Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts: a timely archival collaboration

As collaborative work within the AHRC-funded Networking Archives project continues between partners in Cambridge, at QMUL, and in Oxford, EMLO has been involved simultaneously over the past year with colleagues at the University of Leeds, at Lambeth Palace Library, in the Bodleian Libraries, and at the United Society Partners in the Gospel on a separate AHRC-funded research project: ‘Pastoral Care, Literary Cure, and Religious Dissent: Zones of Freedom in the British Atlantic c. 1630–1720′. Under the direction of Associate Professor Alison Searle, and with the dedicated assistance of post-doctoral researcher Dr Emily Vine, a number of new correspondences are in the process of being published in EMLO, the first of which is a ‘starter catalogue‘ for the correspondence of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

The letters in the archive of the Society (which was known initially as the SPG and, from 1965, as the USPG) are divided between Lambeth Palace Library and—as a loan collection—the Bodleian Libraries. Following the launch of an initial listing of metadata for 109 letters to coincide with the release of an online exhibition, the fledgling correspondence catalogue may be consulted now in EMLO. The exhibition includes a fascinating and wide-ranging interview given to Rosie Dawson by Bishop Rowan Williams, and we are delighted that Alison and Dr Jo Sadgrove, Research and Learning Advisor at USPG, and Research Fellow at the Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds, have agreed to contribute to this Cultures of Knowledge blog with an insight into how their research and collaborations have taken shape and developed over the course of a COVID-wracked year.

Institution and Archive: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

An AHRC-funded collaboration between USPG and the University of Leeds has explored themes of pastoral care both in SPG’s archive and in USPG’s contemporary global engagements during Covid-19. This collaboration attempts to take seriously the tradition of pastoral care—and the profound failures of care—for bodies and souls that SPG pioneered, and of which USPG and other faith-based organizations are inheritors. It reads the early history of SPG as offering an innovative, though often misguided and morally problematic, vision for the creation of a transatlantic community of care. The project’s aims include not only opening up to a broader public SPG’s earliest archival collections, but also understanding the struggles facing the SPG community in its earliest years and thinking about their connections to present-day mission. What was SPG doing in those early years that was distinct and deemed to be of value to those committed to its vision? How did the Society care for its members across the Atlantic? How should USPG as a twenty-first-century organization understand and communicate that history? How do the concerns of SPG as a nascent Society resonate with and continue to inform the life of the contemporary organization?

The oldest expressions of USPG’s relationships with those ministering in other parts of the world are found in their correspondence archives. For the first twenty years, the SPG was an organization connected by transatlantic letters. These letters were the means by which pastoral care was extended across the Atlantic—from the Society’s headquarters in London to missionaries in North America and the Caribbean, and through those missionaries, to a wide range of other community groups. What SPG generates in the early eighteenth century, as recorded in the letters, is an innovative, complex, deeply entangled transatlantic community of pastoral care. SPG was ambitious in its aims and limited in its attitude and approach to those whom it encountered in liminal zones across the early modern British Atlantic, but it forged a unique community seeking to engage with and care for those whom it encountered, however entangled and inequitable that ambition proved to be in reality.

Pastoral care within this diverse community was provided in a number of ways, as the letters indicate: enabling access to the sacraments for British settlers in North America and the Caribbean; resourcing communities through the provision of education; sending books and other material supports for spiritual life—both for the missionaries themselves and for the provision of spiritual care to others. Polemical works enabled missionaries to defend and differentiate the Church of England from other expressions of Protestantism in North America and the Caribbean and, in doing so, marked out the boundaries of Anglican orthodoxy. But pastoral caregiving was most powerfully expressed through the act of receiving and writing letters. Such letters offered encouragement and implicitly created solidarity, reminding missionaries and their fledgling congregations that they were part of a wider community of pastoral care, even though they often lived isolated and highly precarious lives.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, few could have anticipated that questions about care would become the key moral, political, and economic questions facing communities globally. Who is entitled to care? What does good care look like? How should care be given? How are caregivers themselves cared for? How do we pay for care? How do we care when we are not able to be physically present? How do we care for those who are isolated? How do we care for those in precarious economic situations? These questions, which are now all too familiar, are similar to those that energized and confounded the early SPG missionaries.

The longevity of these questions across time and space means that a deepening understanding of SPG’s earliest archive is able to inform and shape its functioning in the twenty-first century. This archive, which evidences a discourse and genealogy of pastoral care developed over three-hundred years, offers a different grounding for USPG as a contemporary organization, perhaps making more visible the challenging dynamics that continue to influence its functioning and relationships. Thinking about the contemporary life of an organization in dialogue with its archives offers a distinct vantage point from which to reflect on the challenges of relationships over time. Our project has embodied a highly productive process of cross-sectoral discussion between academic research and historical and contemporary organizational praxis. Collaboratively rethinking this shared but conflicted and often painful history has the potential to bring new dimensions to relationships in active dialogue with some of USPG’s oldest partners within the Anglican Communion.

