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Joachim Jungius and his ordering of knowledge

The fresh face on the EMLO home page with a correspondence catalogue published this week is that of the mathematician Joachim Jungius. Born in Lübeck in 1587, Jungius considered mathematics and logic to be the foundation of all areas of scientific study, and — as you might expect — his own work took him into a number of different spheres, including those of astronomy and medicine. For nearly thirty years until his death in 1657, this mathematician occupied the chair of natural sciences at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Hamburg.

Six years ago, when I began to research the history of one of EMLO’s foundation collections, that of the Bodleian card catalogue, and put together a piece on the three individuals who turned out to be involved with it, I read a fascinating article by Noel Malcolm, ‘Thomas Harrison and his “Ark of Studies”: An Episode in the History of the Organization of Knowledge’, and a publication by Markus Krajewski entitled Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs, 1548–1929.1 It was here that I encountered Joachim Jungius for the first time. Krajewski describes Jungius as the ‘first practitioner of nonhierachical indexing’ on account of his accumulation of approximately 150,000 pieces of paper, all of which contained fragments of knowledge, that were bound and sorted ‘according to the most minute details’ but ‘without registers or indexes, let alone reference systems’.2 Krajewski summarizes the mathematician’s method as a way of gathering ‘treasures without being recombined and published as new books. Jungius, keen on including new resources, delays his own publications time and again, leaving them unfinished or simply as raw paper slip potential in storage, on call.’3

Jungius and his work was well known to Samuel Hartlib, Jan Amos Comenius, and members of their circles, and users of EMLO will find him discussed in a number of letters written in the mid-seventeenth century. Hartlib himself writes of Jungius to Robert Boyle: ‘The author of Isagoge Phytoscopica is Dr. Jungius of Hamburgh, one of the best logicians in all Germany. For he conceives if that art were truly understood and applied, not only botanical, but all other real studies whatsoever, would flourish more than they have done since the fall of Adam. Leges Collegii Protonoetici came from the same forementioned author: but they will scarcely be understood, without the general draught of his philosophical undertakings, which I shall impart unto you hereafter, God willing.’4 Jungius died in Hamburg in the year in which Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz celebrated his eleventh birthday. In the decades following his death, Jungius’s pupils pursued discussions on how best to order knowledge, including notes and excerpts of text, and their considerations culminated in the publication (note the publisher) of Vincent Placcius’s De Arte Excerpendi. Vom gelahrten Buchhalten, a work that offered a historical overview of indexing, a summary of contemporary filing sytems, and guidance in the art of ‘excerpting’ and storing knowledge.5

Noel Malcolm’s research on Thomas Harrison, the Oxford-educated Northamptonshire rector who languished for a considerable period of his life in prison, enriches the picture considerably, offering substantial detail of Harrison’s indexing invention — the ‘Arca studiorum‘ — and surveying the ‘general tendency of the age, towards what might be called the physical technologizing of knowledge’.6 In what he terms a ‘surprising postscript’ to the article, we are able to follow the link back, via Placcius, from Leibniz to Harrison’s ‘Ark of Studies’.7 Jungius, his note-taking, his filing system, and his pupil and editor Martin Fogel play a part in this tale and Malcolm traces the description of Harrison’s invention printed by Placcius that was based on a manuscript in the possession of Johann Adolf Tassius (1585–1654). Tassius was Jungius’s deputy at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Hamburg.

Leibniz is known to have carried paper with him at all times and to have made and filed notes, his ‘Zettel’. In his private library, Krajewski relates, Leibniz ‘was in the habit of writing his excerpts on special sheets or slips of paper, and it is likely that he adopted this method from Martino Fogelio (who edited the Jungiana) [. . .] Yet his method stems from Joach. Jungius. Thus, he also maintained his library according to topical order, without regard for different formats. Leibniz imitated this . . . and applied it to his own private library. He had small labels stuck to repositories that indicated what was contained on every shelf.’8 However, Leibniz had been collecting and storing his papers systematically from the late 1660s. Certainly he had a strong interest in Jungius’s work. But he was not able to see any of Jungius’s or of Fogel’s original papers for a further decade until he visited Hamburg in 1678. Fogel had died three years previously leaving a library that numbered approximately 3,600 volumes, and Leibniz had persuaded his employer, Duke Johann Friedrich of Brunswick-Luenburg, that he should purchase this library from Fogel’s widow. Leibniz spent over six weeks in the city, where he met Placcius, Vagetius, and Sivers. While on site, he inspected the papers of both Jungius and Fogel and attempted to purchase a selection. Although his request was turned down, he was permitted to borrow eighty-six manuscript bundles on the clear understanding that these would be returned. Despite repeated requests from the family of Fogel regarding the loan, these manuscripts remain today in the care of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek.9

