Author: Noël Golvers
Part ofCoimbra Between Science and Education (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: December, 16th, 2022
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7447787

The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Nöel Golvers, “König (Reis/Reys), Johann (João dos)”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.7447787”, URL = “”, latest revision: December, 16th, 2022.

Life and Works

Born 1639 in Solothurn (Lat. Salodurum / Solodurum; Switzerland), Johann König entered the novitiate of Landsberg /Lech in 1657 (cf. Cat. 1us Prov. Germaniae Superioris anni 1658: Germ. Sup. 24: p. 62 n. 59). In 1660 – 1663, König studied philosophy in Ingolstadt (Catalogues not preserved), and he acquired his “magisterium” in 1663 – 1667 in the colleges of Constance and Dillingen (Strobel 2001). This period was followed in 1667 – 1671 by the usual four years of Theology (1667-1668; 1668-1669; 1669-1670; 1670-1671) in Ingolstadt: “Joannes König / Soloduran(us) Helvetus Lausanen(sis) / Aetas: 1659 April. / Vires: Bonae / Tempus Soc.tis 1657 28 Sept. / Tempus Studior. Phil. 3, Theol. 2 / Ministeria: Gramm. 2 Poes. 2) (cf. Cat. 1us Coll. Ingolstad., 1669: Germ.Sup. 25, p. 47, n° 57). In the same period (1666/7 to December 1671), Adam Aigenler was in the same college professor of mathematics, and applied in 1665, 1666 and 1671 for the China mission (see Golvers 2019). This simultaneity suggests, although it cannot be documented, that König was influenced in his choice by Aigenler. Anyway, in 1669 König as well applied for the first time for the China mission. In 1671 he was ordained priest in Eichstätt. In 1672 – 1675 he taught during 3 years mathematics and Hebrew in (Alt-)Oettingen and Munich, acting also as ‘subminister’ in the latter (Cat. Brevis 1673-1674: Germ.Sup.47c, f° 23); see further the Cat. 1us et 2us 1672 Domus Oetinganae: Germ. Sup., 25, p. 94  = f. 226v., n° 1 “(aetas: 28 April); Tempus Stud. Phil. 3 Theol. 4; Ministeria: Officium Coadiuvii (?), Gramm. 2 Hum. 2”; the Cat. 1us et 2us 1675. Monacensis Collegii, ibid., p. 75  = f. 341r., n° 3: “(…) Minist.: Gramm. 2; Human. 2; L(o)g(ica)m 2 Subminst. 3; Gradus in Soc.: Profess. 4 vot 1675, 2 Febr.”. All this was in 1675 – 1676 followed by one year of teaching mathematics and Hebrew in Dillingen (Fischer1983:171, apparently on the basis of Fondo Gesuitico, Germ. Sup. 25, n° 141: “Doceo modo mathesim et S(acram) linguam in Academia Dilingana, privatis iuxta studiis Fidei Controversiis operam navans”). König taught in 1676 – 1677 in Freiburg i. Breisgau, and in 1677 – 1680 controversies in Luzern (cf. Cat. Brevis 1677-1678, in Germ. Sup. 47c, f° 71: “Lucernae”). During his