Epistolary connections: Matthias Bernegger

When the nineteen-year-old Austrian-born Matthias Bernegger embarked upon his studies in Strasbourg, he developed a particular interest in astronomy and mathematics. Shortly thereafter, he entered into correspondence with two of the leading astronomers of the age: Johannes Kepler and Wilhelm Schickard. Both relationships were to prove enduring and they were developed and maintained for the rest of the older astronomers’ lives and may be charted from the calendar published this week in EMLO, which is based upon Bernegger’s letters that have been published in epistolaries.

Against a backdrop of war and ubiquitous plague, Bernegger played a significant role in the lives of a number of members of Kepler’s family. On 12 March 1630, Kepler’s daughter Susanna married Jacob Bartsch, a young mathematical scholar who worked for her father as an assistant. Kepler had decided that the wedding should take place in Strasbourg but was unable to make the journey from Żagań [Sagan] himself, partly because of the distance (according to Google maps, this is 717km. mapwalking pretty much as the crow flies) and his age (he was approaching sixty), and in part because his second wife, Susanna Reuttinger, was heavily pregnant (their youngest child, Anna Maria was born just one month later). Kepler wrote to ask Bernegger, who had helped introduce the couple, to deputize on his behalf, and Bernegger replied with accounts of the wedding. At this point, Kepler had only a few months left to live. Bernegger continued as professor and rector at Strasbourg for the final decade of his life, before dying there on 5 February 1640. Bartsch, the bridegroom at the Strasbourg wedding, edited and published his father-in-law’s Somnium, but is thought only to have lived for a further three years before succumbing to plague.

Of course, the more connections that are made in EMLO, the more overlaps occur with the same letter appearing in more than one catalogue. I had a wonderful couple of weeks just before Christmas working with an extremely talented developer, Journi Tuominen, from Aalto University, to scope out and pilot a powerful tool that will search across a range of metadata fields in EMLO to suggest matches that, if confirmed, will allow links to be set in place to identify and tag contributions by multiple scholars as different interpretations of the same letter. Jouni will be back in Oxford next month, at work once again on this tool, so watch this space; the various levels on which connections in EMLO may be made are increasing apace.

New year, new letters, new collaborations

EMLO_front_2017.1.20Of course eagle-eyed users will have spotted already significant new-year additions to existing catalogues in EMLO: as of this week, the calendar of Henry Oldenburg’s correspondence extends to the end of July 1675 (with only two more of the Halls’ volumes to go, and just over two-years’ worth of letters to take the calendar to completion, we’re looking forward to celebrating Oldenburg and his correspondence later this year); Pierre Bayle’s correspondence in EMLO has been augmented with volumes eight and nine of the Voltaire Foundation’s truly magnificent Correspondance de Pierre Bayle, compiled and edited under the direction of †Elisabeth Labrousse and Professor Antony McKenna; and, thanks to the wonderful collaboration between Professor Adam Mosley and Dr Francesco Barrecca, Johannes Kepler’s catalogue now includes metadata from the letters in volume XVI of Max Caspar’s Gesammelte Werk.

And then followers of Twitter may have realised we’ve been equally busy shaping collaborations for the years ahead. Last week we hosted here at Oxford’s Faculty of History a workshop for a group of eleven volunteers from Huygens ING which, under the direction of project leader and researcher Dr Ineke Huysman, is embarking upon the collation of a calendar for Dutch Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt’s extremely large correspondence. Whilst primarily diplomatic and administrative in their subject matter, these letters include also De Witt’s exchanges with a number of scholars as well as his personal correspondence. With political and economic complications intensifying these days at every turn, we are immensely proud and fortunate to be involved in so many early modern pan-European collaborations. Surely the intelligencers Oldenburg and Bayle would have been supportive of what we’re working so hard to achieve with EMLO, and both our own Andrew W. Mellon-funded Culture of Knowledge project and the pioneering COST Action Reassembling the Republic of Letters, also headed by our CofK project director Professor Howard Hotson, have a more crucial role to play in today’s world of change than we could possibly have envisaged a couple of years ago.