Pastoral care is a highly complex and power-laden dynamic: it appears in many different guises and is expressed in various ways across cultural contexts. What is perceived as pastoral care in one context can be interpreted as brutality in another. Critical questions arise here as to whether what is offered as pastoral care, particularly across contexts, is experienced and received as care? There have been times when the priorities of USPG as an administrative organization, embroiled in Western systems of bureaucracy and accountability, have jeopardized global relationships. As with other organizations, the relational and the administrative aspects are often in tension with each other. The early archive offers a caution about the issues of power that USPG as a twenty-first century organization continues to negotiate. How then might USPG better hold the tension between the administrative and the relational in ways that protect and nurture creativity and relationship? How might USPG be better at including the voices and experiences of partners in thinking about what it means to offer pastoral care for bodies and souls, across multiple contexts and inequities? How might excavating languages of pastoral care in SPG’s early archive enable different ways of thinking about languages and practices of pastoral caregiving in the present?

The online exhibition, which our cross-sectoral collaboration has generated, is a way of interrogating the most innovative and barbaric facets of SPG’s organizational history of pastoral caregiving. It reveals the commitment with which those within SPG sought to care for certain groups across the Atlantic, whilst catastrophically failing in their duty of care for others. It invites ongoing dialogue and reflection about the ways in which faith-based organizations, like USPG, and many others, still operating within the same global networks of relationship that were established during the early modern period, work towards deeper understanding of the history explored in this online exhibition.

Jo Sadgrove and Alison Searle
University of Leeds

Jeanine de Landtsheer (1954–2021)

 

The republic of letters lost a giant with the death of Jeanine de Landtsheer. Her generosity to others, her careful attention to detail, her philological pursuit of pure knowledge, and even a certain otherworldliness mark her out as a true member of that august community of scholars. She embodied its ancient ideals like few others, better even than the humanists she herself studied. She will forever be remembered for her work on the scholarly correspondence of the Leuven humanist Justus Lipsius (1547–1606), a project that she has shepherded for some thirty years, and it was in that capacity that she was affiliated to EMLO and to COST. Her sudden death at the young age of sixty-six has struck those who knew her as a thunderbolt.

My own personal recollections of Jeanine are shaped by her endless generosity. Jeanine had worked on Lipsius since I was in primary school, publishing her first contribution to the long-running Iusti Lipsi Epistolae (ILE) project in 1991. And yet when I began my graduate research in 2006, she unhesitatingly shared with me her unpublished transcriptions and annotations of the many letters Lipsius had exchanged with the Jesuit Martin Delrio—what would become the topic of my masters dissertation. I arrived at Delrio out of an interest in his famous book on witchcraft. It never mattered to Jeanine that I had not trained as a neo-Latinist or completed the Leuven cursus honorum, she patiently answered every question. When I discovered a short letter by Delrio to a fellow Jesuit about Lipsius’s reconciliation with the Catholic Church—the most contentious moment of the humanist’s biography—we published it together and I was able to look inside the editorial kitchen for myself. I was not special. Jeanine showed the same generous spirit to countless others. There was always a PhD dissertation on her desk that required a final read through before submission. She was instrumental in seeing the publication of ILE’s fourth volume to print after a twenty-five-year delay, even though she received very little public credit for it, and she translated the critical apparatus of another ILE volume from Dutch into English to help another colleague. The only thing in life that Jeanine passionately loathed was the international train service between Belgium and the Netherlands. Its endless delays and many cancellations often kept her from consulting her beloved Lipsius manuscripts in Leiden. (No one who has used that train service will blame her.)

Aside from her inability to say no, the other factor keeping her in-tray full was her widely admired attention to detail and her philological acumen. She really was, like Lipsius, ‘the darling of the Latin language’ (Latii Sermonis ocelle, a caption of a Lipsius engraving which inspired an exhibition in his honour). Yet her linguistic skill extended well beyond Latin. Once while we were together waiting for a flight at Heathrow airport, she struck up a conversation in modern Greek. (She had taken students there on field trips.) Whenever I encounter an ilógico or ilegal in a Spanish text, I am transported to our discussion of Spanish neo-Latinists and their apparent struggles with the double ‘ll’. Jeanine also possessed a remarkable felicity in the Dutch language. Her translations of Erasmus have won widespread praise. Her short biography of Lipsius, with its choice characterisations of people (especially his wife, the supposedly unmovable, ‘honkvaste’ Anna van de Calstere), still makes me smile. Jeanine’s meticulous attention to detail extended beyond the written word. She often emphasized to me that Lipsius was not Flemish. Born in Overijse, just outside of Brussels, he hailed from the historical duchy of Brabant. He was a Brabanter, like me (and ‘Jan,’ she rightly observed in an e-mail, ‘you wouldn’t want to be called a “Hollander” either!’).