Such a glimpse offered through the towering figure of Leibniz into the filing habits of Jungius is mesmerizing, and I hope users will enjoy exploring the latter’s correspondence catalogue in EMLO. The metadata for 506 letters in total have been drawn from the edition prepared by Professor Martin Rothkegel and based on the work of Bernd Elsner (published in 2005 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen), and each letter record in EMLO links to the text of the edition that has been made available by Professor Rothkegel on Academia.10

In this hot summer month, happy reading to all of both letters and research on early modern schemes for the organization of knowledge!

The ‘Ark of Studies’, plate IV from Vincentius Placcius, ‘De arte excerpendi’ (Stockholm and Hamburg, 1689). (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Noel Malcolm, ‘Thomas Harrison and his “Ark of Studies”: An Episode in the History of the Organization of Knowledge’, The Seventeenth Century, 19:2 (2004), pp. 196–232, and Markus Krajewski, Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs, 1548–1929, tr. Peter Krapp (Cambridge, MA, 2011).
  2. Krajewski, op. cit., p. 17.
  3. Krajewski, op. cit., p. 17, and Christoph Meinel, ‘Enzyklopädie der Welt und Verzettelung des Wissens: Aporien der Empirie bei Joachim Jungius’, in Enzyklopädien der Frühen Neuzeit. Beiträge zu ihrer Erforschung, ed. Franz M. Eybl, Wolfgang Harms, Hans-Henrik Krummacher, and Werner Welzig (Vienna, Tübingen, and Mainz, 1995), p. 177.
  4. Letter from Samuel Hartlib to Robert Boyle, 8 May 1654, see Michael Hunter, Antonio Clercuzio, and Lawrence Principe, eds, The Correspondence of Robert Boyle, 6 vols. (London, 2001), i, pp. 169–79, and Robert Boyle, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle. ed. Thomas Birch, 5 vols (London, 1744), v, pp. 261–4.
  5. Vincent Placcius, De Arte Excerpendi. Vom gelahrten Buchhalten (Stockholm, Hamburg: Bei Gottfried Liebezeit, 1689.)
  6. Malcolm, op. cit., p. 217.
  7. Malcolm, op. cit., pp. 220–1.
  8. See Christoph Gottlieb von Murr, ‘Von Leibnitzens Exzerpirschrank’, in Journal zur Kunstgeschichte und allgemeinen Litteratur, 7, pp. 210ff, and Krajewski, op. cit., pp. 19–20.
  9. Immeasurable thanks are due to Dr Philip Beeley, who has an article in preparation on Leibniz and Jungius, for these fulsome details concerning the visit of Leibniz to Hamburg.
  10.  Der Briefwechsel des Joachim Jungius, ed. Martin Rothkegel, based on the work of Bernd Elsner (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005).

Applications invited for doctoral studentship at the Sorbonne and Oxford

As part of an innovative collaboration between Oxford and the Sorbonne, here at EMLO we’re delighted to announce that applications for a three-year fully funded fellowship are being accepted currently from students wishing to pursue doctoral studies in the history of science, in mathematical sciences, in digital humanities, or in computer science. Details of the fellowship have been provided in both English and in French, and for further details please contact Alexandre Guilbaud at the Sorbonne (his email address may be found below). Should you choose to apply, good luck!

Call for applications:

The successful candidate’s PhD thesis will involve the scholarly study of correspondence networks from the perspective of both the history of sciences and the digital humanities. In particular, the student should consider how to structure a corpus made up of networks of interconnected correspondence data; the new research questions for the history of science that arise from such a corpus; the methodologies that can be put in place to answer these questions; and the extent to which the development of suitable digital analysis and research tools might contribute to the exploration of this type of corpus.

The doctoral fellowship is part of a scientific collaboration between the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University and the Faculty of History of the University of Oxford. The candidate will work in the Digital Humanities team at the Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) of Sorbonne University (Paris, France) and will carry out a period of research at the University of Oxford (UK) within the framework of the Cultures of Knowledge research project/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]. An association either with Oxford’s Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology or with the Mathematical Institute is possible during the stay.