Bess of Hardwick: the complete correspondence

This productive year has seen publication in EMLO of thirty-one new correspondence catalogues, significant enhancements to an existing dozen (either with new letters, further detailed metadata, or transcriptions added), and the blossoming of a number of ground-breaking initiatives, including of course the pioneering and rapidly taken up Bodleian Student Editions. Summer was heralded this year with the official launch in Oxford of Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO], the invaluable resource and networking hub for scholars of women’s correspondence, and we were truly thrilled that this was followed by a spectacular autumn launch at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam of the correspondences of the wives of the seventeenth-century Dutch Stadtholders, compiled by Dr Ineke Huysman. And now, in these dwindling December days, EMLO sees out this year with the correspondence of one of the sixteenth-century’s most remarkable figures, Bess of Hardwick.


Bess was an indomitable woman. Widely known for four fortuitous marriages, each layering status and wealth onto the foundations of the previous, her life played out against a backdrop of England’s religious troubles under a succession of Tudor monarchs (Henry VII, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth) until, by the time she died at the age of about 87, the first Stuart king James VI and I was well into his reign over a combined Scotland and England. This longevity enabled Bess to plan and to build in a number of ways. She weathered her childbearing years to emerge as a matriarch and a builder of dynasties. With her second husband, the twice-widowed treasurer of the king’s chamber Sir William Cavendish, she bore eight children, six of whom survived to adulthood. In addition, Bess presided over a dizzying number of step-children as well as her grand- and step-grandchildren (I’m not going to attempt to count them but, rather, leave this figure open as a new year’s quiz; answers by email only, please!). Marriages were orchestrated carefully, even between her own children and her step-children, and from 1582 she was responsible for raising her granddaughter, Arbella Stuart (1575–1615), a claimant — as the child of Bess’s own daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, and Charles Stuart — to both the English and the Scottish crowns in the years when the aging Queen Elizabeth refused to name a successor. It may have been a wise decision that, as a begetter of heirs, Bess kept herself largely to her home county of Derbyshire, despite being entreated by none less than the lord treasurer himself, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, not to ‘not live so solitary as it seems you do there in Chatsworth amongst hills and rocks of stones’.

But what stones, because, of course, Bess was also a builder in bricks and mortar (and glass!) as the creator of a succession of exceptionally impressive and architecturally striking houses. She was born into Derbyshire gentry, but on her father’s death in 1528 his modest property around Hardwick was seized and administered by the office of wards until his son and heir, Bess’s brother James, came of age. Bess’s mother, Elizabeth Leeke, remarried Ralph Leche of Chatsworth, although the union brought little by way of money or land. It was Bess’s second marriage to Sir William Cavendish, who just about weathered the complicated years of both Edward VI and Mary I, that enabled the purchase — in the couple’s name jointly — of the Chatsworth lands from the Bess’s step-family, the Leches, and thereafter the building of Chatsworth House, an architectural project Bess focussed upon well into the 1560s even though her husband William died in 1557. (If you follow this link, you’ll find an exquisite needlework image of the west front of the Chatsworth Bess built.)

It was some two decades later, however, in 1587, following an acrimonious legal battle over estates with her fourth husband, George Talbot (sixth earl of Shrewsbury, and keeper between 1568 and 1584 of Mary, Queen of Scots), that Bess embarked upon her most creative enterprises. In 1583, in the name of her son William, she had purchased the Hardwick lands following the death of her brother James, who had ended his days a bankrupt two years previously in Fleet Prison leaving just one — illegitimate — son. (The correspondence contains a letter from James to Bess asking for money, as well as another from their mother writing on his behalf with the same request.) Within just eight years, the house known today as ‘Hardwick Old Hall’ was complete, and by 1599 the monumental ‘Hardwick New Hall’, one of the most architecturally ambitious and audacious undertakings of the age, was in place. This house, for which even the rigorous Pevsner rolls out the rhyme ‘Hardwick Hall, more window than wall’, is topped with stone-carved crowns and Bess’s own monogram ‘ES’ [Elizabeth Shrewsbury].

