Thomas Pennant and the ‘Curious Travellers’ in Bristol

Over the past three years, EMLO has been working with the inspirational AHRC-funded Curious Travellers project. Headed by Dr Mary-Ann Constantine at the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies [CAWCS], University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Professor Nigel Leask, Regius Chair of English Language and Literature at the School of Critical Studies, Glasgow University, this research team is focussed on the writings and correspondence of the Welsh naturalist, travel writer, and antiquarian Thomas Pennant (1726–1798).

Dr Sarah Ward’s call for ‘Curious Traveller’ volunteer students.

Pennant was born and based throughout his life at his family’s estate, Downing Hall, Flintshire, in north-east Wales.1 With the publication of his Tours through Wales and Scotland,2 he was responsible for capturing public imagination and engendering widespread enthusiasm for travel and early ‘tourism’ in both countries. Educated initially in Wrexham, and then at the Fulham school of Dr (or Mr) Thomas Croft — the scene of the tragic accident that took place just six years prior to his arrival, while the son of Elizabeth Compton attended the school, which resulted in the death of Dr Croft’s sister, Ann —3 the young naturalist continued his studies at Queen’s College, and then Oriel College, Oxford. Pennant’s interest in natural history had been sparked (according to his own account)4 at the age of about twelve when his relative John Salisbury gave him a copy of Francis Willughby’s Ornithology.5 Although the brief of the Curious Travellers project is to concentrate primarily on Pennant’s letters of most relevance to his Tours, the team is compiling also an inventory of his complete correspondence. Thus far, metadata for the letters that reside in the care of the Bodleian Libraries, The Linnean Society of London, and the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale, have been drawn together and published in EMLO.

It was in the spirit of Pennant that EMLO set off ‘on the road’ once again last week to help host a workshop at the University of the West of England in Bristol, courtesy of an erstwhile EMLO Digital Fellow and current UWE member of staff, Dr Sarah Ward. A call had been circulated early in March and, within hours, twelve of Dr Ward’s undergraduate students had signed up, together with Laura Lawrence, a current EMLO Digital Fellow, to spend an afternoon working with photographic images to generate rough transcriptions of Pennant’s letters from the collections of the Bodleian Libraries, including MS. Ashmole 1822 (Pennant’s letters to the museum curator William Huddesford) and MS. Gough Gen. Top. 43 (Pennant’s letters to the antiquarian Richard Gough). Although Pennant’s handwriting and punctuation were felt to be a little eccentric at times (but thankfully Dr Constantine was on hand to help), these letters turned out to be brimful with tantalizing details of natural history specimens, including striped antelopes, various horns and fossils, five-toed lizards, and bats.

The transcriptions created by these remarkably talented students, all whom are to be credited for their contributions, will be checked and edited by the Curious Travellers team, and additional work on Pennant’s letters to Gough will be conducted in Oxford later this year when Dr Constantine takes up residence at the Bodleian as a visiting scholar (upon which occasion we hope very much that a follow-up workshop involving these wonderful students will be arranged — and, in the meantime, should anyone with an interest in Pennant wish to sign up as a volunteer transcriber, please be in touch . . . ).

Students at the Curious Travellers/EMLO/UWE workshop, Bristol, 20 March 2018.

  1. By his own account, Pennant was born in what was known as Downing’s ‘yellow room’: ‘I was born on June 14th, 1726, old style, in the room now called the Yellow Room; that the celebrated Mrs. Cayn, of Srowsbury, ushered me into the world, and delivered me to Miss Jy Perry, of Merton, in this parish; who to her dying day never failed telling me, Ah, you rogue! I remember you when you had not a shirt to your back.’ See Thomas Pennant, The history of the parishes of Whiteford, and Holywell (London, 1796), p. 2. The family house, Downing Hall, was damaged partially by fire in the early twentieth century, and was demolished in 1953.
  2. For full bibliographic details, see the helpful list on the Curious Travellers project website.
  3. For details of this sad incident and the subsequent trial, see my blog from last year, ‘Elizabeth Compton, her son, and a Huguenot’.
  4. Thomas Pennant, The Literary Life of the Late Thomas Pennant by himself (London, 1793, p. 1; for an explanation of this curious anachronism, do consult Charles W. J. Withers’s entry on Pennant in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, published online at < > , accessed 31 March 2018 (this requires access from a subscribing institution); in Withers’s words, this title: ‘hints at Pennant’s sense of humour. It is signed only by dotted lines to indicate the death of the author: it is for that reason that his History of the Parishes is signed ‘RESURGAM’, with its implication of literary resurrection.’
  5.  Willughby (or Willoughby), an early member of the Royal Society, was the lifelong friend and collaborator of John Ray. His Ornithology was published posthumously in 1678. Many references to his life, work, death in 1672, and subsequent posthumous publications may be found in the letters of Martin Lister; see Anna Marie Roos, The Correspondence of Dr. Martin Lister (1639–1712). Volume One: 1662–1677 (Leiden: Brill, 2015).