Despite her often poor health and failing eyesight, Jeanine was widely travelled, faithfully attending the various international neo-Latin and Renaissance conferences. She and I met in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York among many other places. The last time I saw her was in the spring of 2019, when we had dinner in Toronto at the end of the Renaissance Society of America conference. In addition to the field trips with students, there were also various expeditions for Lipsius letters and invitations to teach. She was particularly excited by an invitation to Mexico City in 2017 which became even more exciting when an earthquake struck. I will remember, with particular fondness, her long-planned visit to Oxford in 2014 when she stayed in a New College guest room. The trip did not all work out as planned. Refurbishment of the dining hall cancelled a highly anticipated dinner at high table and sent us across the road to Edamame for Japanese instead (probably the better option). Ingrid de Smet also very kindly hosted us for a proper neo-Latin meal at her home. On my visits to Leuven we would always have lunch at Café De Appel. After coffee she would inevitably take the little plastic cups of condensed milk home with her for her cat.

There was never any pretence with Jeanine. She was always heartfelt, sincere. I suspect that early modern letters gave her comfort and clarity. Their words mattered and getting them exactly right mattered too. She was a phenomenal palaeographer. Lipsius’s scrawl was virtually indecipherable, even to his contemporaries, yet she always triumphed. I still vividly picture her in the Leiden Special Collections reading room deciphering a marginal note of his that I had come across and which to me looked barely more than a straight line. Yet I don’t think I ever persuaded her of Lipsius’s self-fashioning, that he was not guileless in the way that she was. Because she was truly sui generis. Her concerns and interests were fully and transparently her own. In our last e-mail exchange, last summer, after I started a fellowship in Dresden, she asked if I could keep any of the commemorative two-euro coins I came across, as the Germans did those so well (‘not the omnipresent eagle!’). I must confess that I did not start a collection, but I have looked at the back of every two-euro coin that has since come into my hands (and she was right about them).

Jeanine’s scholarship was not unlike that request. With her work on the Lipsius correspondence she was marching to the beat of her own drum. Recognition from others was never her concern, yet she was greatly enriching a wider world of scholarship in ways of which she was never entirely cognizant. She was doing vital work of which few are capable but which is badly needed. As long as I have been in academia, Jeanine was always there, working at her own pace, producing meticulously exact scholarship, a new volume appearing slowly but surely and accurately every few years. If a normal lifespan had been granted her, she would have completed her Lipsius edition, and much more besides. We have lost more than a valued friend and colleague. Her death means something vital and irreplaceable has been lost, as if a star has fallen from the firmament. We shall miss her in big ways and small.

Jan Machielsen
TU Dresden/Cardiff University

 

 

‘Reading Comenius’

With travel on this virus-ridden planet restricted at present, scholars in Prague have prepared a unique and apposite event to mark the three-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jan Amos Komenský, known universally as Comenius. At midnight (Czech time) this coming weekend, as we slip from Saturday, 14th November into Sunday 15th, admirers of the Moravian-born pansophist and educator will begin an online relay of readings from his works. This marathon is due to criss-cross through five continents for a full twenty-four hours in a plethora of languages—from Czech and Latin (in which Comenius spoke and wrote), to Dutch, English, Esperanto, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Kashubian, Lithuanian, Polish,  Romanian, Russian, Slovak, and Spanish—as scholars, students, and teachers, each of whom has selected excerpts from his or her favourite works, read for an allotted fifteen minutes before passing the ‘virtual lectern‘ to a successor.

The texts selected will include passages from Comenius‘s well-known philosophical and educational treatises, including Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, Didactica Magna, and The School of Infancy; there will be extracts from his textbook Orbis Sensualium Pictus, and from his pansophic works related to the idea of universal reform, for example Via Lucis and the General Consultation on the Improvement of Human Affairs. Interspersed amongst these published works and translations, will be readings of a number of his surviving manuscript letters.

Together with colleagues in the Department for Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Comenius scholar Dr Vladimír Urbánek has planned this virtual pilgrimage to begin and conclude in Prague. The first text, which will mark the beginning of ‘the journey‘, Dr Urbánek explains, will be ‘a fragment from the Panegersia, or Universal Awakening, in which Comenius turns to citizens of the whole world‘. The day’s homage—both in its multiplicity of languages and in its global reach to a world wide audience—is a poignant reminder of the journeys Comenius himself, as an exile, undertook, of his own Via Lucis (The Way of Light), written in London during his visit in 1641–2 but not published until 1668 in Amsterdam, and of the spread and reach over time and across continents of his works and his ideas.

