Georg Horn (1620–70), professor of history at Leiden, was a frequent correspondent of Hartlib on subjects ranging from alchemy to universal history (to which genre Horn was himself a notable contributor). He was a supporter of the English Presbyterians, and a proponent of a militant union of Protestants to oppose the power of the Papacy. During the early 1650s, he discussed the problem of teaching biblical history with Hartlib, exploring the possibility of presenting his findings in tabular and pictorial form. He also expressed his support for the short chronology of the Hebrew Bible, in preference to the longer history given by the dates in the Septuagint.
Horn’s writings were concerned with the defence of orthodox biblical history and were successful in accommodating fresh materials to traditional chronology. In 1652, Horn had tackled the problem of the population of the Americas, arguing that there had not been enough people before the Flood to inhabit the whole world. America had therefore been settled after the Flood, probably by Phoenician navigators, Scythian and Tartar (and thus, possibly, Jewish) migrants, and Chinese sailors. Later, Horn turned his attention to the differences between biblical, classical, and oriental chronologies. The motivation for this came largely from the Jesuit discovery of the antiquity of Chinese history, which seemed to some to provide a continuous record older than that given by scripture. (On this basis, John Webb, see catalogue no.73 , argued that Chinese had been the primitive language used by Noah.) Horn was willing to identify figures from biblical history with the earliest characters mentioned in the Chinese annals, and, indeed, to suggest that China had initially been peopled with the offspring of the banished Cain, but he rejected the suggestion that Chinese records antedated the Flood. He advanced a traditional account of the dispersion of peoples, following Genesis chapters 10 and 11, and argued, for example, that the Gauls and Britons were descended from Japhet’s son, Javan, via his son Dodanim, and that the Germans were the descandants of Gomer, via Ashkenaz.
Well aware of the extent of contemporary European power and expansion, Horn wished to interpret as fulfilled the prophecy given in Genesis9:27 (which suggested that Japhet’s descendants would come to rule the whole world). Horn’s work thus reinforced the standard ethnographic opinions of his contemporaries. It concluded that neither the discovery of new peoples nor the disclosure of new records constituted a sufficient reason to modify the accepted historical narrative derived from scripture.
The elaborate title-page of Arca Noae was engraved by Wingandorp and shows the Ark tossed on stormy seas. Four animals – a lion, a bear, a winged leopard and an eagle – fight for dominion over the globe in the skies above the Ark. These presumably represent the four beasts of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7), modified by the inclusion of the Imperial Habsburg eagle (perhaps justified by the apocalyptic vision of an eagle in 2 Esdras11–12). They symbolize the four great empires which will rule the world in succession before the eventual coming of the kingdom of the saints. The engraving places Arca Noae in the apocalyptic context which, according to Horn, dominated human history and reinforces the book’s description of the division of the world into kingdoms and empires. Providence had ordered the growth and decline of nations. It would, in due course, bring about the downfall of contemporary tyranny (for Horn, the papacy and its allies) and the establishment of millenarian harmony on earth.