The doctoral fellow will benefit from a three-year funding by the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University. The candidate must have a strong background in digital humanities, history of sciences, mathematics, or computer sciences. Competences in at least two of these fields will be particularly appreciated.

To apply, please send your c.v. and a description of your research project to: You may also e-mail Alexandre at this address for further information regarding the fellowship.

La thèse proposée porte sur l’étude intellectuelle des réseaux de correspondances du double point de vue de l’histoire des sciences et des humanités numériques. Il s’agira en particulier de se demander comment structurer un corpus constitué de réseaux de données de correspondances interconnectées, quelles questions nouvelles un tel corpus permet de se poser en histoire des sciences, quelles méthodologies mettre en place pour y répondre, et dans quelle mesure le développement d’outils numériques d’analyse et de recherche adaptés peut permettre de contribuer à l’exploration de ce type de corpus.

Cette thèse fait l’objet d’une collaboration scientifique entre la Faculté des sciences et ingénierie de Sorbonne Université et l’équipe EMLO de l’Université d’Oxford. Le candidat travaillera dans l’équipe « Humanités numériques » de l’Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) de Sorbonne Université (Paris, France) et effectuera un séjour de recherche à l’Université d’Oxford (UK) dans le cadre du projet de recherche Cultures of Knowledge/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]. Une collaboration avec le Center for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology ou avec le Mathematical Institute d’Oxford sera possible durant ce séjour.

La thèse est financée pour trois ans par la Faculté des sciences et ingénierie de Sorbonne Université. Le candidat devra disposer d’une solide formation en humanités numériques, en histoire des sciences, en mathématiques ou en informatique. Une double compétence sera particulièrement appréciée.

Pour candidater, envoyez votre cv et le descriptif de votre projet de recherche à l’adresse Vous pouvez également écrire à cette adresse pour tout complément d’information sur la thèse.

The Dutch Church in London

For those who have been waiting for the follow-up to last month’s post regarding work in EMLO on the correspondence from the archive of the Dutch Church in London, I’m delighted to announce that the update has been completed successfully.

A total of 1,511 letters from volume 3, part 1, of the meritorious edition published by John Henry Hessels is now in place in the union catalogue and metadata for this archive may be consulted.1 Former EMLO Digital Fellow Catherine Wright began work with this third volume, although the lion’s share of the work was carried out by her successor Karen Hollewand, an Oxford student who worked with EMLO whilst bringing her doctoral thesis on Hadriaan Beverland to a successful completion. As Karen has moved subsequently to the Netherlands to embark upon her post-doctoral career, we are looking for a student with a good working knowledge of Dutch to pick up where she left off and to begin work on volume three, part two (which contains letters from 23 June/3 July 1631 onwards). Should you be interested, please drop me a line.


Bird’s-eye view of Austin Friars, c. 1550, from the Copperplate Map of London. (source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. J. H. Hessels, ed., Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes: Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomus Tertii, pars prima, 1523–1631 (Cambridge, 1897).

John Collins, Paris, and a meeting of mathematicians

The English mathematician John Collins (1625–1683) did not travel to France during his lifetime. However, his correspondence catalogue in EMLO was one of a cluster showcased at a Summer School entitled Histoire des sciences mathématiques et approches numériques : matérialité des textes, réseaux, classifications that took place last week in Paris at the Jussieu campus of the Sorbonne Université. Organized by Catherine Goldstein (CNRS, IMJ-PRG), Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (UPMC, LIP6), Alexandre Guilbaud (UPMC, IMJ-PRG), Irène Passeron (CNRS, IMJ-PRG), and Richard Walter (CNRS, ITEM), the Summer School brought together from around the world mathematical historians and students to discuss and explore the opportunities offered today by a variety of digital approaches and tools. In the course of five intense days, the impact of these approaches on research methodologies and practices was assessed and considered, and questions were raised about both their advantages and their limitations.

With a plenary to deliver and a series of workshops to run in the course of the week, Philip Beeley, Charlotte Marique, and I ‘packed’ a variety of sample letters from the correspondences of early modern practitioners of mathematics, all of whom either have catalogues in EMLO or for whom we are in the process of preparing an epistolary inventory. Along with letters by John Collins, we took (in alphabetical order to avoid any excuse for dispute!) examples from the correspondences of René DescartesLeonhard Euler, Pierre Fermat (or Pierre de Fermat — the form of his name itself became a topic of discussion during the week), Joachim Jungius, Pietro Mengoli, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and John Wallis. Fractious, querulous travelling companions these early modern individuals would no doubt have been, and it proved a sustaining game to imagine who might be saying what as we made our way across the channel and back, through delays, rail strikes, football mania, and sweltering temperatures.