To coincide with the Reading Comenius Universally anniversary event, the BBC World Service is broadcasting Comenius: A Pioneer of Lifelong Learning. Featuring Dr Urbánek, Professor Howard Hotson, and Dr Yoanna Leek, this programme sets Comenius‘s long life (he died at the age of 78 in 1670) in the context of the war-torn continent through which he travelled and considers his contribution to modern thought and education today. Scheduled times for the programme‘s live broadcast vary by country and region, but it is available for download from the BBC’s ‘The Forum’ webpage, or it may be accessed via the Oxford platform Cabinet.

Vladimír, who also heads the team of scholars working towards a complete modern edition of Comenius’s work and who has overseen the compilation and curation of an inventory of the pansophist’s letters in EMLO, has worked with Howard to display on Cabinet a number of maps, based on metadata drawn from the surviving correspondence, that show Comenius’s movement across the face of Europe, the recorded places of sending and receipt of his letters, and the location of his extant manuscripts. Howard Hotson has provided in addition a detailed description of the title-page of Opera didactica omnia (Amsterdam, 1657), which was designed by Crispijn de Passe and engraved by David Loggan.

A number of passages from Opera didactica omnia will be read in the course of Reading Comenius Universally and everyone is both welcome and encouraged to tune in and witness the live-streamed event on the YouTube channel Comenius. This virtual journey on the world’s stage is set take us deep into thoughts and writings of one of the most relevant early modern thinkers, and it will end back where it began, in Prague, at midnight (CET) as Sunday, 15 November draws to a close.

Title page of ‘Opera didactica omnia’ (Amsterdam, 1657). (Source of image: MAnnheimer TExte Online)

The Dutch Church in London archive: a fresh upload

Followers of EMLO may recall that just over four years ago the scholar and archivist Joost Depuydt contributed a catalogue of letters for Abraham Ortelius. This listing took as its starting point the correspondence published in John Henry (Jan Hendrick) Hessels’s first volume of letters from the archive of the Dutch Church in London.1 Threaded into this calendar were the metadata for a number of additional letters from the cartographer’s correspondence that had not formed part of the Dutch Church archive collection but which had been tracked down by Depuydt. To complement the Ortelius catalogue, a relay of EMLO Digital Fellows began to collate a calendar for the Dutch Church letters to which Hessels turned his attention in subsequent volumes. The second volume of the edition contained transcriptions of 266 letters of members of the Dutch Church, which following Edward VI’s charter of 24 July 1550 had settled in the nave of the former church of the Augustinan friary in the City of London known as Austin Friars.2 Metadata from the listing set out in the third volume have been added incrementally to EMLO over the past few years and another batch of 465 letters, covering the years from the 1632 to January 1643, has just been made available.3

As explained in an earlier post, the two parts of this third volume by Hessels are the result of a far-from-smooth path to publication. Having worked through and transcribed the collection of letters in the Church’s Ortelius/Collius archive, and what he seems to have thought was the sum of the Church members’ letters, a significant number of additional boxes in the possession of the Church came to light. These contained thousands of manuscripts, and the poor scholar had to revisit his earlier work and embark upon substantial re-ordering to set out in print a complete chronological list.

The metadata for the latest batch of letters released in EMLO were collated by Dr Esther van Raamsdonk. Esther is a former post-doctoral fellow on the AHRC-funded project Networking Archives, of which Cultures of Knowledge is an integral partner and in which EMLO plays a central role. Esther moved earlier this year to the University of Warwick, and in consequence at EMLO we are on the look-out for a scholar or student with a good working knowledge of Dutch and Latin to pick up where she left off. There is still some way to go to bring the catalogue to completion (the letters formerly in the archive extend into the eighteenth-century) and, as we progress through the 1640s, a fascinating prospect beckons: just how many figures will crop up in both the Dutch Church archive and the correspondence within the Domestic and Foreign State Papers at The National Archives? Should you be interested in being involved in this work on a voluntary basis, please be in touch.4 In the meantime, to help lighten these dismal days of lockdown, should anyone wish to explore a fictional account of what Austin Friars might have been like when Thomas Cromwell was in residence, Hilary Mantel in her The Mirror and the Light is a treat in store.5

Austin Friars, c. 1550. Copperplate. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Abrahami Ortelii (geographi Antverpiensis) et virorum eruditorum ad eundem et ad Jacobum Colium Ortelianum (Abrahami Ortelii sororis filium) epistulae, cum aliquot aliis epistulis et tractatibus quibusdam ab utroque collectis (1524–1628), ex autographis mandante Ecclesia Londino-Batava, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1887).
  2. Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes (1544–1622): Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomus Secundus, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1889).
  3. Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes: Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomi Tertii, ed. J. H. Hessels (Cambridge, 1897).
  4. I’d be delighted to discuss the catalogue with you and tell you more about what is involved—just drop me a line.
  5. Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate, 2020).

