We use cookies to improve your experience online. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our cookies policy.

As restrictions ease, the number of visitors to the RA is increasing. Find out what plans are in place to make your visit safe and comfortable.

Athanasii Kircher E Soc. Iesu Turris Babel, Sive Archontologia Qua Primo Priscorum post diluvium hominum vita, mores rerumque gestarum magnitudo, Secundo Turris fabrica civitatumque exstructio, confusio linguarum, & inde gentium transmigrationis, cum principalium inde enatorum idiomatum historia, multiplici eruditione describuntur & explicantur. Auspiciis Augustissimi & Sapientissimi Cæsaris Leopoldi Primi Mecænatis.

Athanasius Kircher

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Turris Babel


Amstelodami,: Ex Officina Janssonio-Waesbergiana., Anno MDCLXXIX. Cum Privilegiis.

Physical Description

[14], 219, [13] p., frontis., [12] pl. (1 dble., 8 fold.): illus.; 394 mm. (Quarto).

General Note

The double plate (showing two views) is printed from two coppers.


[Frontis., t.p., imprimatur, dedic.] - Index Capitum - [Text, with pl.] - Index Rerum.

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece is signed as drawn by G. Laires and engraved by I.V. Munnichuysen. Most plates are unsigned, but two are signed as designed and made by C. Decker, and one as drawn by Liv. Creyl and made by C. Decker.

The work is dedicated by the author to Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor.


I.D. Rowland, The Ecstatic Journey: Athanasius Kircher in Baroque Rome [exhibition catalogue] (2000); O. Hein, Die Drucker und Verleger der Werke des Polyhistors Athanasius Kircher (1993). J. Godwin, Athanasius Kircher: a Renaissance man and the quest for lost knowledge ( 1979); J. Fletcher, Athanasius Kircher and the distribution of his books (1968).

Summary Note

The title page and one plate carry the date 1679; one plate carries an earlier date (1670).

Earlier Kircher had published on many subjects, especially Egyptian hieroglyphics and Coptic. In this, his last publication he takes the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis XI) as the basis for an investigation of ancient history and the possibility of a primeval, universal language. He is also concerned with human ingenuity as revealed in technical advances. As for 'Those careerists ambitious for glory by building vain buildings' they 'ought to work at building churches [...] hospices [...] colleges. And these are not Towers of Nimrod, but the creations of pious minds'. Kircher's treatise makes use of Pietro della Valle's reports of explorations among the ruins of Babylon.

The plates show: [1] a map of Mt Ararat; [2] the Tower of Babel; [3] plan of Nineveh; [4] Babylonian tower; [5] imaginary view of Babylon; [6] reconstruction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; [7] signs of the zodiac; [8] Egyptian labyrinth; [9] two views of ruins of the Tower of Babel; [10] city of Nimrod; [11] tree of genealogy of Noah; [12] Nimrod. L. Cruyl and C. Decker's engraving of the Tower of Babel is regarded as one of the best images executed for any of Kircher's books.


Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Binding Note

18th-century sprinkled calf; gilt-decorated spine, red morocco spine-label lettered 'Kircher Turris Babel'.


Bible., O.T., Genesis.
Linguistics - Middle East - History - Babel, Tower of
Pictorial works - Netherlands - 17th century