It gives us huge pleasure to announce the re-launch of Early Modern Letters Online – EMLO – our union catalogue of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth- century letters, comprising of a complete aesthetic makeover for the website and the release of nine new collections focused on significant figures of the republic of letters.
These new catalogues were contributed to EMLO by our esteemed partners and friends at the Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic [CKCC] project, and represent the beginning of a rolling programme of the publication of new catalogues throughout the year and beyond, curated and contributed by a vast and growing community of scholars, projects, publishers, and repositories.
New content: the Circulation of Knowledge
We could not be more delighted to celebrate the release of our new-look catalogue with publication of the most substantial contribution of metadata to EMLO to date. CKCC has contributed to EMLO the metadata from nine individual correspondences from the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic: Caspar van Baarle [Barlaeus], Isaac Beeckman, René Descartes, Huge de Groot [Grotius], Christiaan Huygens, Constantijn Huygens, Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek, Dirck Rembrantsz van Nierop, and Jan Swammerdam, amounting in total to in excess of 20,000 letter records.
Since the earliest days of Cultures of Knowledge in 2009, CKCC and CofK have worked closely and eagerly together with frequent workshops and meetings arranged between The Hague and Oxford. Sibling projects in so many respects, the two share deep-rooted principles and aspirations, and they complement each other beautifully: both commit to the delivery of open-access platforms; both work to provide open-source tools for the benefit of the twenty-first century’s early modern scholars; both nurture a vision of international and local collaboration, in terms of scholarly and of technical development alike; both promote their values of inclusivity, openness, and cross-discipline scholarship; and both work with fervour towards the creation of platforms within which today’s scholars may pose, investigate, and answer research questions relevant to their particular dataset.EMLO is a catalogue concerned primarily with early modern European metadata and with the task of directing scholars to relevant correspondence resources around the world, whether in print, online, or solely in manuscript. CKCC, through its innovative web application, the ePistolarium, allows key-word searching and analysis of full-text transcriptions. By making their metadata available on EMLO, CKCC benefits from another access point for users – every record directs users to the full transcription displayed in the ePistolarium – and joins a larger whole the of many, and growing, thousands of disparate and connected correspondences in a union catalogue, within which the metadata can be interrogated and, in later stages of the project, analysed and visualized.
This fruitful partnership enhances the records of both parties, since as well as the continual enhancement and correction made possible by adding their data to the EMLO platform, CKCC is also to benefit from the many people and place records created and enhanced by EMLO: our primary contributors can receive exports of their metadata for their own use. In due course a proportion of EMLO data will also be made available for download under a Creative Commons license, although contributors will always be able to embargo their records from this facility if they so wish.1
We would like to thank and congratulate the eminent scholars, institutions, libraries, universities, and research institutes associated with CKCC for their remarkable achievement in the creation of ePistolarium and for their invaluable partnership. In particular, our colleagues forming the CKCC Steering Committee and Project Team, Frans Blom, Erik-Jan Bos, Martin Bossenbroek, Bas Doppen, Paul Doorenbosch, Guido Gerritsen, Ronald Haentjens Dekker, Charles van den Heuvel, Brit Hopmann, Eric Jorink, Dirk van Miert, Wijnand Mijnhardt (Chair), Henk Nellen, Walter Ravenek, Dirk Roorda, and Huib Zuidervaart all deserve rich credit for their insight, vision, and collaborative approach, and it is to them CofK extends manifold thanks.
New look: sleeker, smoother, and mobile-ready
In addition to new content, EMLO has been given a fresh new look, and our infinite and enthusiastic thanks go to Monica Messaggi Kaya, who worked passionately and tirelessly to design and code the new site (which is also mobile- and tablet-ready), with expert assistance from Matthew Wilcoxson.2 There you can access EMLO’s fast-multiplying thousands of records on letters, people, and places.
Due to EMLO’s increasingly collective and composite nature, you may spot legacy errors that we’re still working on, a teething problem or broken link in the redesign, or a mistake made by an old print edition that can finally be corrected by pooling knowledge online. See our ‘Known issues’ section, and use the ‘send a comment’ function whenever you wish should you see something specific. This is just one of the great advantages of EMLO: everything can be updated and enhanced as fresh information comes to light or as scholars give the benefit of their expert advice. See our ‘Copyright and scholarly responsibility’ section for more details on accreditation, disputed data, and editorial responsibility.
Proper credit and provenance information is of central importance to us as a unifying resource: one key new feature is to provide a bespoke and easily-updated ‘catalogue front page’ for each new collection, where CofK, or the contributors themselves, can add information on primary contributors and scholarly editors, a contextual summary, further credit and partner details, information on catalogue content, and further resources, for example bibliographies.
In the new site, you can still browse by people, location, organizations, repositories, and date. You can also search by a handy set of basic fields on the home page, by a quick-search function in the top corner of every page, and by an extensive set of fields on ‘Search+’, including people and places mentioned in the letters. Some of EMLO’s catalogues are very richly worked, providing all this information and significantly more, including images, transcriptions, and translations, although our raison d’etre is to be a union catalogue, bringing together even just basic metadata to provide a research tool and connect out to other resources – it’s entirely up to our contributors as to whether they wish to gather and share more.
We hope so much that you — the users of EMLO —will celebrate EMLO and CKCC’s partnership and this impressive achievement of collaboration and interoperability by exploring and interrogating the data: in EMLO, try searching these nine new correspondences alongside others already available in the catalogue; leave EMLO and, in CKCC, head to the ePistolarium, enter a text search and begin to visual and mine your findings still further. If you’re interested in working with us, check out our Contribute page, sign up to the CofK mailing list to get a notification when a new catalogue is added to EMLO, and watch us grow.
A deeply felt ‘thank you’ is due to all who have been involved in bringing Early Modern Letters Online to this significant stage. We think this is an exciting day for early modern epistolary scholarship, and it marks our next step in a journey towards fulfilling the possibilities of the connected world; of truly collaborative and interdisciplinary work, of responsibly shared resources, and of open platforms in the digital humanities.
1. Our community’s wishes will always come first in EMLO – see our Copyright and Scholarly Responsibility section for more details.
2. See our Technical Overview and Credits section on our About page for more detail.