At the Summer School, we were treated to wide-ranging talks and workshop sessions on key aspects of mathematical history, digital approaches, and future possibilities. In addition to the detailed courses and discussions led by the organizers on materiality, networks, and classification, we attended a variety of inspirational lectures, including Milad Doueihi on ‘Computation and the Humanities: Past and Present’, and Charles van den Heuvel on ‘Paper Bulwarks and Digital Fortresses. Mixed Methods for analyzing the Duytsche Mathematique’. Workshops provided the students with an introduction to XML/TEI; to transcription tools; to the truly wonderful database, Manuscrits, Usages des Supports d’Ecriture [MUSE], conceived and constructed by Claire Bussaret and Serges Linkès to allow detailed material description (for example, of paper types, watermarks, and seals) to be recorded; and of course to our own EMLO and its array of metadata collation tools.

It was a privilege to receive an invitation to address the participants at this Summer School and to have been offered the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of future collaboration with esteemed colleagues in the history of mathematics. We will write here in due course of a number of the ideas and schemes considered. For the present, however, as we unpack teaching materials that include copies of the letters of our early modern travelling companions, we continue to play our own travelling game of ‘Fantasy Early Modern Comments’ (a fine alternative to Fantasy Football, I might add!) by imagining how EMLO’s mathematicians would have responded to this French excursion — travelling attire, wigs, heat, and all. While we have no doubt that Mr Collins would be pleased to see the inventory of his correspondence swell last week to 264 letter records as an installment of the correspondence in the care of the Library at the University of St Andrews was added, we suspect other members of our Oxford-London travelling party might not be so well disposed or compliant. If you feel to join our summer game, complaints (ascribed to early modern mathematician) by email, please.

Missing Dutch?

This is the briefest of posts to inform users of Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] that the inventory of correspondence collated from the archive of the Dutch Church at Austin Friars (based on the three volumes published between 1887 and 1897 by John Henry Hessels, himself the subject of an earlier post) is offline temporarily while work is undertaken to prepare the addition of further data. We hope the catalogue will not be needed by any of EMLO’s users over the next two weeks but, should this be the case, please be in touch and we will arrange to provide metadata for the relevant letter records. Assuming all goes to plan (which — as anyone who works with databases will confirm — is never a given), the correspondence of the members of the Dutch church in London will appear back online for consultation in the union catalogue during the second half of July.

Edward VI granting John a Lasco permission to set up a congregation, attributed to Johann Valentin Haidt. Eighteenth century. (United Reformed Church History Society, Westminster College, Cambridge; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

A mathematical friendship: Leonhard Euler and Christian Goldbach

Leonhard Euler, by Jakob Emanuel Handmann. c. 1756. (Deutsches Museum, Munich; source of image, Wikimedia Commons).

It is a pleasure and privilege to announce publication in EMLO of the first instalment of the correspondence of Leonhard Euler (1707–1783). Working in partnership with scholars at the Bernoulli-Euler-Zentrum [BEZ] in Basel, EMLO has prepared and uploaded metadata for Euler’s correspondence with Christian Goldbach (1690–1764), an exchange that extends across almost four decades and reveals the depth of the long-standing friendship which developed between the two men. When Euler arrived at the Russian Academy of Sciences at the age of just twenty, the Academy’s president Goldbach offered advice and support, and in the fullness of time stood as godfather to the younger mathematician’s eldest son, Johann Albrecht Euler (1734–1800).

The volume from which this inventory is drawn, was published in 2015 by Springer as part of the series of Euler’s Opera Omnia.1 Edited by Franz Lemmermeyer and Martin Mattmüller, these letters — 198 in total, including two from young Johann Albrecht to his godfather — provide a fascinating overview of eighteenth-century number theory, its sources, and its repercussions, and they offer today’s historians a fascinating insight into scholarly circles in St Petersburg and Berlin in the middle of the eighteenth century.