Professor Richard Sharpe (1954–2020)

The Cultures of Knowledge community has been shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Professor Richard Sharpe, FBA, FSA, FRHistS, Hon. MRIA, on 21 March 2020 at the age of only 66.

The obituaries and tributes that have appeared in The Guardian, at Wadham College, and at the History Faculty, where Richard was Professor of Diplomatic, reveal how fortunate our project was to benefit from the guidance of a scholar of such extraordinary distinction. His international renown is reflected in his election as Fellow of the British Academy in 2003, as Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2018, and as Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 2020. The range of his expertise is suggested by some of the major projects in which he was involved: the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources which he helped to edit between 1981 and 1990, a monumental work on Medieval Irish Saints’ Lives, his general editorship for the British Academy of the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, which now comprises eighteen of a planned twenty-four volumes; and his direction of the Mellon-funded digital project Medieval Libraries of Great Britain.

Yet these monumental undertakings far from exhausted the range and depth of his scholarly production. As a former graduate student wrote of Richard in the Wadham obituary, ‘The volume and versatility of his research were nothing short of mystifying. … Richard blended in perfectly among experts in every field that he mastered, but only a few of his followers seemed to be aware of the full range of his versatility, and fewer still possessed the intellectual stamina to be able to keep up with the flow of contributions across fields.’

Cultures of Knowledge was one in this mystifying range of supplementary projects, which spiralled off in all directions from his core concerns. A longstanding member of the project’s Steering Committee, Richard exercised a formative influence over the enterprise in its crucial first phase. Each of his main contributions was characteristic of different aspects of the man.

Most palpable, perhaps, was his recruitment of the first major dataset not anticipated in the original bid to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: a catalogue and full transcription of the correspondence of Edward Lhwyd FRS, the second Keeper of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and an important naturalist, archaeologist, and Celtic linguist. Building on a lifetime’s work by Dr Brynley F. Roberts, the Lhwyd catalogue was compiled and the transcriptions polished by Helen Watt who worked under the supervision of Richard and his colleague at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales, Professor Dafydd Johnston.

It was perfectly evident that the correspondence of a pioneering Welsh philologist must have been tangential to Richard’s core concerns, but even more mystifying was his immersion within the oceans of learned correspondence which surrounded Lhwyd. When digitization began of what was known as the Bodleian’s ‘Index of Literary Correspondence‘, this chest of file cards was tucked in corner of the Selden End of Duke Humfrey’s Library, unknown to many but consulted on a frequent basis by Richard. He knew these cards intimately and his expertise was invaluable throughout the disambiguation and reconciliation process required to combine the dataset with EMLO’s six pilot individual correspondences. Indeed, it was a favourite tease to remark that one or two of the precise handwritten corrections spotted on the cards might perhaps have come from his pencil. His response was to roll his eyes, look to the ceiling, shrug his shoulders, and laugh. Helping to untangle specific problems with individual letter records gradually grew into something still more fundamental: Richard’s meticulous attention to detail was indispensable to the project of refining and implementing the EMLO data model as a whole.

Richard’s advice to the project team concerning early modern people and places continued for more than a decade into the weeks just prior to his death. His office was situated in Oxford’s Old Indian Institute, and after he took up residence there once again following a temporary sojourn as our immediate neighbour in the History Faculty, he continued to visit—always unannounced. On each occasion he would deliver a detailed account of his current and wide-ranging work before homing in on what he found in progress across the EMLO desks. On what turned out to be the last of his unannounced visits, Richard inspected the disambiguation work being conducted on the correspondence to be found in the Stuart State Papers, offered to send a ‘list of people for whom an eye should be kept open’ on his behalf, reviewed plans for future work on Bodleian material, and undertook to write introductory pages for, amongst others, Roderick O Flaherty (whose correspondence he published in his meticulous 2013 Royal Irish Academy edition), Arthur Charlett, and Humfrey Wanley.

That a man of such prodigious energy, sustained by an exemplary regime of physical fitness, should have left us so suddenly at the height of his powers, is a source of dismay at many levels. We at Cultures of Knowledge were even more fortunate than we were perhaps fully aware to have found an enduring place within his extraordinarily broad range of active scholarly projects.

Howard Hotson and Miranda Lewis

Isaac Newton: letters, papers, dates, plague … plus links to an inspirational project

Isaac Newton died two hundred and ninety-three years ago today.1 To mark the occasion EMLO is publishing an inventory of his letters. The metadata for this listing have been collated by members of the Cultures of Knowledge team based on the correspondence edition published between 1959 and 1977.2 The work has been carried out with funding from Oxford’s John Fell Fund in association with one of the most remarkable and pioneering international digital projects—The Newton Project. If the lockdowns and individual self-isolations brought about by the COVID-19 crisis are beginning to cause withdrawal symptoms from libraries and primary source collections, I suggest following the links in EMLO to explore the wealth of writings of this towering—if sometimes enigmatic and disturbing—figure.