Bess’s correspondence charts these remarkable creations as well as her own extraordinary story and it affords us detailed glimpses into her world of building and family management as she navigated the complexities of the times in which she lived, exchanging letters with royalty and figures of state, with family, friends, and servants alike. Her letters — currently 234 in total — have been edited and published together with full transcripts, commentaries, and images of many of the manuscripts by the AHRC-funded project Bess of Hardwick’s Letters: The Complete Correspondence (University of Glasgow), under the direction of Dr Alison Wiggins, and each record in the EMLO catalogue links straight through to this project’s full entry.

We hope you will take advantage of the midwinter break to explore Bess’s correspondence, and to set it against those of her contemporaries in EMLO, both male and female. 2016 will long be remembered by us as the year in which WEMLO was launched, and with 12,285 letter records currently in the union catalogue from, to, or mentioning women, we look forward greatly to the quantity of women’s correspondence increasing apace over the year ahead. To echo the words of our colleague Dr Kim McLean-Fiander, co-director with Professor James Daybell of WEMLO, a gender search is something that should be built into all digital correspondence editions and library catalogues, for both women and men need to be searchable by gender as well as across the combined whole. Whatever your search and whichever correspondence you intend to consult, we hope you find this gender-search functionality in W/EMLO useful, and we wish you a very happy New Year!

Solace for the solstice: Martin Opitz


Martin Opitz, by Paul Fürst. Copperplate print, 15.2 by 9.4 cm. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

As an offering in this week of the solstice, EMLO has released metadata for a selection of Martin Opitz’s correspondence. One of the founding fathers of German literature, Opitz is a poet with words for those in the throes of a dark and troubled northern midwinter. Could this be the moment to read his Trost-Gedichte in Widerwertigkeit deß Krieges [Poems of consolation at the resumption of war] of 1633, or, in the stillness of a long, dark night, listen to a reading of his poem Jetzund kömpt die Nacht herbei [Now the night comes], or to a recital of it set to music by Johann Nauwach (1595–1630) and sung by the incomparable Andreas Scholl.

Opitz was caught up in the horror of the Thirty Years’ War. Born in Bunzlau [now Bolesławiec, in Poland], he was one of the many scholars who traversed the face of Europe through these war-torn decades, studying in Frankfurt an der Oder, in Heidelberg, and in Leiden. From his letters, we are able to follow him to Breslau [Wrocław] in 1626; Prague in 1628; Breslau again in 1628–9; and Paris in 1630, where he met Grotius and members of the Dupuy circle. Opitz ended his days in Danzig [now Gdańsk], dying there of plague in 1639, nine years before the Peace of Westphalia brought to an end this episode of Europe’s misery. Opitz was a witness to troubled times.

Bodleian Student Editions: Elizabeth Wagstaffe

If you follow the blogs and tweets that emanate from the Bodleian Libraries you may have noticed EMLO is involved in an initiative called Bodleian Student Editions, an exciting new scheme set up to explore the potential of the Bodleian’s resources for cross-disciplinary training, and, at the end of a busy but productive term, I’d like to draw your attention to something extremely special that has just become available as a result of this inspiring collaboration. A ‘thing of beauty’, no less.

bsedA collaboration between curatorial staff from the Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections department, the Centre for Digital Scholarship, students at the University of Oxford, and our own Early Modern Letters Online, Bodleian Student Editions took root early in 2016 when a number of us met at a conference — Digital Editing Now — in Cambridge (and I shall be eternally grateful to our own Faculty of History for the generous sponsorship that enabled me to hop on the X5 bus, spin round the roundabouts between the two universities, and attend). A subsequent series of fruitful conversations, an altruistic willingness for genuine collaboration, a truly excellent student-led conference here in Oxford last June (Speaking in Absence: Letters in the Digital Age), and a remarkably lucid vision shared by the partner participants have combined to nurture Bodleian Student Editions from a glimmer in the collective eye to six pilot workshops scheduled across this current academic year.