As Martin Mattmüller explains in his introduction to EMLO’s catalogue, at the instigation of Ferdinand Rudio, then professor of mathematics at the Zürich Polytechnic, the Schweizerische Naturforschende Gesellschaft (now the Swiss Academy of Science [SCNAT]) set up a committee in 1907 — the Euler-Kommission — to plan, to fund, and to realize the ambitious undertaking of creating an edition of Euler’s collected works. In 1967, the spotlight widened from a focus on the mathematician’s published works to encompass Euler’s correspondence, the largest part of which is held today in the care of the Soviet Academy of Science, and a partnership was forged between the Swiss and Soviet Academies. Since 1980, six volumes of correspondence have appeared. In the course of this editorial work, new letters have been added and many corrections made to the initial inventory. The volume containing the exchange between Euler and Goldbach is the most recent in the series.

The records of the Euler-Goldbach letters in EMLO provide links to texts that have just been released the new virtual research environment platform (currently in beta) under development in Basel: Bernoulli-Euler Online [BEOL]. At present the the Euler-Kommission is working towards making available all of the printed and manuscript material in this web-based virtual research environment with the aim of ensuring that the task which the mathematical community undertook at the beginning of the twentieth century is brought to a conclusion for — in Martin Mattmüller’s words — the ‘benefit of twenty-first century mathematicians and historians of science as a monument to the lasting glory of Leonhard Euler’. Theirs is a laudable enterprise that holds right at its heart the aspirations of the international scholarly community. Metadata for further volumes will be uploaded into EMLO over the course of this year and, in the meantime, we invite you to follow these invaluable links and explore all that, even at this early stage, the Bernoulli-Euler Online platform has to offer.

  1. Commercium cum Christiano Goldbach / Correspondence with Christian Goldbach (2 parts), ed. Franz Lemmermeyer and Martin Mattmüller (Springer, 2015).

Pietro Mengoli, and clustering mathematical correspondence on quadratures

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

This week EMLO has published an inventory of the surviving letters of Pietro Mengoli (1625–1686), the Italian mathematician who — through his use of algebraic methods to develop further the indivisible method pioneered by his teacher Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598-1647) — made significant contributions to contemporary work on quadratures in the second half of the seventeenth century. Mengoli’s correspondence was published in an immaculate volume (edited by G. Baroncini and M. Cavazza, 1986) by the esteemed publishing house Casa Editrice Leo S. Olschki, and the inventory  was compiled from this edition by a former EMLO intern, Dr Francesca Giuliano, who was in Oxford while working on her doctoral dissertation on Thomas Hobbes.

In the coming weeks and months, keep an eye on EMLO’s cluster of mathematicians as some fascinating correspondences are due to enter the union catalogue and intriguing conversations taking place within these letters will rise to the fore.

Leading lady: Anna Maria van Schurman

It is a sad truth that only very small number of early modern women received an education. Fewer still benefitted from the education that was on offer to men. Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678) was an inspirational exception, however. Considered today to be the first female university student in Europe, this scholar, poet, linguist, painter, and engraver became one of the most learned women of her age, and EMLO is truly thrilled to be publishing this week a catalogue of her correspondence in partnership with the innovative Utrecht-based project Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks (SKILLNET): the Republic of Letters as a pan-European Knowledge Society.

Born in Cologne, Van Schurman lived as a child in Utrecht (the city to which her parents had moved in a bid to escape religious persecution) and in Franeker; she was educated as an equal alongside her brothers. Following the death of her father in 1623, and after re-settling three years later for a second time in Utrecht where she moved into a house near the Domkerk, her reputation as a scholar began to spread, particularly with respect to theology and philosophy, and her knowledge of — and skill in — at least fourteen languages became widely renowned. To celebrate the foundation of the university of Utrecht in 1636, Van Schurman was invited to write a poem in Latin and she used this opportunity to lament the exclusion of women from formal education. This prompted — as the scholar Dr Pieta van Beek has shown in her fascinating publication The first female university student: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) — an invitation to attend lectures and disputations at the university.1 It is known also that she was tutored in Greek, in Hebrew, and in theology by Gijsbertus Voetius. No other woman was permitted to attend the university in this manner and, thanks to René Descartes, we know Van Schurman had to sit apart in a partitioned cubicle, away from the male students and professors.2

Anna Maria van Schurman, ‘The Learned Maid, or Whether a Maid may be a Scholar. A Logick Exercise’ (London: John Redmayne, 1659.) (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

As Van Beek recounts, Van Schurman was referred to by Friedrich Spanheim, the professor of theology at Leiden, as ‘a doctor clothed in women’s robes’.3 Her erudition is no less marked in the correspondence she conducted, and Van Beek notes that in Van Schurman’s exchanges with André Rivet we encounter the origins of her published work on the right of women to education, the Amica Dissertatio4 and the Dissertatio,5 which was translated in to French in 1646, and into English in 1659 under the title The Learned Maid, or Whether a Maid may be a Scholar.6 (And what a rallying crying of a title this is!).