Under the general editorship of Rob Iliffe and Scott Mandelbrote, and based at present at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of History, the Newton Project is dedicated to mounting online a freely available comprehensive edition of the entire corpus of Newton’s printed and unpublished writings. No small undertaking, these aims are being realized steadily and surely by an expert team reliant hitherto on funding from a series of grants and a number of individual donations. Established in 1998, the Project began with a focus on Newton’s ‘non-scientific’ papers; from 2007 it broadened its remit and its ambitions, and today you will find his alchemical, mathematical, religious, scientific writings, together with papers from his work as Warden—and subsequently Master—of the Mint, alongside his notebooks and a selection of his correspondence. Both diplomatic and normalized transcriptions have been made available for users to toggle between. Wherever possible contextual material is provided in the form of catalogue details, translations into English, and links to images of the original manuscripts.

Of course, there is a comforting story to be found within the life of Isaac Newton (assuming you overlook and do not emulate the experiments the enquiring natural philosopher conducted with his own eye) for scholars who are at present stressed, anxious, and lacking books and library resources: in the summer of 1665, the young student left Trinity College, Cambridge, to escape the outbreak of plague in the city and he returned to his maternal family house house of Woolsthorpe in Lincolnshire.3 Apart from a brief visit to his college in the spring of 1666, a stay cut short by a recurrence of plague, Newton remained in Lincolnshire until March 1667. During his time away from the university, he established the fundamentals of ‘the method of series and fluxions’ (calculus); demonstrated and worked on refraction; conducted experiments on his own eyes; and began to consider the nature of gravity.4 In tribute to Isaac Newton—the man, his work, and the apple—perhaps we could all look to happier times when these dark days are behind us and plan a visit to Woolsthorpe Manor … In the meantime, enjoy the new catalogue in EMLO and all that the Newton Project has to offer,

Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire. (Image © National Trust)

  1. Before anyone writes in to protest that he didn’t, Newton may also be described as having died on 20 March 1726, and which of these dates is cited depends upon which calendar is drawn upon to describe it. In the seventeenth century, two calendars—the Julian and the Gregorian—were in widespread use across Europe. The former (known as the ‘Old Style’) tended to be employed—although not exclusively—in Protestant countries; the latter (termed ‘New Style’) had been in adopted in Catholic countries since the issue of the Papal Bull by Gregory XIII in 1582. Gregorian dates ran ten days ahead of the Julian in the seventeenth century, and this difference stretched to eleven days in the eighteenth century. Complicating this discrepancy further was the fact that in England, until 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was set in place, the year change occurred on Lady Day (25 March). In consequence, Newton may be described in the Julian dating system as having been born on 25 December 1642 and died on 20 March 1726, or on 4 January 1643 and 31 March 1727 respectively under the proleptic (beginning the year on 1 January and imposing this retrospectively as if it had always been in place) Gregorian calendar. For a detailed explanation of these early modern calendrical conundrums, you might wish to refer to the chapter entitled ‘Time’ in the recently published co-authored volume Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age. Standards, Systems, Scholarship, ed. H. Hotson and T. Wallnig (Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen, 2019), pp. 97–104, an online version of which is available for free download.
  2. The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, ed. H. W. Turnbull, A. R. Hall, J. F. Scott, and Laura Tilling, 7 vols (Cambridge, 1959–77).
  3. The property is now owned by the National Trust. On 6 May 1665, his mother Hannah wrote a letter to him from ‘Wollstrup’. Newton’s father had died in 1642, prior to Isaac’s birth. Two years later, his mother had married Barnabas Smith, the rector of North Witham, a village just south of Woolsthorpe, but Isaac had continued to live in at the manor house with his grandmother Margaret Ayscough. After the death of Barnabas Smith in 1656 Hannah had returned to Woolsthorpe with the children from her second marriage. She died in 1679.
  4. Woolsthorpe is the setting for the apocryphal story of the apple. If you would like to read ‘from the horse’s mouth’, do look at William Stukeley’s ‘Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s life’ (1752), available in manuscript on the Royal’s Society’s Turning Pages resource.