Each standalone session offers twelve students (from any Faculty, either undergraduate or postgraduate) an introduction to the handling, reading, and transcribing of pre-selected manuscript letters from Special Collections. Students work in pairs to transcribe; they don editorial hats to check transcriptions prepared by others; they collate metadata; they conduct research into the relevant early modern people, places, and events; and they enter their work into EMLO using the catalogue’s webform. Mike Webb (the Bodleian’s Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts), Pip Willcox (Head of the Centre for Digital Scholarship), and I (as EMLO’s editor) lead the sessions, offering advice on the range of issues that should be considered, and the decisions made, when working with manuscripts in a digital environment, and guidance is provided concerning subsequent training in XML/TEI and the use of visualization tools.

The six letters selected for the inaugural session were written from Elizabeth Wagstaffe (neé Fuller) to her husband Timothy Wagstaffe, a lawyer at Middle Temple. Elizabeth was a daughter of Nicholas Fuller, the puritan lawyer and MP, whose family home was at Chamberhouse, near Thatcham, in Berkshire. Elizabeth married Timothy, the son of Thomas Wagstaffe of Harbury, Warwickshire, on 2 January 1604/5. Timothy, who matriculated to Oriel College, Oxford, was admitted to Middle Temple on 12 May 1597. He purchased the manors of Tachbrook Mallory and Bishop’s Tachbrook, near Warwick, and these Bodleian letters provide a fascinating glimpse into the running of the couple’s busy household. Five of the letters were sent by Elizabeth from Warwick, and include snippets of news concerning many of the local gentry. (There is mention, for example, of Sir Bartholomew Hales, J.P., of Snittersfield, the village in which Shakespeare’s grandfather was a tenant farmer and where the bard’s father, John Shakespeare, was born.) The earliest letter is written in 1616 from Fuller’s house in Berkshire, where two of Elizabeth’s sons had been born and baptised in 1615 and 1616, and recounts the preparations for a ‘agrate meetinge, att Margetts mariage [possibly that of Edward Folwell and Margaret Fowell on 20 November 1616] (of folke from Newbery, and Thatcham)’.

As our Michaelmas term draws to a close, I’m delighted to announce tangible results of this initiative with the first cluster of letter records published in EMLO under the aegis of Bodleian Student Editions and, of course, the promised ‘thing of beauty’: a set of gorgeous images of the manuscript letters themselves. It is here, and not for the first time, that thanks are due many times over to Bodleian Student Editions’ wonderful and inspiring Olivia Thompson (Balliol-Bodley Scholar and DPhil candidate in Ancient History) and Helen Brown (DPhil candidate in English), and to the Balliol Interdisciplinary Institute, which generously covered imaging costs for these letters, and I hope everyone who clicks through from the records in EMLO will agree that Digital.Bodleian could not be a more perfect platform for their display.


The metadata and transcriptions created during the second Bodleian Student Edition workshop, which was held just over a week ago, will be added to the EMLO catalogue early in the new year. The scheduled sessions have been so heavily over subscribed that a waiting list is now in operation, and we’re truly delighted so many students are keen to participate. It seems the future of scholarly editions gleams bright, and we hope, as you pore over these letters of Elizabeth Wagstaffe, you’ll hear her voice loud and clear and will find in EMLO and Digital.Bodleian treasures that can remain ‘a joy for ever’.

The mathematical networks of Charles Hutton

As a calendar for the correspondence of a mathematician and professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy enters our union catalogue, it is wonderful to watch the related contacts and networks extend our growing cluster of early modern mathematicians through the second half of the eighteenth century into the beginning of the nineteenth.


Charles Hutton, by Benjamin Wyon. 1823. Bronze medal. (© National Portrait Gallery, London; NPG 5783)

The son of a colliery overseer, Charles Hutton was born and brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne. Were it not for a childhood injury to one of his arms that led to a permanent disability, most probably he would have followed his forebears and siblings to work in the pit. Fortunately for subsequent mathematicians, however, Hutton was sent to school rather than to work and by his late teens had taken the place of his teacher in Jesmond. Hutton continued to establish himself and developed a focus on applied mathematics, in particular on navigation and surveying, and in 1779 he was awarded a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh and appointed Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society.