The Huguenot Jean Claude and book-burning by the ‘publique Hang-man’

Having been here, there, and everywhere in recent weeks (I’ll put out more posts shortly on the ‘there’ and the ‘everywhere’), I’m dreadfully behind at present with announcements of EMLO’s latest catalogues, for which apologies to all concerned. In the first instance, I’m acutely aware that publication of the inventory of the Huguenot refugee Jean Claude’s correspondence a full two-and-a-half weeks ago is still to be celebrated.

Despite experiencing intensifying persecution, Jean Claude (1619–1687) persisted in his attempts to explain and defend the Calvinist religion through the delivery of sermons, participation in disputations, and via the publication and circulation of learned treatises. Ever a defendant of Calvinist theology, Claude was reluctant to leave his native France, even to the extent of declining the offer of the chair in theology at the University of Groningen and preferring to remain at his church. The Frenchman fled finally to Dutch Republic only when, following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes on 22 October 1685, he was given just twenty-four hours to leave the country. Having worked ceaselessly for the Calvinist cause in Nîmes, Montauban, and — from 1666 — at the Huguenot temple at Charenton, the pastor headed north with his wife, Elisabeth, for a reunion in The Hague with their son Isaac, who had moved and settled in the city three years previously.

The inventory of Claude’s letters forms part of a converging cluster of Huguenot correspondence in EMLO that will increase significantly later this year. The correspondence has been calendared by Dr David van der Linden, a scholar based at the University of Groningen. Dr van der Linden has published extensively on Huguenots in the Dutch Republic (see Experiencing Exile: Huguenot Refugees in the Dutch Republic, 1680–1700)1 and he is involved in a number of related research projects, including Divided by Memory: Coping with Religious Diversity ​in Post-Civil War France, 1598–1685 and the pioneering initiative Signed, Sealed, and Undelivered. The research team focussed on the latter is hard at work investigating, cataloguing, and describing the material features of the extraordinary and fascinating postal archive known as the Brienne Collection, which is now in the care of the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague.

Title-page of Jean Claude’s 1686 publication. (Source of image: Internet Archive)

Claude survived only for a year after his flight, despite the receipt of a pension from William of Orange and the States of Holland and his appointment to the position of historiographer. In these final months of his life, however, he was able to write and publish an account of the persecuted Huguenots, Les Plaintes des protestans cruellement opprimez dans le royaume de France (1686).2 Translated from French into English, both language versions were subjected soon after publication to an ordeal in London where, according to the diarist John Evelyn, at the order of James II:

‘This day [5 May 1686] was burnt, in the old Exchange, by the publique Hang-man, a booke (supposed to be written by the famous Monsieur Claude) relating the horrid massacres & barbarous proceedings of the Fr: King against his Protestant subjects, without any refutation, that might convince it of any thing false: so mighty a power & ascendent here, had the French Ambassador: doubtlesse in greate Indignation at the pious & truly generous Charity of all the Nation, for the reliefe of those miserable sufferers, who came over for shelter: About this time also, The Duke of Savoy, instigated by the Fr: King to exterpate the Protestants of Piemont, slew many thousands of those innocent people, so as there seemed to be a universal designe to destroy all that would not Masse it, thro out Europ, as they had power, quod avertat D.O.M.’3

I’ve included a link to Claude’s final work; it’s well worth the read.