Van Schurman’s correspondents were learned and were located across the European continent. Constantijn Huygens wished to marry her; Pierre Gassendi admired her commitment both to scholarship and to celibacy; she resided at the centre of a large network of learned women, including Dorothy Moore, and she corresponded both with Christina of Sweden and the Polish Queen Ludwika Maria [Maria Louise de Gonzaga]. The letters of many of the women in this circle are being worked on at present by members of today’s scholarly network, Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO]. Although Van Schurman’s letters may have existed once in their thousands, she seems to have destroyed a large number of manuscripts and papers after she moved from Utrecht in 1669 to join the community that had coalesced around the radical Protestant Jean de Labadie.

Publication in EMLO of this inventory of Anna Maria van Schurman’s surviving correspondence is a first in many respects: the metadata for the letters have been collated by Samantha Sint Nicolaas as part of her internship at the SKILLNET project, where she worked under the supervision of Professor Dirk van Miert with the blessing and support of the Van Schurman scholar, Dr Pieta van Beek. And Van Schurman’s is the first catalogue to be contributed to EMLO by SKILLNET, the first of a large number that will come together as a very significant corpus. SKILLNET has embarked upon a five-year mission to mine the content of early modern epistolaries and investigate how participants in the ‘Respublica Literaria’ transcended political, confessional, and language boundaries to evolve successfully and seamlessly into a pan-European ‘knowledge commons’. Funded by the ERC, SKILLNET has emerged from the cocoon of the European project COST Action Reassembling the Republic of Letters (headed by the Cultures of Knowledge project director, Professor Howard Hotson) and is working closely with EMLO. It is wonderfully fitting that such a remarkable and pioneering female scholar should be the trailblazer for this partnership between SKILLNET and Cultures of Knowledge. Anna Maria van Schurman, Samantha Sint Nicolaas, Pieta van Beek, Dirk van Miert, and the SKILLNET team alike, we salute your invaluable work on the Republic of Letters!

An account by Samantha Sint Nicolaas of the journey she undertook as she visited an array of archives to collate this inventory — ‘Retracing the ‘Grand Tour’ of Anna Maria van Schurman’s Letters‘ — may be found on the SKILLNET blog.

  1. Pieta van Beek, The first female university student: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) (Utrecht: Igitur, 2010), in particular pp. 58– 61.
  2. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery, Oeuvres des Descartes (Paris: Vrin, 1899), pp. 230–1.
  3. See Anna Maria van Schurman, Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latina et Gallica. Prosaica et Metrica. Lugdunum Batavorum: ex officina Elseviriorum (Lugdunum Batavorum: ex officina Elseviriorum, 1648), preface.
  4. Amica Dissertatio inter Annam Mariam Schurmanniam et Andr. Rivetum de capacitate ingenii muliebris ad scientias (Paris: s.n., 1638).
  5. Dissertatio De Ingenii Muliebris ad Doctrinam et meliores Litteras aptitudine. Accedunt Quaedam Epistolae eiusdem Argumenti (Lugdunum Batavorum: Elzeviriana, 1641).
  6. The Learned Maid, or Whether a Maid may be a Scholar. A Logick Exercise (London: John Redmayne, 1659).

In celebration of a minor fact, or two, concerning ‘the pious and profoundly-learned’ Mr Mede

Christ’s College, Cambridge, from David Loggan, ‘Cantabrigia Illustrata’ (1690). (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

For weeks now I’ve been meaning to write to draw attention to the catalogue of the correspondence of Joseph Mede (or Mead, as he signs himself frequently in letters to his friend Sir Martin Stuteville) which has been increasing steadily in EMLO over recent months. What began as twenty-five letter records within the Samuel Hartlib catalogue published during the initial phase of the Cultures of Knowledge project (worked on sequentially by Leigh Penman and Robin Buning) has been augmented with the addition of metadata for Mede’s letters selected and published by John Worthington.1 With assistance from EMLO Digital Fellow Laura Lawrence, Mede’s catalogue has been extended still further to encompass the collection of letters contained in the British Library (MS Harleian 389 and MS Harleian 390) that were written on a weekly basis to Stuteville.2 At present, the inventory in EMLO for Mede’s correspondence includes records for 436 letters.

