the hospital’s head doctor.


Photograph of Margaret Skinnider from Connolly, Thomas J. History of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization, 1868 – 1968. Dublin: Irish National Teachers’ Organization 1968

Skinnider continued her lifelong dedication to Ireland, labor, and feminism after the uprising. She taught in the Irish Sisters of Mercy school in Dublin until 1961. Active in the Irish National Schools Teachers Organization, she lobbied for equal pay and status for women teachers, and served as its president during the 1960s.

  • Kathleen Williams,  Senior Reference Librarian, Bibliographer for Irish Studies, John J. Burns Library
  • Michael Bailey,  Student Assistant to Kathleen Williams and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History

Works Consulted:

Sadibh Walshe, “The Sisterhood of the Easter Rising,” New York Times, March 16, 2016

Skinnider, Margaret, Doing My Bit for Ireland, New York: The Century Company, 1917

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Exhibits & Events, Irish Studies, Staff Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

Would you rather be knowledgeable on a variety of topics, or an expert on just one topic? Today’s emphasis on academic specialization supports the latter—we rarely encounter someone with multiple PhDs in unrelated fields. Rarely do we go beyond the question or suggest the obvious third option: what if we could be an expert in a range of disciplines?

Modern academic world, meet Athanasius Kircher.

Portrait of Athanasius Kircher

Portrait of Athanasius Kircher, Mundus Subterraneus. Amstelodami : Apud Joannem Janssonium & Elizeum Weyerstraten anno MDCLXV. Q155 .K58 1665 Jesuitica, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Kircher, a Jesuit priest of the German Enlightenment, has been referred to as “The Last Man Who Knew Everything” for attempting to be a polymathic scholar. Kircher published nearly 40 works on a diverse range of subjects, from linguistics and Egyptology to geology and medicine. Despite his powerful resume, however, history has forgotten him for one simple reason: Kircher was wrong about almost everything.

Kircher dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge. Kircher was born in 1602 in Fulda (now Hesse), Germany. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1628, and taught in Germany before fleeing from the Thirty Years War to Rome in 1630. Kircher taught at the Collegio Romano until granted full leave to study, experiment, and write. He remained in Rome for the rest of his life. Upon his death in 1680, Kircher’s heart was buried in Santuario della Mentorella, a church which he helped renovate earlier in his life.

Kircher is infamous for firmly defending outlandish claims. Kircher did not just posit ideas recklessly, he often pursued them recklessly. Kircher once lowered himself into a just-erupted Mount Vesuvius to better understand the inner workings of volcanoes. Albeit a bit dramatic, Kircher’s dedication to the hidden systems of geology produced one of his more famous (though fanciful) diagrams of the earth.

Illustration from Mundus Subterraneus.

Illustration from Mundus Subterraneus. Amstelodami : Apud Joannem Janssonium & Elizeum Weyerstraten anno MDCLXV. Q155 .K58 1655 Jesuitica, John J. Burns Library, Boston College


A depiction of the Sunflower Clock, Magnes Sive de Arte Magnetica. Coloniae Aggrippinae; Apud lodocvm Kalcoven, 1643. Print. QC751 .K58 1643 Jesuitica Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

In addition to risking bodily harm for science, Kircher also attempted seemingly nonsensical experiments. For such an example, we need look no further than his legendary sunflower clock. In his work Magnes Sive de Arte Magnetica (1641), Kircher proposed that a plant’s attraction to the sun mimics a magnet’s attraction to its polar charge. Using this theory, a sunflower placed in water should follow the course of the sun throughout the day, thus acting as a rather accurate sundial.

As it turns out, Kircher’s sunflower clock is not a workable design. This seems not to matter; many other scientists attempted to reproduce this experiment, opening additional inquiries into the idea of magnetism and, for Kircher’s contemporaries, a heliocentric world.  This may be exactly what Kircher intended—rather than attempt a truly workable sunflower clock, Kircher might instead have wanted to show the potential of scientific imagination and inquiry.

Kircher’s imagination did not stop at the boundaries of science. His interest in history and linguistics led him to the field of Egyptology, which before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone remained virtually indecipherable. Kircher thought Egyptian society fiercely important to European culture, and so doggedly studied and promoted it. He attempted to develop a key to hieroglyphics. In one of his more famous blunders on this topic, Kircher mistakenly translated one text as “The treachery of Typhon ends at the throne of Isis; the moisture of nature is guarded by the vigilance of Anubis.” We now know it to mean simply “Osiris says.” His work in this area–however inaccurate–began the academic study of Egyptian society and today Kircher is widely considered the Father of Egyptology.

Illustration of Bembine Tablet

Center of Bembine Tablet, on which Kircher based his interpretation of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Oedipus Aegyptiacus. Romae : Ex typographia Vitalis Mascardi MDCLII-MDCLIV. PJ1093 .K564 1652 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

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Posted in Jesuitica, Rare books, Student Posts | Tagged | 1 Comment