  1. David van der Linden, Experiencing Exile: Huguenot Refugees in the Dutch Republic, 1680–1700 (Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2015).
  2.  Les Plaintes des protestans cruellement opprimez dans le royaume de France (Cologne: Pierre Marteau, 1686); available on open access on The Internet Archive.
  3. John Evelyn, The diary of John Evelyn, volume 4: 1673–1689, ed. E. S. de Beer (Oxford: OUP, 1955), pp. 501–11; available on Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO), but requires access from a subscribing institution.

On ‘LIAS’, editions, and Elizabeth Elstob

On a day when I should have been in Manchester presenting a paper on Bodleian Student Editions at a workshop organized by the The Lives and Afterlives of Letters Network (but, due to widespread travel disruptions in England as winter extends its tentacles into spring, I am not), it seems a perfect moment to pause and reflect upon the serendipity and coincidence that have been at play within EMLO and at the Cultures of Knowledge project over the past week.

Detail from an initial with Elizabeth Elstob’s portrait, by Simon Gribelin taken from Elizabeth Elstob, ‘English-Saxon homily on the birth-day of St Gregory’ (London, 1709), p. 1. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

EMLO began by publishing just a week ago enhanced metadata for a small catalogue of the correspondence of Elizabeth Elstob. The manuscripts of this Anglo-Saxon scholar’s correspondence with the antiquarian George Ballard have been in the care of the Bodleian Libraries from the year following Ballard’s death in 1755, and the metadata for these letters have been tucked inside EMLO, courtesy of the Bodleian card catalogue, since 2010. However, Elstob’s letters to Ballard have been worked on more recently by the scholar Dr Dawn Hollis, who has generated transcriptions for the correspondence between the two friends, edited these texts, and published a ‘small’ edition in the Dutch journal LIAS.1

Lias: the Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources is a peer-reviewed publication which takes its name from the Dutch work for ‘file’; it is committed to publishing primary sources that relate to the intellectual and cultural history of early modern Europe. The journal was established to provide a platform for sources that are relatively short in length. And it is in the pages of this journal that Hollis’s edition of the Elstob-Ballard correspondence may be consulted, either by subscription or through the purchase of a single hard-copy issue; and should users be within a subscribing institution, links to the downloadable text are provided from each relevant letter record in EMLO. The journal’s editor-in-chief, Dirk van Miert, is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Cultural History at the University of Utrecht, where he specializes in the history of knowledge. And it is the second time in as many weeks that I have been posting his name, for here lies one of this week’s many coincidences: eagle-eyes may have spotted that Professor van Miert has been in Oxford to present a paper at the Early Modern Intellectual History seminar organized by Dr Dmitri Levitin and Sir Noel Malcolm. Professor van Miert’s talk bore the riveting title ‘The “Hairy War” (1640–50) and the historicization of the Bible: the role of philology in a public debate on men wearing long hair in the Dutch Republic’, and post delivery (before he had been given so much as the opportunity to catch his breath, let alone check his own hair!), Professor van Miert was requisitioned for an ‘EMLO Gathering’ in the History Faculty in the form of a pop-up Q&A session (see my previous post) concerning his work as co-editor on The Correspondence of  Joseph Justus Scaliger, which was published by Librairie Droz, Geneva, in 2012.

Bodleian Student Editions students and EMLO Digital Fellows at the Q&A pop-up session with Dirk van Miert.