Mede is a rare gem. A modest man, portrayed by his pupil (and ultimately his editor) Worthington as ‘studiously regardless of Academical Degrees, as being unwilling to make any great noise and report in the world’,3 he described himself in a typically self-effacing manner as in possession of ‘brains … so narrow, that I can tend and mind but one thing at once’.4 His letters are a revelation (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist this pun) and not only on the prophetic and apocalyptic fronts: should you be interested in the political situation that makes up the backdrop to Mede’s life in the 1620s, you will enjoy his letters to Stuteville, packed as they are with news, gossip, and detailed reports of current local, national, and international events. Here at EMLO we’ve been transfixed and glued to our monitors as we’ve worked with this inventory.

Portrait of Elizabeth I in her accession robes, by an unknown artist. Oil on panel, c. 1600. (Source of image: National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 5175)

If proof were needed (which, of course, as you’re reading this blog you’ll know it is not) that it is worth poring over letters to tease out tiny and what might appear at first glance to be inconsequential details, it was a delight to note the comments that accompanied the dates Mede marked on his missives to Stuteville. What seems to be no more than an insignificant factoid often turns out to be a nugget that enables a small piece of a larger picture to be set in place. Whilst we knew Mede was born in October 1586, thanks to his letter of 13 October 1627, we have been able to squirrel away one minor but important fact about him, for he marked this letter ‘Christs Colledg. October 13. My birth day’.5 Of course this small scrap has gone straight into Mede’s person record in EMLO. It turns out that the precise day of his birth is not recorded in the ODNB,6  nor is it in Venn,7 but now — to the delight of those who make up the fan club of Mr Mede —  it exists in our union catalogue. And there are further tidbits to be uncovered in these letters to Stuteville. By way of example, we find another letter dated ’17 November. When our belles in every Church are ringing here in memory of happie Queene Elizabeth.’8 This is 1627, and the man born two years before the Armada is noting how bells peal in Cambridge to mark Elizabeth’s accession nearly a quarter of a century after her death.

Mede wrote each week to Stuteville, who lived in Dalham, Suffolk (Stuteville’s memorial, which sees him flanked by his first and his second wives, together with their kneeling children, is still in place at St Mary’s, Dalham).9 Mede, the modest man for whom we have no surviving likeness, was writing from Christ’s College, Cambridge (when he was not in college, the weekly letters cease temporarily and often it transpires he has made the journey of approximately twenty miles to visit his friend). Alongside his own brief commentary on news ‘of the day’, Mede transcribed passages from news pamphlets and gazettes sent to him in Cambridge from London, including those from John Pory and Dr James Meddus. Meddus is an interesting individual. He turns out to be James Meddowes, and it is not a surprise to learn he was Mede’s most reliable source of foreign news for, although he was born in Cheshire, he studied at Heidelberg and received his doctorate from Basel University. On 6 July 1610, Meddowes/Meddus was incorporated at Oxford University.10 From 1612 he was member of Gray’s Inn. He served as chaplain to James I, and was rector of St George, Eastcheap, from 1597; of St Gabriel, Fenchurch Street, from 1603, and from 1614 of Snodland in Kent. (And here’s a random fact for the day: two other figures residing at the heart of the EMLO union catalogue were later incumbents at St Gabriel, Fenchurch Street: mathematician and cryptographer John Wallis, who was granted the sequestrated living in 1643,11 and — a full century later — the compiler of the works of Robert Boyle, Thomas Birch.) Goodness, what we will be able to do with people and buildings in the new people and place databases in development at present. But that’s a treat to look forward to; for the present, we are fortunate with these letters to be able to spend time in the company of Joseph Mede. As you read and observe further nuggets, please email us or tweet to alert Mede’s burgeoning fan-club …

And as a final note, for the many who are interested in the connections between Isaac Newton and Joseph Mede12 (and who possess the patience to have arrived at the end of this post), the recent exciting discovery in the Huntington Library by Stephen D. Snobelen of Newton’s own dog-eared copy of Worthington’s 1672 edition of Mede makes fascinating reading.13 I’ll leave you to click through to the Huntington, while I go back to work.


