Digital downs

I’m extremely sorry to have to put out an ‘extraordinary’ post but, should you be hoping to access EMLO to consult the latest volume of Henry Oldenburg’s letters published this week (metadata from volume XII of the Halls’ edition), you will find that, unfortunately, the catalogue is not available at present. This is due to server issues at the Bodleian Libraries. Work will continue around the clock until the service is restored and, in the meantime, I’d like to extend heartfelt apologies. If you end up, along with the team here at EMLO, keeping one eye on the clock until the union catalogue reappears, l’ll leave you with a time-related early modern image for company.

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Clockmakers’ workshop, attributed to the workshop of Philips Galle. c. 1589–93. Engraving, 20.1 by 26.9cm. (Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam; inv. no.: RP-P-1904-1032)

Reading the folds: students of letter-locking

The fourth Bodleian Libraries Manuscript and Textual Editing Workshops is scheduled to take place this week, and I’m thrilled to announce that the metadata and transcriptions generated during the three previous sessions may all be consulted now in EMLO within the Bodleian Student Editions catalogue. As a project, we are delighted also to have been able to bring together in the Weston Library a number of our esteemed contributors and colleagues in a fascinating hands-on demonstration of letterlocking. The extraordinary workshop was led by Jana Dambrogio (Thomas F. Peterson Conservator for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Library in Cambridge, Mass.) and Daniel Starza Smith (Lecturer in Early Modern English at KCL), and places were made available to students who had signed up for the Bodleian Student Editions’ manuscript and editing workshops and to a group of second year students from the ‘Writing in the Early Modern Period, 1550–1750’ Further Subject headed by Professor Giora Sternberg, as well as to staff from the Bodleian, CofK, and EMLO.

letter_thread_closed_SMALLLetterlocking, the term coined by this dynamic and eloquent duo, who constitute an integral and invaluable part of the Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered project team, is the process of folding and securing a letter that was used before mass-produced ready gummed envelopes became de rigueur in the nineteenth century. If, when your letter was ready for dispatch, you did not employ a combination of these time-honoured techniques of folding, cutting, tying, stitching, and/or sealing, what you had written would not have remained private. As Dan explained, sending an unlocked letter four centuries ago would be like pressing the button today on emails without encryption and using accounts with no password.

Jana and Dan taught the assembled company how to complete a staggering variety of different folding and securing techniques, none as straightforward a process as you might imagine. In fact, many of the formats were personalized and extremely elaborate. As Jana demonstrated with a selection of the Bodleian’s early modern manuscript letters which were displayed (and re-boxed by their curator, Mike Webb, and removed to a sensible distance from the ‘wax table’ when participants queued to have their folded letters sealed) the evidence of this essential practice may still be pieced together from such tell-tale signs as the tears found in the paper, the slits, the holes, and the seals. John Donne devised with his own unique lock that involved a paper hook (yes, said Dan, this turned out to be just like Donne: ‘over the top, witty, and kind of sexy’); and Elizabeth of Bohemia was shown to have tied her letters with exquisite silk thread (just look at this gorgeous replica which was given to me).

Letter_openSMALLWe were warned beforehand we would never look at a manuscript letter in the same way again, and the emails of thanks that have flooded in over the ensuing days confirmed this: ‘transfixing’; ‘absolutely bowled over’; ‘I will indeed see them so differently’; and ‘I can’t wait to visit the Reading Room again!’ If you wish to experience a little of letterlocking, it’s well worth setting aside time to watch Jan and Dan’s videos, and to recreate yourself some of these complex and beautiful locking types and their formats. Jana and Dan’s work emerges as a clarion call for letters — so often valued by scholars above all for the information contained in their text — to be considered also as objects.

Hadriaan Beverland, routes to and from the Dutch Republic, and the postmasters Brienne

It may be no more than the season, but EMLO is brim full of the ‘joys of spring’. Thanks to the publication of his catalogue in EMLO, we have Hadriaan Beverland and his ‘companion’ gracing the home page (yes, the louche free thinker is the first to be seen here in such ‘company’).

Portrait of Hadriaan Beverland, by Godfrey Kneller. 1689. Oil on canvas, 76 by 63.5cm. (Bodleian Libraries; supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation and downloaded from Wikimedia Commons)

Beverland is an intriguing and unusual character. Expelled from the University of Leiden for profane and perverse writing, he was exiled in 1679 from the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and West-Friesland. The following year he crossed to England, where he spent the remainder of his life (despite receiving in 1693 a pardon from William III). He settled in London with his partner (and maid) Rebekah Tibbith, with whom is he known to have fathered two children. Beverland continued to publish in London, and worked as a secretary and librarian to such eminent collectors and scholars as Hans Sloane and Isaac Vossius. This calendar of Beverland’s correspondence has been compiled by EMLO Digital Fellow Dr Karen Hollewand, who worked on his letters as part of her doctoral thesis ‘The Banishment of Beverland: Sex, Scripture, and Scholarship in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic’. Poor Beverland did not enjoy a comfortable old age. As Karen explains, during the 1690s both his financial situation and his mental state deteriorated to the extent that he was forced to sell most of his books and his art collection and he died, in a sorry state of paranoia, in London in 1716.

While Beverland was corresponding with such luminaries in the Dutch Republic as Graevius, Heinsius, and Jacobus Gronovius, postmaster Simon Veillaume (known more widely as Simon de Brienne) and his wife Maria Germain were filling a trunk with letters, each of which had ended up in their post office in The Hague rather than in the hands of its intended recipient. The letters were destined never to be delivered for a myriad of reasons that ranged from the all-too-familiar ‘not known at this address’, to ‘recipient told post office to save the letter’, or ‘will not read’. Over the past week, EMLO has played host to a Dutch-based project — Signed, Sealed, Undelivered — and intense discussions have revolved around the intricacies of folding, wrapping, and sealing a late seventeenth- or early eighteenth-century letter, as well as the tortuous routes and re-directions involved in its journey post dispatch. The two projects have been establishing how best to capture the route of the letters for which detailed postal information is preserved on the wrappers; and discussions, together with Professor Dagmar Freist, who is working on the Prize Papers at The National Archives, and Dr Ineke Huysman, who is working on the correspondence of Johan de Witt, considered intended versus actual destinations, postal routes and stamps, costs, wrappers, and enclosures. Brienne, a Frenchman who had served Rupert of the Rhine, was appointed Postmaster in The Hague in 1676 (and his wife, Maria, became Postmistress in 1686); together they were responsible for letters passing in and out of the city from and to France, the Southern Netherlands, and Spain. Apart from a decade in London with William III from 1688, the Briennes continued to work in The Hague (still filling their chest) until their deaths in 1703 (Maria) and 1707 (Simon). Their legacy of some 600 unopened — and very many more partly opened, and all still folded — treasures (which presumably they kept as a potential source of future income, should the recipients be located) have yet to yield their secrets, but with the Brienne team treating these letters as objects and leaving them in their folded and sealed states, studying the material evidence they can provide (and only later imaging with highly specialized equipment to explore the content and the text of the letter[s] inside), it is guaranteed that a wealth of truly invaluable and unique metadata will be collated meticulously and preserved for posterity.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.