Here we encounter another coincidence: this pop-up Q&A session offered the opportunity to learn more about scholarly editing both to students who have signed up to the Bodleian Student Editions workshops and to EMLO’s loyal, hard-working Digital Fellows who help prepare epistolary metadata for upload into the union catalogue. Bodleian Student Editions, which began in 2016, built on the initiative EMLO had started the previous year with Oxford second-year undergraduates who were taking the Further Subject ‘Writing in the early modern period’ taught by Professor Giora Sternberg. These Further Subject undergraduates worked with a small sub-set of EMLO’s existing metadata contained within the Bodleian card catalogue: they checked and enhanced dates, authors, recipients, origins, destinations, and shelfmarks of letters (for, as we know all too well, this sizeable catalogue is not always as reliable as might be wished) and, as they studied the manuscripts in the Bodleian’s special collections, they created a number of transcriptions. Long-standing followers of this blog may recall some of the announcements of the resulting student-generated catalogues: one for Elizabeth Compton, for example, another for Sarah Chapone (who was, in turn, a good friend to Elizabeth Elstob). Now, this week, students have been in action again with Bodleian Student Editions and Thursday witnessed the concluding workshop for this Hilary term and the transcription of a third batch of Penelope Maitland’s letters to her friend Charlotte [née Perry] West. (Charlotte turned out to be the daughter of Sampson Perry, proprietor of the radical journal The Argus.) Once again, student editors continued throughout the day to capture metadata, transcribe text, and footnote the letters’ contents. This was just one of the aspects of the Bodleian Student Editions scheme I was due to speak about at the Manchester workshop, which had been conceived to explore various approaches to the editing of texts. Thankfully the workshop will not become a snow casualty and it is likely to be rescheduled for a date in May.

Thus a single week has produced a myriad of unexpected twists and, instead of travelling home from Manchester tonight, I am contemplating a remarkable plait of intertwined catalogues (each built upon the foundations of metadata taken from the Bodleian’s collections, and each contributing to the Early Modern Women’s Letters Online [WEMLO] cluster, something to be celebrated as we move towards 8 March and International Women’s Day). And of course, thanks to Professor van Miert, I am left pondering in addition the subject of hair!

Scholarly editing and digital analysis: Q&A breakfast

For students interested in early modern correspondence editions and/or the possibilities of digital analysis

Informal Q&A breakfast with Dirk van Miert (Utrecht University)1

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Gerry Martin Seminar Room, Faculty of History, George Street, University of Oxford

Coffee and croissants will be provided courtesy of Cultures of Knowledge


All welcome, but r.s.v.p. to Miranda Lewis, Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]:


  1. Dirk is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Cultural History at the University of Utrecht where he specializes in the history of knowledge. He is co-editor of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, 8 vols (Geneva: Droz, 2012) and director of the major new ERC-funded project ‘Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks – The Republic of Letters as a Pan-European Knowledge Society’ (SKILLNET). He tweets as @ERC_SKILLNET, and his lecture on digitizing letter catalogues in the Netherlands may be viewed here.

Thomas Hobbes: ‘my letter will haue the effect of a perspectiue glasse’

According to John Aubrey, Thomas Hobbes‘s mother went into labour in Malmesbury on Good Friday 1588 ‘upon the fright of the invasion of the Spaniards’ and thereupon gave birth to twins: the philosopher and fear.1 Despite this alleged inauspicious start, Hobbes, whose correspondence catalogue is the latest to be released in EMLO, lived for more than nine decades. His surviving letters, edited by Noel Malcolm and published in 1994 by Oxford University Press as volumes VI and VII within the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes,2 do not — as Malcolm points out — make up as large a corpus of correspondence as might be expected when compared to the numbers of letters left to historians by many of his contemporaries: the 211 letters brought together in these volumes have been supplemented by just a handful in the last two decades,3 and of this number approximately a third are by Hobbes himself.4 Yet gems aplenty are to be found within the correspondence, and users are encouraged either to take advantage of the subscriptions held by their institutional libraries to follow the links from each record in EMLO to the texts that are mounted in OSEO, or to locate the hard-copy volumes. The metadata for this correspondence were supplied to EMLO by Oxford Scholarly Editions Online [OSEO], and EMLO is delighted to be working increasingly in this phase of funding with OSEO to showcase the correspondences of such key figures as Philip Sidney (from Roger Kuin’s edition), Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (from Nadine Akkerman’s edition), and Elias Ashmole (with metadata teased by EMLO from C. H. Josten’s edition of Ashmole’s own Autobiographical and Historical Notes).