period as a mathematical teacher, he published a series of textbooks (see complete titles below), viz: (1) Orbis Cosmographicus (1676), of which a copy is now in the library of Ajuda (39-I-52, with provenance from: “Livraria publica de S. Antão de Lixboa’), and (2) Elementaris Institutio Mathematica sive Rudis Delineatio Sphaerae, in Alma Catholica et Episcopali Universitate Dilingana Publicae Disputationi Proposita Praeside P. Joanne König, S.J., Dilingae, 1676 (copy in BNP S.A. 2425 P, from the Colégio da Vila Nova  de Portimão). In addition, there are three titles mentioned in Sommervogel on cosmography and geography, published before 1680:  Vestigia Mathematica, (bound with) Vestigium Astronomicum, (bound with) Vestigium Cometo-Graphicum, (bound with) Vestigium Geographicum. A printed copy of the Vestigia (presented online) has the year 1679 (copy now in the Narodni knihova in Prague [shelf mark; 14 L 24], with the original library inscription: “Domûs Prof(essae) Soc(ietatis) Iesu Micro-Pragae 1701 catalogo inscriptus”. As was expected, König appears in his published writings as an anti-Copernican: see in his Vestigia (…), statements like: “Universi centrum terra occupat”; “adversarii Copernicaei”; “repudiandum omnino est systema oppositum (Scripturae) Copernici, qui solem immobilem posuit in centro terrae (sic)” (p. 18); on p. 51 in his Vestigium geometricum, 1679: “Tellus medium obtinet universi physicè”. With regard to his missionary vocation: his 9 Litterae Indipetae, written between 1669 and 1681 unexpectedly show almost no reference to his mathematical skills as an argument – although this particular experience was often used as an aspect of recommendation to support the application – and a great mobility among the German colleges (cf. ARSI, FoGes. 754: no. 58 of 28 VIII 1669, from Ingolstadt; no. 79 of 20 XI 1671, from Oettingen; no. 85 of 20.4.1671, from Ingolstadt); no. 86 of 28.10.1671, again from Oettingen; no. 88 of 11.8.1671, from Ingolstadt; no. 113 of 27.6.1673, from  Rothenburg / Tauer; no. 141 of 15.4.1676, from Dillingen; no. 222 of 28.11.1680, from Mindelheim; no. 228 of 20.5.1681, written on his way to Cologne and Lisbon, after having received the explicit commitment to go ‘Conimbricam pro docenda mathesi”, a commitment he had accepted “pacatissimo et promptissimo animo”. This was apparently on the request of King Pedro II (1648 – 1706). He arrived as an Indipeta in Lisbon on 10.02.1682. General Charles De Noyelle – as always particularly concerned about the precarious position of mathematical courses in the Jesuit colleges of the Provincia Lusitana – ordered him to go to Coimbra to teach mathematics; here is the original of the letter:

Gratulamur R.Va(e) nuperum in Lusitaniam appulsum, quo tandem diu exoptata et expectata pervenit (…). De profectione Conimbricam mature adornanda ex Imperio Ser.mi Principis disponat se atque accingat et praeparet ad profitendam publice in celeberrima Conimbricensi Academia scientiam astronomicam, quod R.Va fausto omine et regis numine exequatur. Porro ad hunc finem studiumque accendendae Lusitaniae iuventutis ad amplectandas mathematicas approbamus, quas intendit praelodare ac tueri publicas theses aut positiones de rebus mathematicis, nec facultas ad id  nostra indiget R.Va, cum in more ubique sit in nostris studiis (…). Quod spectat ad typis edendum  Com(m)entarium deu lucubrationem mathematicam recte negavit P(ater) Provincialis Lusitaniae posse id fieri sine licentia Praepositi Generalis, quam nos libenter pro hac vice facimus RVae, ac in posterum, si quidpiam hac in re velit in lucem dare aut typis exsrare oportebit in hoc genere ut prius decreta Congregationum Generalium morumque Societatis rite ac sedulo observet et facturam confidemus RVam. 10 Febr. 1682 (Lus. 34, f. 77r.).

The letter is particularly interesting, as it shows König arrived in Coimbra with an entire didactical strategy, not only of teaching courses, but also of preparing theses to be presented by his future students, and a programme of publication, for which he got in advance the full support of the General. König arrived in Coimbra in (early) 1682. Since that moment he was teaching at the Universidade (“Academia”) de Coimbra, and also in the Colégio (according to the provincial Catalogi). His instruction – in March 1684 confirmed by a letter of Provincial João de Seixas (Lus. 34, f. 131v.) – lasted until 1685/6. On this moment König had repeated his request to be sent to China, but the Provincial doubted, whether Pedro II would agree and would give him the permission to leave Coimbra. This did indeed not happen. For recognizing the contents of his instruction, there is no direct evidence. His aforementioned publications in Freiburg i. Br. may probably offer a hint, and suggesting that also ‘geography’ – in its theoretical (mathematical) and practical aspect – was an integral part of it. Another indication may be seen in the books and instruments he ordered – through the university authorities and logistic services, the ‘Caza da Fazenda’, and the Colégio’s Rector Paulo Mendes in 1683 – in England (‘mandou vir de Inglaterra alguns instromentos Mathematicos e livros de mathematica”). As for England as the country of acquisition from Coimbra of these ‘novelties’, this aspect is waiting for further investigation. The documents themselves, regarding this book order were published by Lopes de Almeida (1945), and refer to the instruments and books, as follows. As the instruments are concerned referring to König’s own practice but also to his practical courses – they consisted of instruments for navigation, observation and medical care: terrestrial and celestial globe; two ‘oculos’, or spectacles; uma ‘pedra de Sevar’ ( = bezoar?); ‘hum espelho…de largura de hum palmo’, a mirror; ‘2 agulha de marear’ or compass needles used for the navigation; ‘hum estojo com dous compassos’, or a box to keep two compasses; ‘4 laminas de cobre…da grandeza de palmo’. The books were: Claude François Milliet de Challes, Mundus, seu Cursus Mathematicus, 1st ed. 1674; Gaspar Schottus, Cursus mathematicus, 1st ed. 1661; Giovanbattista Riccioli, Astronomia reformata, 1st ed. 1665; and Athanasius Kircher, Itinerarium Exstaticum (1st ed. 1656-57; later ed. 1657 – 1660). These titles – which were rather recent on the moment of König’s order – not unexpectedly represent an exclusively Jesuit profile. Two of these items (DeChalles and Gaspar Schottus) were comprehensive courses of Jesuit mathematics. DeChalles was already extensively quoted by Antoine Thomas, König’s predecessor in the second volume of his Synopsis Mathematica (Douai, 1685). On the contrary, Gaspar Schottus (1608-1666), the previous assistant of Athanasius Kircher in Rome – was lacking in the textbook of the ‘France-bound’ Thomas, but was especially used in Jesuit colleges in the Provincia Germania (Superior) and therefore a natural desideratum of König, himself ‘product’ and colleague from the same German colleges, as above mentioned. Also Riccioli’s Astronomia Reformata was a chief book of (Jesuit) astronomy, while the Itinerarium Exstaticum by Kircher – another coryphée of Jesuit learning – describes a ‘phantastic’ journey through the cosmos, presented in the form of a classic ‘somnium’, and reflecting Tychonic cosmology (see Cosgrove 2001, and Glomski 2015). Both books and instruments were, after their arrival, temporarily stocked in the ‘Caza da Fazenda’ of the university, to be handed over to Paulo Mendes, the Rector of the Colégio and to João König. This explicit reference proves that König’s mathematical instruction was not limited to the ‘Academia’, but concerned also the Jesuit Colégio: the transmission took place, in spite of some obstruction from the Rector for medical and financial reasons. As I shall explain in my forthcoming publication in the Festschrift à l’honneur de Chantal Grell, one of these four titles were mentioned in the 1766 inventory of mathematical books of the Colégio’s Biblioteca Publica: therefore they were more probably left – after his departure from Coimbra – in the ‘livraria do Cubicolo do Mestre da Mathematica”. Finally, with regard to the contents of his courses, Antonio Carvalho da Costa (1650 —1715) confirms that also the art of perspective and painting were part of his competencies. In the Prologo of his Corografia portugueza, Costa (1706) writes:

O Padre João dos Reys da Companhia de Jesus, Alemão, bom mathematico, e insigne na perspectiva e pintura, delineou a topografia de Portugal com todo o acerto, e desejaramos poder unir estas plantas com as nossas descripções, para que não ficàra que desejar  aos curiozos o que gozemos, podendo-o consequir, se esta obra for bem aceita, na segunda impressão, como tambem alguns mappas com mais exacção q. os que se tem impresso”.