Hutton’s correspondence has been collated by Dr Benjamin Wardhaugh as part of his AHRC-funded work on Hutton. It is a rich catalogue, with people mentioned in the letters noted and many insightful abstracts provided. As Dr Wardhaugh remarks, while Hutton might be known best today for the opposition he encountered from Joseph Banks, the then president of the Royal Society, he emerged as the crucial focal point of a network of mathematicians in Georgian Britain.

Mathematical correspondence in EMLO is growing rapidly under the invaluable direction of Dr Philip Beeley, and many more early modern mathematicians are on course to join this particular circle in the coming months. For the present, however, we wish Dr Wardhaugh and Dr Beeley well as they embark upon their new and fascinating project, Reading Euclid: Euclid’s Elements of Geometry and its reception in Britain and Ireland, 1570-1700.

The hidden treasures of Johannes Coccejus

The focus of the most recent catalogue to be published in EMLO — theologian Johannes Coccejus — may be best known for the conflict into which he was drawn by the Utrecht-based theologian Gisbertus Voetius and his followers, but I’d like to highlight today how Coccejus’s afterlife contains an extraordinary episode entirely in keeping with his peace-loving character.


Coloured engraving of the monument to Johannes Coccejus in the Pieterskerk, taken from K. J. F. C. Kneppelhout van Sterkenburg, ‘De gedenkteekenen van de Pieterskerk te Leyden’ (Leiden, 1864), p. 113. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Although Coccejus (or Cocceius) was German by birth — he was born and raised in Bremen — he spent most of his adult life in the low countries. An eminent scholar, he become professor of Hebrew and oriental languages at Franeker from 1636, and from 1650 until his death in 1669 was professor of theology at Leiden. The late Willem van Asselt (who was professor of Reformed Protestantism at the university of Utrecht and professor of historical theology at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven) portrays Coccejus as: ‘a man of a deep personal faith and piety. His students observed this and one of them wrote: “His hearers noted that his eyes would fill with tears when, in giving an exposition of Scripture, he praised the richness of God’s grace”.’ It seems Coccejus was an unwilling (this noted by van Asselt) combatant in the Voetian dispute, which centred around the interpretation of the Sabbath and the Fourth Commandment, and on interpretations of salvation in the Old and New Testaments. This debate, which arose and took hold in the middle of the seventeenth century in the United Provinces, continued far beyond Dutch national borders and long after the deaths of the major protagonists.

Coccejus fell victim to plague in Leiden. He was buried in the Pieterskerk. And it was here, where the memorial erected to him still stands, that he provided from the grave scholarly refuge and shelter in a way he could never have foreseen. In 1940, as Nazi troops entered the city, the curators of the University of Leiden took the symbolic treasures of the institution — the keys, the seals, and the sceptres — and hid them in Coccejus’s tomb. Even the register of students used in graduation ceremonies was tucked in for safe-keeping with the theologian’s remains. There’s something gloriously apt about Coccejus proving himself — again in van Asselt’s words — a ‘defender of academic freedom and the Reformed tradition’ almost three centuries after his death.


Postcard of the Pieterskerk, Leiden. (source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

The calendar of correspondence you’ll find now in EMLO spans Coccejus’s scholarly life and is based on the metadata of his letters printed in epistolaries that have been collated by Monika Estermann in her invaluable inventory of German correspondence. This is another catalogue we are incorporating into EMLO in the expectation that scholars will find it of use and will be tempted to contribute additional metadata. If you’d like to add to the calendar, please be in touch.