Fulvio Orsini: librarian to the Farnese

Ranuccio Farnese, by Titian. 1542. (National Gallery of Art, Washington; image on Wikimedia Commons)

A day after more than eleven million people worldwide switched on a television or computer to watch Pope Francis deliver the Urbi et Orbi blessing from an empty Saint Peter’s Square, EMLO remains focussed on the Eternal City. Despite numerous lockdowns in place across the world and all the associated complications of working from home, this week saw publication of the first installment towards a listing of the correspondence of Fulvio Orsini. The illegitimate son of a member of the Orsini family, Fulvio Orsini was born in 1529 and, as a scholar, librarian, and numismatist, he lived out his three-score-and-ten years in the midst of the remarkable creative and intellectual activity of sixteenth-century Rome.

Having changed his name (the reason behind this is not apparent) from Lucio Settimio three years previously, Fulvio was appointed librarian to a member of the Farnese family in 1558 and as a result he was to reside for the remainder of his life at the Palazzo Farnese. Although this building was designed by the architect Antonio da Sangallo the younger (d. 1546), Michelangelo (d. 1564), Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (d. 1573), and Giacomo della Porta (d. 1602) each played a role in its completion. The interior of the palace was decorated by—amongst many others—Annibale Carracci (d. 1609).1

Alessandro Farnese, by Titian. 1545–6. (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples; image on Wikimedia Commons)

As librarian, Fulvio Orsini worked initially for Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese (1530–1565), the subject of a striking portrait by Titian (above). From 1565, he was employed by Ranuccio’s oldest brother Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589), who was also painted by Titian (right). And, in the final decade of his life, his patron and employer was the brothers’ nephew, Cardinal Odoardo Farnese (1573–1626), whose likeness is known from a drawing attributed to Annibale Carracci (below).

Odoardo Farnese, by Annibale Carracci. (Musée du Louvre, Paris; image on Wikimedia Commons)

The inventory to be found at present in Fulvio Orsini’s catalogue in EMLO lists the incoming correspondence contained in three Vatican Library manuscripts: Vat. lat. 4103, Vat. lat. 4104, and Vat. lat. 4105. Metadata have been collated by Dr Jan Machielsen of Cardiff University (and—until COVID-19 swept the continent—on a  Humboldt fellowship in Dresden) with funding from the British Academy and in collaboration with the British School at Rome and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Links from the records in EMLO to images of the manuscripts and printed copies of the letters have been provided wherever possible, and I hope so much you will find this correspondence a welcome distraction in these dark and difficult days.2 Wherever you may be keep well, stay at home, and help thereby to protect lives.

  1. For those who are interested, the portrait from which the Cultures of Knowledge project’s logo is taken (by kind permission of the York Museums Trust) is ascribed to Annibale Carracci—see the portrait of Cardinal Agucchi, York Museums Trust. Previously the portrait has been attributed to Annibale’s pupil Domenichino. Sadly, just two weeks ago another of Annibale’s paintings, A Boy Drinking, together with a 1616 study of a man on horseback by Anthony van Dyck and a Salvator Rosa landscape, was stolen from Oxford’s Christ Church Picture Gallery. Annibale may be one of my favourite artists, but it wasn’t me … honest! If anyone has information about the theft of these three paintings, please be in touch with the police or with the gallery.
  2. I make no apologies for posting a blog peopled with portraits. Portraits are my way of escaping the grim news at present. I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Fulvio Orsini’s employers.

Halley, Aubrey, and ‘the Arch-conjurer’

As the inventory of the astronomer Edmond Halley’s correspondence is published in EMLO, my colleague Dr Philip Beeley has been working with a number of these letters as part of his ongoing research on the early Fellows of the Royal Society. In celebration of the new catalogue, Dr Beeley has provided a few ‘observations’ (although, of course, not in the astronomical sense) for this post. 

It is well known that by the 1690s there was little love lost between John Flamsteed and Edmond Halley. According to the testimony of David Gregory, since 1691 Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford and a close ally of Newton, the origin of their enmity was an act of intellectual dishonesty on Flamsteed’s part. The story goes that Halley in good faith communicated the lunar tables he had computed to the Astronomer Royal who thereupon published them as his own work and without Halley’s permission. Having heard this story from Newton himself, Gregory noted words to this effect in the margin of his copy of Principia. There can be no doubt, however, that both Halley and Newton also treated Flamsteed unfairly, most notably when they acted together to publish his new yet incomplete catalogue of the fixed stars, the Historia coelestis Britannica, without his permission in 1712.

While being an astronomer of the first order, Halley courted controversy through his attitude towards religion, and especially the established church. In 1691, when he was one of the candidates for the astronomy chair, alongside Gregory and John Caswell, his scientific qualification was by far the strongest, yet he was rejected on account of his reputation as a free-thinker or, as some would have it, his irreligion. Interestingly, however, this charge had all but evaporated by 1703, when Halley was appointed Savilian professor of geometry following the death of John Wallis.