König’s pictorial talent may have been also at the origin of his involvement in the production, in 1687 (?),  of Reaes aparatos e obras que se ficeram em Lisboa na occasiam da entrada e dos desposorios de suas majestadaes, a manuscript of which the Latin title refers to “depicta et repraesentata manu et penicillo P. Joannis a Regibus, S.J., potentissimi regis Lusitaniae mathematici” (ms. now in BNP A.T / L 317, from the private library of the Condes de Tarouca). It consists of drawings and four aquarelles, representing the triumph archs artificial fire etc., at the occasion of the arrival of D. Maria Sofia de Neuburg to mary D. Pedro II (see Borges 1980, Castel-Branco 2000). Finally, that König’s instruction indeed comprised also the preparation/defense of mathematical theses – as already authorized by de Noyelles – emerges from his request to General Tirso Gonzalez (1624 – 1705; elected General in 1687), for the permission of a public presentation of these theses and their printing. The General referred the question to the Rector, the Prefect of Studies or the Bishop (Lus. 34, f. 323r; see also Baldini 2004: 395, note 173). To my knowledge, none of these theses are preserved. König’s teaching in Coimbra finished at the end of 1685, when he received from King Pedro II the commitment, to visiting the country and preparing in accordance with his specific interests already shown during his teaching in Germany, a ‘map’ of Portugal: “iuxta normas perspectivae”. König and his ‘socius’ José Garcia (born 1660), previously Professor of Letters, and thus no ‘specialist’ in the cartographical matter left Coimbra on 17.09.1686. The financial means for this enterprise were offered by the King, as we know from Lus. 54, f. 191r. (“ad idque pecunias pro itineribus conficiendis ab eodem rege accepit”). The same source regulates also what should be done with the rest of the money, to prevent that it would arrive in the hands of König’s ‘socius’ or another ‘privatus’ (the General, from Rome, on July 13, 1686). Both Jesuits crisscrossed one part of Portugal until 12.09.1687 –  a detailed report on this first part of the journey, by José Garcia, SJ, is preserved as an autograph in ARSI, Lus., 57, f. 2-8 (see Rodrigues 1944: 211 ff). For the second part of the journey, another anonymous  ‘socius’ was indicated, and this part ended in 1690; fhe report (Litterae Annuae) on the period 1689 – 1693 (Jan. 1694) is in Lus. 54, f. 114v., from the Colégio Santo Antão. As far as I know, the final material result of this large scale commitment is lost, or was at least so far not recognized / identified. According to the scarce information available, especially from Costa (1706), and in line with König’s professional qualities, this “map’ consisted rather of a series of topographical sketches (“plantas” in the text of Costa), made on the spot, according to the rules of perspective and the art of design, than a map with coordinates, etc. Therefore, Costa suggested a re-impression, with some necessary corrections and a combination of his (textual) descriptions with König’s ‘plantas’ / city maps. In line with the original authorization of General de Noyelle, above mentioned, König continued in Coimbra to pursue with his publications, or at least intended to do so. On November 7, 1693 General Gonzalez – equally concerned with the situation of mathematical studies in Portuguese Jesuit colleges – gave the permission to publish his Commentarium seu lucubratio mathematica (Lus. 34, f. 323r.): yet, after this date nothing is heard in our sources about this manuscript anymore  – again a case in which the Jesuit authorities (and printers?) in Coimbra or Portugal did prevent the publication of ‘advanced’ publications from foreign teachers (see Thomas and Aigenler in Coimbra, and Musarra in Evora)? Finally, waiting for the permission to leave for the Japan mission in the Lisbon Colégio Santo Antão, König died on November 13, 1691 (HS VII, 453). He left apparently several manuscripts, some of which arrived in 1693 in the possession of a further unidentified laic (“Dominus”) Francisco Varella, who on November 7, 1693, from Lisbon, wrote: “(…) me escreveo el outro tempo  encomendo ao P(adr)e Provincial que mande reconhecer e examinar os escritos q. V.M. (conforme dis) tem do P.e Joam dos Reys (…) – thusinforming General Gonzalez from Lisbon on their existence, requesting them to be examined with a view to publication (see the letter and the General’s answer in Lus. 34, f. 323r.). No further information on these mss. I could find again. Some Latin and Portuguese manuscript texts (“Aliqua exempla ex diciplinis mathematicis”) ascribed to König are now in BNP COD 2094.


The mathematical CV of Johann König, before the arrival in Coimbra and in the college has some revealing aspects: the role of the ‘studium privatum’ in the personal / individual mathematical education of Jesuits; the at least official confirmation of the anti-Copernican cosmology; in Coimbra the production of manuscript didactical texts on mathematical matters and the absence of a printed process of the same; the acquisition of rather up-to-date books and instruments (1661; 1665; 1674) and the role of England in it; the role of the ‘Caza da Fazenda’; the production of a mainly ‘figurative’ (pictorial) ‘map’ of Portuguese places (“plantas”) acc. to the rules of perspective.