Much of Hobbes’s life is known from the compilation of biographical material provided by his friend Aubrey. The two men had a teacher in common:  the clergyman Richard Latimer (who, as vicar of Westport in Wiltshire, provided Hobbes with a grounding in Latin and Greek, and subsequently, some three decades later as rector of Leigh Delamere, played a key role in the early education of Aubrey). Malcolm points out in his entry on Hobbes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that this connection was one reason for the younger man’s interest in and friendship with the author of Leviathan.5 Hobbes’s surviving correspondence contributes significantly to what Aubrey was able to garner and, in addition to charting the epistolary conversations in which Hobbes was involved — including exchanges with Descartes courtesy of the agency of Mersenne — the letters offer invaluable insights into the philosopher’s personality.

In a letter to Gervase Clifton of 30 January 1635 Hobbes writes that his words will ‘haue the effect of a perspectiue glasse, wch shewes you not onely a towre afarre of in grosse, but also the battlements and windowes and other principall partes distinctly …’.6 Users will find they do indeed offer a lens onto the life and work of a man who, again to quote Malcolm, is acknowledged increasingly as ‘a philosopher whose importance extends far beyond the realm of political theory — someone whose work in theology, metaphysics, science, history, and psychology entitles him to be described as one of the true founders of modernity in Western culture.’7

  1.  John Aubrey, Brief lives, chiefly of contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between the years 1669 and 1696, ed. A. Clark, 2 vols (1898), p. 327. This reactionary birth seems a little early, even allowing for the difference in calendar date. Good Friday fell on 5/15 April that year; the Spanish fleet did not leave the port of Lisbon for another month.
  2.  The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. Noel Malcolm, 2 vols, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), vol. 1, 1622–1659, and vol. 2, 1660–1679.
  3. For which see Noel Malcolm and Mikko Tolonen, ‘The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes: Some New Items’, in The Historical Journal, 51, 2, (2008), pp. 481–95.
  4. For a discussion on and explain of this, including the possibility that Hobbes burnt many papers in his own hand, see Malcolm, Correspondence, vol. 1, ‘General Introduction’, esp. pp. xxi–xxvi.
  5. N. Malcolm, ‘Hobbes, Thomas (1588–1679), philosopher‘, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-09-23).
  6. Malcolm, Correspondence, vol. i, letter 13, p. 25.
  7. Malcolm, ‘Hobbes, Thomas (1588–1679), philosopher’, ODNB.

Archbishop Ussher and a journey to Malta

At first glance, Valletta might not be where you would expect to stumble across one of Trinity College Dublin‘s greatest scholars. Yet this week, at the University of Malta’s Valletta campus, we are privileged indeed to encounter James Ussher, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh between 1625 and his death in 1656, together with records for the 681 letters that make up his surviving correspondence. The listing for his correspondence is the latest to be released into the EMLO union catalogue, and the reason the archbishop is in Malta could not be more apposite as this publication coincides with the convergence of large numbers of early modern scholars at the third and concluding conference arranged by the COST Reassembling the Republic of Letters Action.

Dr Boran preparing to launch her catalogue of James Ussher’s correspondence in EMLO at the University of Malta, Valletta, 31 January 2018. (Image courtesy of Arno Bosse)

James Ussher was a towering figure across Ireland, England, and Europe throughout the first half of the seventeenth century. His correspondence has been edited and published (Irish Manuscripts Commission [IMC], 2015) in an exemplary three volume edition by Dr Elizabethanne Boran — herself of TCD — who is Librarian of the Edward Worth Library and the scholar behind The Ussher Project. To quote Dr Boran, ‘Ussher’s correspondence reflects his political and ecclesiastical role as the head of the church in Ireland at a crucial time of forging its identity as a separate enclave from the Church of England while his scholarly network reveals his pivotal role in Irish, British and European intellectual life.’

Ussher’s correspondents are to be found the length and breadth of the continent, and he exchanged letters with a large number of the leading scholars of his age. It is entirely fitting that Ussher’s catalogue in EMLO should be launched at this conference with a wide range of European early modern scholars and digital technology specialists in attendance. Dr Boran chairs a working group within the Action entitled Documents and Collections which investigates how best to describe a shared data model that captures both common definitions of the genres of the letter and its physical features. The discussions and presentations at the conference focus on preparing the publication of a ‘blueprint’ for a radical open-access, open-source, transnational digital infrastructure which will be capable of enabling and supporting the multilateral collaboration required to reassemble the scattered documentation of the early modern communities that made up the ‘respublica literaria’.

Detail of a page from ‘Annales veteris testamenti’ (1650). (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Ussher, who contributed to the scholarly conversation of his age in no small measure with his 1650 publication Annales veteris testamenti, in which he published his calculation of the date of God’s creation of the universe (he placed it at 23 October 4004 B.C.), was a figure who transcended successfully significant religious divide: despite his English royalist allegiance, the archbishop was given a state funeral by Oliver Cromwell in London’s Westminster Abbey. To quote Dr Boran, Ussher  ‘might be appropriated by both royalist and parliamentarian, puritan and anglican. In the world of scholarship his identity was clearer: he was, in the words of John Selden, “learned to a miracle”.’ Enjoy his correspondence!


Intellectual communities and the global transfer of knowledge: applications invited for a summer school in Marbach

As institutions and academics projects announce details of this year’s educational schemes and courses, users of EMLO and followers of the research being conducted at Cultures of Knowledge may be interested to learn of a summer school that will focus upon republics ― note plural ― of letters both past and present as (to reuse an extract from the title of Anthony Grafton’s 2009 publication) ‘worlds made by words’.1 This summer school, A (New) Republic of Letters: Intellectual Communities, Global Knowledge Transfer, will be hosted by the German Literature Archive Marbach and will run between 29 July and 9 August.

Twenty international scholarships are available and doctoral students will be invited to explore and discuss the ‘phenomenon of the Republic of Letters, its historical and theoretical manifestations, and the terminological challenges it poses’. They will be encouraged to consider such questions as the aesthetic, political, and social conditions upon which networks for knowledge exchange are built; to ask what rules and customs those communicating with each other observe; as well as to explore the transformations these communities undergo, and determine terminology and methods that might be employed to describe today’s ‘literary and intellectual landscape on a transnational scale’ ― a landscape itself now termed a ‘New Republic of Letters’ .2 ‘The investigation into the structures of communication between intellectuals lies at the focus of the Summer School. Their exchange regarding scientific, political and social issues will be explored as it developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through letter exchanges, academic journals, periodicals, and the intellectual life in salons. The changes in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by new inventions in technology and in the media will be an object of investigation, just as the introduction of the World Wide Web and its effect on academic collaboration and communication. The discussions thus address challenges research faces today by linking them back to our handling of digital storage of large volumes of data in academia.’3  Interested? This call will remain open until 28 February and further information, including details of how to apply, may be found here.

And whilst considering communities, knowledge, its transfer, and the symmetry of today’s scholars of intellectual history who with their own networks mirror those of their forebears, it is worth noting that members of the COST-funded action Reassembling the Republic of Letters are gathering next week at a conference ― Publishing the Digital Republic of Letters: Systems, standards, scholarship in the context of an enhanced publication ― in Valletta, Malta, to discuss how best to align current research, digital tools, and infrastructure. Should you be interested and not able to attend, it would be worth keeping an eye on the Action’s website and the updates that emerge as the scholars and technical experts within this community continue to explore the works and connections of their early modern counterparts. The Action’s publication, currently in preparation and the subject of focussed discussion in Valletta, will appear later in the year. Details (I’ve no doubt many) to follow …

New year, new skills: a spring workshop in Tallinn and a summer school in Paris

Users of and contributors to EMLO might be interested in the following events scheduled to be held in spring and summer this year.

The earlier — in March (and this post serves as a reminder that applications are due next week) — is the ‘EMLO on the road’ Training School arranged under the aegis of the Reassembling the Republic of Letters COST Action. Organized and hosted by the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences in Tallinn, this four-day workshop offers those who focus on early modern correspondence the opportunity to prepare epistolary metadata using tools that will both assist their own research and facilitate publication in a union catalogue. Early career scholars, representatives from institutions with large holdings of early modern correspondence, and individuals interested in disseminating further the taught epistolary standards, techniques, and tools within their scholarly communities are encouraged to apply. Whilst applications are welcomed from scholars in all countries participating in the COST Action, the Training School is funded by an ‘Inclusiveness and Target Countries’ grant, so scholars from these countries are encouraged in particular to apply (further details regarding this may be found in the original call).

Thereafter, mathematical historians, historians of science, and digital humanists may be interested in the International Summer School being organized by the Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu in Paris next July. The week-long event, History of mathematical sciences and digital approaches: materiality of texts, networks, classifications, will include a workshop on EMLO, its metadata collation tools, and editorial standards. The following information about this School, together with details regarding how to apply, has just been released:

Summer school in Paris

A summer school on the theme: History of mathematical sciences and digital approaches: the materiality of texts — networks — classifications will be organized in Paris from 2 to 6 July 2018, at the Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu – Paris Rive Gauche (UMR 7586 of the CNRS, UPMC, Université Paris-Diderot), on the Jussieu campus, in the heart of the Latin Quarter of Paris.

This international summer school aims at:

• giving a comprehensive presentation of — and opening discussions on — current opportunities offered by digital technologies: access to original documents, modes of (collaborative) edition, new opportunities to handle and search corpuses;

• evaluating the impact of digital approaches on the methodology and research practices in the history of science;

• raising questions on their advantages and limits concerning their actual capacity to deliver new results and open new research perspectives.

In addition to classes and lectures, workshops will be organized to enable participants to test approaches and tools on their own corpus and research data. The speakers will include specialists in the digital humanities as well as historians of mathematics who use digital tools. Accommodation and lunches will be free, offered by the summer school. Registration is free of charge but mandatory. To participate in the summer school, please register on the following website:, under the section “Registration”. Should you require further information, please contact:

Juan Luis Vives: body and soul . . .

It has been a packed year for EMLO with a score of new correspondence calendars published, innumerable updates to existing catalogues, a host of academic visitors welcomed to and working within the project, and a plethora of presentations delivered around the globe by members of the Cultures of Knowledge team. Even through this late-December break, work continues with the union catalogue’s weekly refreshes of new metadata either as updates to existing records, or — as most recently for Juan Luis Vives (1493–1540) — with the publication of a new correspondence calendar.

Vives, the Spanish humanist who was both a friend and correspondent of Erasmus, has long been one of the early modern figures whose correspondence is a desideratum for calendaring within the union catalogue, and when EMLO was approached by doctoral student Cristina Erquiaga Martínez from the University of Salamanca with the suggestion that she work with EMLO to facilitate and extend her own research, his correspondence was selected to help her to get to grips with, and understand the preparatory process for upload of, epistolary metadata. Vives’s circle of correspondents is large, varied, and includes humanist scholars (Budé, Erasmus, and Craneveldt), leaders of state and church (Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Philip II of Spain, and Pope Adrian VI). Vives wrote about church reform, politics, war, pedagogical reform, education, and the publication process involved with his works as he oversaw them from manuscript to print. He is known for his theological and philosophical work and his publications ranged from the early commentary, published in 1522 at the behest of Erasmus, on Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, to his De anima et vita, which appeared just two years before his death. His pedagogical works include Introductio ad sapientiam (1524); he wrote on the education of women (De institutione feminae Christianae, 1524); and on the public relief of the poor (De subventione pauperum, 1526). Vives’s exchanges with the leading scholars and political figures of his day make fascinating reading, and Cristina has included links in EMLO to a number of online resources where manuscripts, printed copies, or translations may be consulted. In particular, Vives’s letters reveal deep and lasting friendships formed over the course of a life spent far from his surviving family and native Valencia. As this catalogue heralds EMLO’s incursion into the first golden age of the republic of letters, it paves the way simultaneously for a number of significant and related correspondences to follow.

Detail of a letter written five-hundred-and-five years ago this month from Juan Luis Vives to Frans van Craneveldt. (KU Leuven, Centrale Bibliotheek BRES: Tabularium – Magazijn LC Ep. 30)

Whilst learning how to compile and prepare epistolary metadata for upload, Cristina continued her own studies on the Spanish scholar and writer Miguel de Unamuno (1864–1936). Amongst Unamuno’s large circle of correspondents, many were from England, and the writer and rector of the University of Salamanca visited Oxford in the final year of his life to receive an honorary degree. In the three months she has worked with EMLO, Cristina has catalogued also the correspondence of Hernán Núñez [El Pinciano] (forthcoming, 2018), and begun work on a calendar for Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, and, whilst learning about epistolary networks, she has rolled up her sleeves and subjected Unamuno and his circles to extensive examination and visualization. We hope very much this term in Oxford has been an interesting and fruitful experience for Cristina and, whilst we’re sorry to see her return to Salamanca, we wish her well with her research and look forward greatly to following her progress. Should users of EMLO be interested to learn more about the work with correspondence underway here in Oxford and wish to enquire about visiting scholar status, an internship, or work experience, please be in touch.