Halley to Aubrey of 16/26 November 1679. (Bodleian Libraries, MS Aubrey 42, fol. 148)

Evidence of Halley’s free-thinking comes from his correspondence with John Aubrey. The antiquary and natural philosopher valued highly the work of his astrologer friend of many years, John Gadbury, and commended his efforts to establish a programme of astrological research as a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge. When, in 1679, Aubrey recommended the study of astrology to Halley, the astronomer by no means rejected this proposal. Indeed, he tells Aubrey that he has gone to the library to seek out the particular book he had proposed—Leovitius’s De conjugationibus magnis—and that although not wholly convinced it would contain more than historical value he would ‘read it over’.1 Nonetheless, Halley could not refrain from making the humorous quip that it was not perhaps the best time to be studying astrology, for Gadbury, ‘the Arch-conjurer’ as he calls him, had recently been arrested in connection with the Meat Tub Plot. And Flamsteed? He had evidently seen an unpublished ephemeris attributed to Jeremy Shakerley that was once in the hands of Gadbury and corrected by him. In contrast to Halley, Flamsteed was decidedly meek when it came to astrology. Of these tables he remarks in the manuscript history of his own life that he would not be seen with Mr. Gadbury’s book, ‘lest I should be suspected astrological’.

Philip Beeley
Faculty of History
University of Oxford

Undelivered Letters: a public day with the Brienne collection


Are you likely to be in or near The Hague on 16 February 2020? Are you interested in the materiality of early modern letters, particularly in how they were folded, wrapped, and sealed? Are you intrigued by the journeys letters endured and the postal routes taken from the moment of dispatch? And would you like to see an example of the type of chest in which countless bundles of letters were stored in the seventeenth century? If so, you may be interested to know that EMLO’s partners at the Signed, Sealed, and Undelivered project are set to hold a celebratory conference on Sunday, 16 February 2020 at the Beeld en Geluid in The Hague. Detailed metadata for the undelivered letters on which the team work are being collated and published in EMLO as the Brienne collection, and a new batch of letters will be added to this catalogue to coincide with the conference.

The Signed, Sealed, and Undelivered project team would like to extend the following invitation (in letter format, naturally) to everyone interested in finding out more about the meticulous cataloguing work and the associated research involved with these undelivered letters. Further details and instructions regarding the event on 16 February and registration (attendance is free, but booking is required) may be found online.

Look forward to seeing you there!

In praise of twenty-first century scholarly networks!

Following publication earlier in the year of the collaboratively authored volume Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age: Standards, Systems, Scholarship, it is fascinating to witness the ripple effect continue unabated within the scholarly circles drawn together beneath the banner of the ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’ COST-funded action.1 Back in March of last year, Kristi Viiding, professor of Classical Philology at the Univesrity of Tartu, hosted an EMLO-led Training School at the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn. Subsequently, Kristi and her team collated and contributed to EMLO the first instalment of the correspondence inventory for the Livonian humanist David Hilchen, which was published almost exactly a year ago. And in the course of this work, Kristi made an introduction between our team at EMLO and Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, Professor of Latin language and Roman literature at the University of Helsinki.

Letter by Daniel Gyldenstolpe to Nils Gyldenstolpe dated 20 August 1676. (Nordin 469:45; image courtesy of Uppsala University Library)

Raija works on the Latin letters of the Gyldenstolpe family and—as a beneficiary of funding from the University of Helsinki—with the assistance of Minna Vesa, she compiled and published in EMLO the the first instalment of the inventory of the Gyldenstolpe family letters.2 The career of Nils Gyldenstolpe (1642–1709), the Swedish statesman and diplomat, culminated in his appointment as Secretary of State to Charles XII in 1705. The corpus of manuscripts that make up his family’s archive, now in the care of the Uppsala University Library, offers fascinating glimpses into the education and career opportunities available to members of a seventeenth-century society that was marked by ‘strict social hierarchy and networks of patron-client relationships’.3

Here in Oxford at the Networking Archives project, as we progress through the disambiguation of the authors and recipients of correspondence to be found in the State Papers of early modern Britain, we shall keep an eye open for mentions of members of this illustrious family. And we look forward also to watching as today’s talented and industrious scholars thread further early modern correspondence metadata into the webs of communication under investigation.

  1. Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age: Standards, Systems, Scholarship, ed. Howard Hotson and Thomas Wallnig (Göttingen University Press, 2019). The volume maybe be downloaded as an open-access PDF
  2. See, amongst her other publications, Raija Sarasti-Wilenius, ‘Dear Brother, Gracious Maecenas. Latin Letters of the Gyldenstolpe Brothers (1661–1680)’, Humaniora, 374, Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae (Helsinki, 2015).
  3. See the introductory page to ‘The Correspondence of the Gyldenstolpe family’, contributed by Raija Sarasti-Wilenius and Minna Vesa, University of Helsinki, in Early Modern Letters Online, accessed 18 December 2019.