König’s Works

  • Orbis Cosmographicus sive globus mundi, mathematice descriptus et in publica concertatione, praeside P(atre) Joanne König Soc(ietatis) Jesu, Sacrae Linguae, Ethicae et Mathematicae Professore Ordinario (…) propugnatus mense Augusto, anno M.DC.LXXVI, Dillingen: Bencard, 1676 (copy in BNP S.A. 2774 P).
  • Vestigia Mathematica, sive Tyrocinium Cosmographico-Geometrico-Geographico-Astronomico-Cometographicum, continens Cosmographiam, sive Tractatum de Sphaera sive Globo Mundi absolutissimum. Elementa Geometriae Communia, Manuductionem ad Geographiam, auctam novâ descriptione Terrae universae regionum, insularum, urbium, fortalitiorum & insigniorum, cum pluribus scitu dignissimis, collecta a J.A.S ( = ?). Introductionem ad Astronomiam. Dissertationem de Cometis Philosophico-Mathematicam lectu dignissimam.
  • (bound with): Vestigium Astronomicum sive Introductio ad Astronomiam facilis & perspicua, accurate pertractans illius Elementa de Coelorum natura, motu, systemate, figura, ordine. De stellarum substantia…
  • (bound with): Vestigium Cometo-Graphicum, sive Dissertatio Philosophico-Mathematica de Cometarum Natura, Forma, Motu, Loco, Effectu & Crisi Prognostica, Freiburg: Johann Michael Speckner, 1679-80.
  • (bound with): Vestigium Geographicum, sive Manuductio ad geographiam universam, brevis & accurata, cum anatomia topographica Alsatiae & Brisgoiae ac methodo conficiendi & intelligendi mappas geographicas, 2nd ed., Freiburg / Breisgau, 1679.


  • Almeida (1945), M. Lopes de. “Uma nota sobre o Pe. João König (dos Reis) professor de Matematica na Universidade”, Revista da Faculdade de Ciencias, 14: pp. 123 – 135.
  • Baldini (2004), Ugo. “The Teaching of Mathematics in the Jesuit Colleges of Portugal, from 1640 to Pombal”, in The Practice of Mathematics in Portugal, edited by Luis Saraiva, and Henrique Leitão, Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra, 293-465.
  • Borges (1980), Nelson Correia. A arte nas festas de casamento do D. Pedro II: Lisboa, 1687, Lisbon: Paisagem Editora.
  • Castel-Branco (2000), João (coord.). A Arte Efemera em Portugal, Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
  • Cosgrove (2001), Denis. “Geography’s Cosmos. The Dream and the Whole Round Earth”, in P.C. Adams – S. Hoelscher – F.E. Till (eds.), Textures of place: exploring humanist geography, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 326-339.
  • Costa (1706), Antonio Carvalho da. Corografia portugueza e descripçam topografica do famoso Reyno de Portugal, com as noticias das fundações das cidades, villas, & lugares, que contem; varões illustres, genealogias das familias nobres, fundações de conventos, catalogos dos Bispos, antiguidades, maravilhas da natureza, edificios, & outras curiosas observaçoens, vol. 1, Lisbon: Valentim da Costa Deslandes.
  • Fink (2006), Urban. “König, Johann”, Dizionario storico della Svizzera (DSS), versione del 15.05.2006 (traduzione dal tedesco). Online:, consultato il17.11.2022.
  • Fischer (1983), A.K.F. ‘Jesuiten-mathematiker in der französischen und italienischen Assistenz bis 1762 bzw. 1773’, in: Archivum Historicum Soietatis Jesu, 52: pp???
  • Glomski (2015), Jacqueline. “Itinerarium exstaticum (1656)”, Acta Conventus Neo-Latini nº  15: pp. 227 – 236.
  • Golvers (2019), Noël. “Aigenler, Adam”, Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.3355406”, URL = “”, latest revision: July, 30th, 2019
  • Gomes (1983), J. Pereira. “König (João)”, in Verbo. Enciclopédia Luso-Brasileira de Cultura,11, Lisbon: Editorial Verbo, coll. 1182-1183.
  • Moreira (2022), Rafael. “A sombra de Duarte de Armas. O Mappa de Portugal do Padre Johann Koenig (João dos Reis), S.J, 1685 – 1690”,  Monumentos: 39, pp. 62 – 69.
  • Rodrigues (1944), Francisco. História da Companhia de Jesus na Assistência de Portugal. Tomo terceiro. A provincia portuguesa no século XVII, 1615 – 1700, vol. 1. Nos Colégios – nas Sciências e letras – na Corte, Porto: Livraria Apostolado da Imprensa.
  • Sommervogel (1890), Carlos. Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus. Vol. IV, col. 1148 – 1149. Nouvelle Edition, Bruxelles/Paris: O. Schepens/A. Picard.
  • Strobel (2001), F. ‘König (Reis), Johann (João dos)”, in: Diccionario Historico de la Companhia de Jesus, Roma-Madrid: Institutum Historicum, S.I.-Universidad Pontificia Comillas, p. 618.
  • An., “Johann König (1639 – 1691)”, in: Jesuit Science Network, version 03/11/2018 URL: