on 7 March 2012
I found the only other review grossly unfair: this item costs practically nothing and is full of (often full-page) reproductions of Kircher's impossible to find works: worth the cover price for that alone (indeed, the text of this slim volume is dispensible - in line with the rest of this T&H series - , but let's be honest, so are Kircher's own...! See his 'translation' of the hieroglyphic inscription for proof of the point....)
I also found pointless the other reviewer's going into the author's background for this lightweight but fun publication - who cares about his academic credentials??! Open your eyes, look at the illustrations, get enlightened, and stop complaining!
on 8 March 2009
Joscelyn Goodwin recently made a serious contribution to mediaeval studies with his translation of Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. However, that was a high point in a career which has included some, let's say, dubious publications which drifted into the realms of rosicrucian esoteric fantasy - exactly the kind of thing the Realists warned about in the twelfth century. This 1979 work is most certainly of that period, and is desperately out of date in the light of more recent studies.
Kircher is a huge subject, particularly as a Jesuit pivotal in the Vatican during the crystallisation of the debate between faith and science at the start of the 17th Century which continues to this day - I write this on the day the Vatican's conference on Darwin breaks up.
This book addresses only certain aspects of his work of interest to a theosopher, and does not present in any way a balanced viewpoint of his work. Indeed, its lightweightness - eight chapters, each of about two pages followed by a huge amount of graphical reproductions - does his subject a gross disservice. Even as a Theosophical thesis, it is lightweight, being not much more than a post-facto justification of a highly contentious thesis (in other words, a circular argument using anachronical interpretations), given Kircher's determined Jesuitical creed: he was making what light he could of unverifiable traditions.
There are other and much better works on the subject.
Permit me to expand a little on Godwin's professional skills: he is Associate Professor of Music at Colgate University, New York. One would therefore have presumed he is aware of the work of Craig Wright, Yale's Professor of the History of Music, and in particular on his 2004 The Maze and the Warrior, a study of the place of music in relation to the other elements of the quadrivium academic structure Kirchner was working to, which provides a vision of the roots from which the more esoteric aspects of the Enlightenment would grow. That alone should have driven Godwin to rewrite that part of this work, yet he has not done so: he presents an eighteenth-century viewpoint which is completely anachronistic. That disqualifies this work as a serious piece of modern history.