It is thanks to the early modern scholarly community worldwide who write in with suggestions, corrections, and enrichments that EMLO has seen a large number of catalogue updates this past year. Among the significant additions made this autumn have been additional batches of letters to supplement the correspondences of Cheney CulpeperAlbertine Agnes van OranjePeter Paul Rubens, Georg Lorenz Seidenbecher, and John Worthington, while many links to increasing numbers of manuscript images becoming available online have been set in place, for example the Ortelius letters in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This post does not signal the last update to EMLO this year — assuming technical gremlins can be kept at bay — and the team is not setting out shoes or stockings just yet: there will be more to come in the final weeks of 2017. In the meantime, however, as universities wind down and scholars prepare for Christmas and new year revels, enjoy the correspondence of Vives, EMLO, and the glories of these outbound links!

‘But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare’: the letters of Baruch Spinoza

Of all the letters written by and to Baruch Spinoza, less that one hundred are known to scholars today. When the philosopher died in The Hague in 1677, he was living alone; his friends moved quickly to spirit away his manuscripts, delivering them post-haste to the printer Jan Rieuwertsz. in Amsterdam. This is how works including the Tractatus de intellectus emendation, the Ethica, Spinoza’s Hebrew Grammar, and his unfinished Tractatus politicus, together with seventy-four of his philosophical letters, appeared in print that very same year, under the title B. D. S. Opera Posthuma. With the exception of just a handful, the manuscripts of the letters that passed through the offices of Rieuwertsz. have not been traced.

Metadata for the surviving letters, however, may be found in Spinoza’s catalogue in EMLO. This publication situates the philosopher’s correspondence alongside that of the Royal Society’s secretary Henry Oldenburg, who was one of Spinoza’s main correspondents, and that of the Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens, who was an admirer of — in particular — Spinoza’s skill as a lens-grinder and of his contribution to the design and construction of telescopes. Each letter record in EMLO’s calendar has been linked to its corresponding entry in the Spinoza’s Web project (based in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Utrecht) where images of the manuscripts that have been located, of known manuscript copies (for example, those in the hand of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz), and of the printed texts of these letters may be consulted.

Spinoza’s Web project. (Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Utrecht)

The Spinoza Web project was established with funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research [NWO], and its database and ‘The Timeline Experience’ were released in their current beta format in 2016. The ambition of this project is to assemble all primary source documentation and to provide ‘a source-based contextual approach pertaining to this philosopher who, revered and reviled, has had countless rumours and myths attached to his name over the course of the centuries’.1

Spinoza’s work continues to be of relevance. ‘I took great pains not to laugh at human actions, or mourn them or curse them,’ he wrote, ‘but only to understand them. So I’ve contemplated human affects — like love, hate, anger, envy, love of esteem, compassion, and the other emotions — not as vices of human nature, but as properties which pertain to it in the same way heat, cold, storms, thunder, etc., pertain to the nature of the air.’2 In the introduction to his English edition of the letters, A. Wolf noted that Goethe considered Spinoza’s correspondence to be ‘the most interesting book one can read in the world of uprightness and of humanity’.3 It is to be hoped that everyone consulting EMLO will join Spinoza’s already considerable following to take advantage of these links in EMLO and explore what is to be found in Spinoza’s Web.

  1. See Spinoza’s Web, < >, accessed 15 December 2017.
  2. See B. de Spinoza, The Collected Works of Spinoza, ed. and tr. Edwin Curley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), vol. II, p. 505.
  3. See Goethe’s Gespräche, ed. Woldemar Frhr. von Biedermann (1909), vol. 1, p. 35 and The Correspondence of Spinoza, ed. and tr. A. Wolf (London, 1928), p. 24.