‘Let me not be forgotten’: Margaret Vernon

‘Wherefore, in the honour of God, let me not be forgotten, but with diligence tender my pains, as I shall be ever your beadwoman, and surely deserve your goodness, if God make me able, whom I beseech to preserve you ever in much worship.’ Thus wrote the English nun Margaret Vernon in a letter of 1528 to Thomas Cromwell. Twenty-one letters, dating between 1522 and 1538, from this remarkable abbess to her increasingly powerful patron are known to have survived, and now a catalogue with a calendar compiled by Professor Mary J. Erler during the course of research for her publication Reading and Writing During the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns 1530–1558 (Cambridge University Press, 2013) is available in EMLO.


Thomas Cromwell, by Hans Holbein the younger. 1532-33. Oil on panel, 78.4 by 64.5cm. (Frick Collection, New York; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Margaret Vernon held the position of superior in four religious houses in the south of England: Sopwell PriorySt Mary de Pré (these were both in St Albans, Hertfordshire); and, consecutively, Little Marlow (Buckinghamshire) and Malling Abbey (Kent). Her letters, the manuscript originals of which may be found in either the State Papers at The National Archives, or MS Cotton at the British Library, span the career of a woman forced to navigate times of unprecedented religious turmoil and upheaval. They reveal a lengthy relationship forged with Cromwell, beginning in the early 1520s before his meteoric rise while he was in the service of Cardinal Wolsey. During these years, Cromwell seems to have acted as financial adviser to Vernon, who was at that point head of Little Marlow. Some of the letters chart Vernon’s unsuccessful negotiations to become prioress of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London, the position she had been promised by Wolsey. Other letters cover the period during which Cromwell entrusted his only son Gregory to Vernon for his early schooling. And a number of the letters convey the desperation of the abbess at the imminent closure of both Little Marlow and, subsequently, Malling. Remarkably, in 1538, when the dissolution of the latter seemed unavoidable, Vernon requested permission to sell one of the manor houses associated with the priory, thereby to secure a pension for herself and her nuns. This was not to be, however. Vernon and her community were duly laicized, and the pension she received — less than requested — may be traced until 1546, six years after the execution of her once all-powerful patron.

Those who have followed EMLO over the past summer will know that, following the exciting launch of WEMLO, the resource and discussion forum for all early modern women’s correspondence, they will be able to search this abbess’s letters alongside the growing body of women’s correspondence within EMLO. For those who missed the launch, or who are visiting the union catalogue for the first time, we urge you to explore! Meanwhile, behind the scenes, metadata for increasing numbers of new correspondences are in preparation at EMLO and we’re truly delighted to reveal that the imminent addition of catalogues for a selection of key significant and powerful sixteenth-century women will allow Margaret Vernon to be viewed in a richer context still.

Robert Beale and collaborations in special collections

The catalogue published in EMLO this week, that of the diplomat Robert Beale, takes us straight to the heart of Elizabethan political and administrative circles. As Clerk to the Privy Council — a position which he held for almost three decades — Beale was witness to a succession of extraordinary events in turbulent times: he played a significant role in the misfortunes and fate of Mary, Queen of Scots, and he conducted a series of high-level diplomatic missions to the Low Countries and to Germany.


Detail of a letter from David Chytraeus to Daniel Rogers. This letter did not reach its addressee, who was a fellow Clerk of the Privy Council, but came instead to Beale, who annotated it: ‘Mr Rog was dead er these‘. (Special Collections Centre, University of Aberdeen, MS1009/2/13)

This calendar of Beale’s correspondence is made up of one-hundred-and-one items in the care of the University of Aberdeen. Spanning the entire second half of the sixteenth century, many of the letters relate to international and domestic affairs of state; others bear testament, however, to Beale’s own personal connections and to his scholarly bent: he corresponded with, for example, David Chytraeus, the Lutheran Professor of Greek at the University of Rostock, and with André Wechel, the reforming printer who was based first in Paris and then — following the Massacre of St Bartholemew in 1572 — in Frankfurt.