  1. The works of the pious and profoundly-learned Joseph Mede, B.D. sometime fellow of Christ’s Colledge in Cambridge, ed. John Worthington (London, 1664; 1672, second edn; 1677, third edn), and The works of the reverend, iudicious and learned divine, Mr. Iospeh Mede (London, 1648).
  2. See David Cockburn, ‘A Critical Edition of the Letters of the Reverend Mead (1626–1627), contained in British Library Harleian MS 390’, DPhil. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1994, and Daphne Westbury, ‘An Edition of the Letters (1621–1625) of the Reverend Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville of Suffolk in BL MS Harleian 389’, PhD thesis, University of Leicester, 1991.
  3.  The works of the pious and profoundly-learned Joseph Mede, B.D. sometime fellow of Christ’s Colledge in Cambridge, ed. John Worthington (London, 1677, third edn), p. XV.
  4.  Ibid, Book V, Epistle XIV.
  5.  Letter of 13 October 1627, British Library, MS Harleian 390, fols 303r–303v, with transcription in David Cockburn, op. cit., above, pp. 892–5.
  6.  Bryan W. Ball, ‘Mede (Mead), Joseph (1586–1638)‘, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004; online: 23 September 2004, rev. 28 May 2015).
  7.  J. Venn and J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses, 2 pts in 10 vols (1922–54); repr. in 2 vols. (1974–8), vol. 1, pt 3, p. 170.
  8. Letter 17 November 1627, British Library, MS Harleian 390, fols 319r–320r, with transcription in David Cockburn, op cit., above, pp. 919–27.
  9. I wish I could post an image here, but, copyright being what is it, this is not possible; if you’re interested in Stuteville’s appearance, a quick search online will throw up a couple of photographs.
  10. Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1714 (Oxford, 1891) on British History Online, accessed 30 April 2018.
  11. With thanks to Dr Philip Beeley for this contribution.
  12. See Rob Iliffe, Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), in particular pp. 235–6, and Rob Iliffe, ‘Newton, God, and the mathematics of the Two Books’, in Lawrence Snezana and Mark McCartney, eds, Mathematicians and their Gods (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 121–44.
  13. Stephen D. Snobelen, ‘Newton’s Lost Copy of Mede, Revealed‘, on VERSO, The Blog of the Huntington Library, accessed 30 April 2018.

The EMLO Hundredth: Jean Le Clerc

When EMLO launched its ‘new look’ back in January 2015, a re-design that included for the first time catalogue introductory pages, little did anyone foresee that just over three years later the total number of early modern correspondence catalogues within the union catalogue would have burgeoned from an initial sixteen to hit the hundred mark. And we could not be more delighted to be announcing this week that the hundredth catalogue to be published in EMLO is none other than that of the philosopher and theologian Jean Le Clerc.

Le Clerc (1657–1736) stands today a towering figure at the heart of the golden age of the république des lettres. As a scholar, he published widely, in particular a number of key critical works, yet perhaps of more significance still he was renowned far and wide during his lifetime for his rigorous and insightful activity as a journalist. Le Clerc’s correspondence has been collected, studied, edited, and published by the scholars Mario Sina and Maria Grazia Zaccone-Sina, and their four exemplary volumes were brought out to great acclaim between 1987 and 1997 by the distinguished Italian publishing house Casa Editrice Leo S. Olschki. The metadata for the 842 letters contained in EMLO’s listing of Le Clerc’s correspondence are taken from this edition, and the EMLO team could not be more pleased to have been working in partnership at various stage of the necessary preparatory work with colleagues at Olschki as well as with the scholarly editors Mario Sina and Maria Grazia Zaccone Sina, who have been so generous to this enterprise in terms of both their blessing and their support. As a result, users of the union catalogue are able now to benefit from their scholarship through the links that have been inserted from each letter record in EMLO out to the text in the relevant volume of the edition available on Gallica, the digital platform of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

As EMLO ticks towards its second century of metadata catalogues, we expect to observe a thickening and a tightening of thematic correspondence clusters as the warp and weft of the early modern networks draw ever tighter. Over the course of this year, Le Clerc will be joined by many more Huguenots, by many more philosophers, and by many more theologians, and the groupings of corresponding individuals, including astronomers, cartographers, collectors, diplomats, intelligencers, mathematicians, natural philosophers, physicians, and scholars — men and women alike — will swell. The catalogue of Jean Le Clerc marks a significant milestone in the history of EMLO. And as users explore its riches, we are at work behind the scenes on the second hundred.