May 2018: Jesuit-Related Papers at Scientiae conference

The annual Scientiae conference, held this year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, takes place from May 16-18, 2018. Keynote addresses for this conference dedicated to “disciplines of knowing in the early modern world” will be delivered by Surekha Davies (Western Connecticut State University) and Vladimir Urbanek (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic).


More details about the conference are available online. Selected papers in the field of Jesuit Studies appear below.



— Panel: Interdisciplinary aspects of Athanasius Kircher’s Encyclopaedia of Music Musurgia
Universalis (1650)

Even though the two-volume encyclopaedia of music Musurgia Universalis by the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) appeared in Rome in 1650 (half a century into the baroque era), being as it is a compendium of theory and history of music, it draws heavily on the theories, practices and perspectives on music of previous periods, mainly the renaissance. So much so, that it might arguably be viewed as a summary these views on music during the late renaissance rather than of the early baroque, written at the end of that era and just after the conclusion of both the lives and oeuvre of the greatest exponents
of the style.

The research group “Artes y Modelos de Pensamiento” (“Arts and Models of Thought”) of the Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia) has been researching on the book since March
2016, and wishes to share with the international academic community a few of its findings so far. The papers presented will include:

— Johann F.W. Hasler, The research group “Artes y Modelos de Pensamiento” of the Universidad de Antioquia (Colombia) and its research project on the appearances of musical notation in the Musurgia Universalis

— Juan Camilo Toro & Hasler (as co-author), “Proto-zoomusicology” in the XVIIth century? Birdsong and other proposed ‘musics of Nature’ of both the Old and New Worlds, as reported in the Musurgia Universalis.

— David Gaviria Piedrahíta & Hasler (as coauthor), “Proto-ethnomusicology” in the XVIIth century? Approaches to extra-European musics in the Musurgia Universalis.

— Susana Gómez Castaño & Hasler (as coauthor), Early computer music in the XVIIth century? Automatic and randomly generated music in the Musurgia Universalis.


— Elisa Frei (Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, Boston College), “He studies Mathematics, because he heard it can be of use there”: The motivations behind Jesuit petitions for Chinese missionary assignments (17th-18th centuries)

The Society of Jesus—established by Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Paul III in 1540—was initially intended to engage in priestly evangelization and apostolic ministry. This apostolic work benefited from close relations with the Spanish and Portuguese empire, providing the crowns with capable and devoted missionaries and allowing Jesuits to travel to almost any corner of the world. The Eastern Indies were one of the Jesuits’ most distant and exotic destinations. The motives behind these missionary vocations are found in the Litterae indipetae, the voluntary petitions European Jesuits wrote to their leadership in Rome requesting assignments abroad. Members from the Italian provinces alone submitted more than 1,500 such letters between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Competition for missionary assignments, especially in the Indies, was fierce, and the candidates employed multiple strategies in their indipetae. As it has been extensively studied, Jesuits at China’s Qing court were desired for their work as astronomers, scientists, cartographers, and translators. It was in stressing their mathematical proficiency that some indipeti writers most sought to distance themselves from their rival applicants and to receive their superior’s permission to be sent abroad. This paper aims to follow the careers of two Italian Jesuits asking for a Chinese assignment, who underlined their mathematical skills. We will see how the Roman Ludovico Gonzaga and the Sicilian Antonino Porzio had a similar approach but different results, because Mathematics was only one of the influential factors of a candidacy for the Eastern Indies.


— Svorad Zavarský (Slovak Academy of Sciences), Observatio in the thought and practice of Martinus Szent-Ivany SJ (1633-1705)

In his De scientiis in genere, the Central European Jesuit polymath Martinus Szent-Ivany proposed his own version of the universal method of knowledge acquisition which, consisting of six parts or “sources”, took its point of departure from the practice of observation. In this, his immediate model seems to have been his fellow Jesuit Sebastián Izquierdo who too considered observation to be the first “instrument of knowing” (Pharus scientiarum, Disp. 24). Szent-Ivany’s works, non-theological and theological alike, provide us with ample material for exploring his use of the intellectual tool of observation: his Curiosiora et selectiora variarum scientiarum miscellanea (1689-1709) contain twenty “hundreds” of observations (centuriae observationum), of which those on plants are, interestingly, almost wholly excerpted from Francis Bacon’s Sylva sylvarum. Besides that, observationes form part of many of his dissertations included in the Curiosiora miscellanea, of which one, entitled Rectus modus interpretandi Scripturam Sacram (1696), is an assemblage of more than five hundred observations simply following one another. A case apart is Szent-Ivany’s use of observation in his polemical theological treatises where it serves the purpose of defining the adversary and his strategies. Thus we can explore the character of Szent-Ivany’s observation in a broad spectrum of texts and from different perspectives. Particularly intriguing will be to consider his intrumentalization of observatio in relation to the other “sources” of his method—axioms, analysis, and analogy—with which it often overlaps. Aiming to make a contribution to the understanding of the early modern notion of observatio, this paper will examine Szent-Ivany’s practice in the light of Izquierdo’s elaborate theory.


— Francisco Malta Romeiras (Universidade de Lisboa), Putting the Indexes into Practice: A Bibliographical Analysis of Prohibited Books
The most elemental issues regarding the censorship of scientific books in Portugal have been overlooked in the past decades. By using an innovative bibliographical approach in the analysis of ca. 200 prohibited books of medicine, natural philosophy and natural history in the collections of the Portuguese National Library, this paper will shed some light into the differences between what was written in the Indexes of Forbidden Books and what was effectively put in to practice. This paper will also provide an original typology of censures that can be replicated in the study of other collections of expurgated books.