At EMLO we are truly delighted to be working with Dr Andrew Gordon, the scholar heading the Robert Beale project, and with the Special Collections Centre at the University of Aberdeen. AberdeenLogoThe Library has generously made available digital images of the manuscripts, and users will find links to these from each letter record in EMLO. Dr Gordon has included metadata from the earlier researches of James D. George (1906–1977), a former secretary of Marischal College, who prepared a handlist of items in the Beale papers and made partial transcriptions and notes on the majority of these. The Beale papers were recorded initially at King’s College in an inventory of 1771. Although it is not known how they entered the collections, it seems likely they formed part of a donation from Dr James Fraser (1645–1731) a book dealer and supplier to the libraries of the later Stuarts, who made significant benefactions to King’s College in the decades preceding his death. Work on the Robert Beale project is ongoing and to facilitate research the calendar created during this initial stage is being released sooner rather than later. Significant additions, together with revisions, made in subsequent phases will be uploaded as they become available.

Increasingly EMLO is working in partnership with libraries and special collections. Indeed, this week sees the inaugural session of an exciting pilot scheme being run with Oxford’s Bodleian LibrariesBodleianLogo to bring together students, curators, digital experts, and original manuscripts. The aim is to produce student-curated catalogues of hitherto unpublished letters. Undergraduates and postgraduates are invited to attend standalone sessions in a series of workshops at the Weston Library. Over the course of a day, students will work in pairs to collate the metadata, and produce transcriptions, which will be published in EMLO under the collective title ‘Bodleian Student Editions’. Students will be credited in full for their work and each session, which will take place in the Weston’s Centre for Digital Scholarship, will focus on a selection of early modern letters from Special Collections and will include guidance on such issues as handling manuscripts; paleography; drafting a transcript; proofreading; collating metadata; and preparing a catalogue in EMLO. We hope very much these workshops will prove productive and helpful for students and staff alike. Students from any discipline may apply by emailing Mike Webb, the Curator of Early Modern Manuscripts [mike.webb@bodleian.ox.ac.uk].


At the centre of the networked early modern world: Pierre Bayle

In these troubled times of trenches, walls, and drawbridges, we could not be more delighted to announce the arrival in EMLO of Pierre Bayle, one of the foremost citizens of early modern Europe’s Republic of Letters. Bayle resides at the very heart of this early modern community that corresponded and networked irrespective of political border or scholarly allegiance, and today we — together with our own international network of twenty-first century historians — remain firmly committed to its reassembly.


‘Nouvelles de la République des Lettres’, no. 1 (Amsterdam: 1684; source of image: Wikimedia Commons).

A Huguenot refugee who moved to Rotterdam shortly before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Bayle published one of the first literary periodicals, the Nouvelles de la république des lettres (1684–1687); he compiled the vast and remarkable Dictionnaire Historique et Critique in two editions of 1697 and 1702; and in his Commentaire philosophique (1686–1688) he issued a plea for religious tolerance based on moral rationalism. A critical edition of his extensive correspondence is being published in print and online. The Voltaire Foundation, our esteemed partner here at the University of Oxford, is publisher of the multi-volumed hard-copy edition (under the direction of Antony McKenna and the late Elisabeth Labrousse), and publication of the impressive thirteenth volume (containing the correspondence from the years 1703 to 1706) has just been celebrated. The digital edition of the correspondence — overseen also by Professor McKenna — is hosted at the Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne, and it is on this interface that the letters may be consulted together with images of the manuscripts. In EMLO you will find at present a calendar of the metadata of the first seven volumes of Bayle’s letters, each record of which provides a detailed reference to the hard-copy edition and offers a link to the digital copy mounted at Saint-Étienne. Two incremental extensions to the calendar will be added over the coming months until the total of 1,791 letters is in place.

But of course, these letters are the ones that that have survived. As Professor McKenna explains in his thorough and informative introduction to the catalogue, Bayle’s ‘surviving letters bear witness to a great number of letters that have not’. For example, the two hundred extant letters dated prior to October 1681 refer to more than 400 others that have been lost. Consideration of these missing letters leads to Bayle’s network becoming ‘much more complex and significantly more dense’, Professor McKenna oberves. We will be working together in the coming months to explore this shadow archive and the extent of the networks that held Bayle at their heart. Keep watching: this drawbridge is firmly down and there is a great deal more to come!