Paris-Oxford Research Fellowship in Digital Humanities

As part of a collaboration between Oxford and the Sorbonne, we are delighted to announce the new call for applications for a three-year fully funded fellowship open to students wishing to pursue doctoral studies in the history of science, in mathematical sciences, in digital humanities, or in computer science. Details of the fellowship are set out below, both in English and in French.

Paris-Oxford Research Fellowship in Digital Humanities

Recent progress in digital humanities has transformed research in the history of science: large quantities of data, the collation of which would formerly have required time-consuming visits to libraries and archives, have been made available; manuscript and book collections are accessible online; and investigations across a range of related resources become ever easier. In consequence, historical investigations can be contextualized better, studies of networks taken to a new level, and analysis conducted across increasingly large quantities of data and metadata.

Applications are open currently for a fellowship that will offer the successful doctoral student the opportunity to undertake research over a period of three years at two of the most prestigious institutions in Europe: Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Oxford. Applicants should have a background in one or more of the following four disciplines: digital humanities, history of science, mathematics, or computer science. They should demonstrate experience of historical study alongside evident ability in the field of digital humanities or data sciences.

Thesis topics might combine any area of the history of science with an approach in digital humanities. In particular, proposals exploring innovative digital or computer-based approaches for research in the history of mathematical sciences or on early modern correspondence will be welcome, as will those involving investigation into how the development of digital analysis, research, and visualization tools can contribute to new research on scientific and/or epistolary corpuses.

This programme forms part of a scientific collaboration between the Sorbonne’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. The successful doctoral student will work within the ‘Digital Humanities’ team at the Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) of Sorbonne University (Paris, France) and will conduct a period of research at the University of Oxford (UK), either within the framework of the Cultures of Knowledge research project/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] at the Faculty of History, or of the Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, or of the Mathematical Institute. The student will benefit from a three-year funding grant from the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University.

Further information regarding this opportunity is available from Alexandre Guilbaud ( or Miranda Lewis (

To apply, please send a copy of your CV and an outline of your planned research project to Alexandre Guilbaud ( before the closing date of 14 June 2019.


Bourse de recherche Paris-Oxford en humanités numériques

Les progrès récents accomplis dans les humanités numériques ont transformé la recherche dans le domaine de l’histoire des sciences : des quantités importantes de données, dont le rassemblement aurait autrefois demandé de nombreuses et longues visites de bibliothèques et d’archives, ont été mises à disposition, des collections de manuscrits et de livres sont accessibles en ligne, et les recherches à travers un éventail de ressources connexes n’ont jamais été aussi faciles. En conséquence, les recherches historiques peuvent être mieux contextualisées, des études de réseaux amenées à un autre niveau, l’analyse peut être réalisée à travers des quantités de plus en plus grandes de données et de métadonnées.

Les candidatures sont ouvertes pour une allocation de recherche qui offrira au doctorant retenu l’opportunité d’entreprendre des recherches sur une période de trois ans au sein de deux des institutions les plus prestigieuses d’Europe : Sorbonne Université à Paris et l’Université d’Oxford. Les candidats devront avoir une formation dans une ou plus des quatre disciplines suivantes : les humanités numériques, l’histoire des sciences, les mathématiques ou l’informatique. Ils devront démontrer qu’ils possèdent une expérience des études historiques ainsi que des compétences manifestes dans le domaine des humanités numériques ou des sciences des données.

Les sujets pourront associer n’importe quel domaine de l’histoire des sciences avec une approche en humanités numériques. En particulier, les propositions explorant des approches numériques ou informatiques innovantes pour des recherches en histoire des sciences mathématiques ou des recherches sur les correspondances de l’ère moderne seront bienvenues, de même que les problématiques s’intéressant à la façon dont le développement d’outils d’analyse, de recherche de visualisation numériques peut contribuer à de nouvelles recherches sur les corpus scientifiques et/ou épistolaires.

Ce programme s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une collaboration scientifique entre la Faculté des Sciences et Ingénierie de l’Université de la Sorbonne et la Faculté d’Histoire de l’Université d’Oxford. Le candidat sélectionné travaillera au sein de l’équipe ‘Humanités numériques’ à l’Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) de Sorbonne Université (Paris, France) et effectuera une période de recherche à l’Université d’Oxford (Royaume-Uni), soit dans le cadre du projet Cultures of Knowledge/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] à la Faculté d’Histoire, ou du Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, ou de l’Institut de Mathématiques. Le doctorant bénéficiera d’une allocation doctorale de trois ans financée par la Faculté des Sciences et Ingénierie de Sorbonne Université.

De plus amples renseignements concernant cette opportunité sont disponibles auprès d’Alexandre Guilbaud ( ou de Miranda Lewis (

Pour poser votre candidature, veuillez envoyer une copie de votre CV et un résumé du projet de recherche envisagé à Alexandre Guilbaud ( avant la date du 14 Juin 2019.


‘Networking Archives’: the deadline for applications approaches

This is not an early April fool but rather a gentle (and genuine!) reminder for those who are interested in joining ‘Networking Archives‘, the AHRC-funded project with which Cultures of Knowledge is involved at present: submissions of applications to attend a series of training schools and a colloquium, together with the chance to author a chapter in an edited volume, will close this coming Monday, 1 April. Details of the opportunity may be found in an earlier post on this blog, as well as on the Networking Archives website.

As applications stream in, the project’s Queen Mary University of London research assistant, Dr Esther van Raamsdonk, and I are in the thick of disambiguating and identifying the authors and the recipients of letters to be found within the Stuart State Papers. As we work, we are reminded at every turn how extraordinarily fortunate we are to glimpse, albeit fleetingly, aspects of the lives of so many early modern individuals—from the movers and shakers of the period, to those who, but for the survival of a letter in this archive, would have slipped through the net of the historical record and remain unknown to us today. We work with a tool developed in Cambridge by Dr Sebastian Ahnert, and when we set out at the beginning of last month we faced approximately 55,000 unique expressions of names in need of our time and attention. The workflow we have adopted is similar to that used ten years ago (at the beginning of the Cultures of Knowledge project) for the disambiguation of the authors and recipients described within metadata of the Bodleian card catalogue. As so often in the Early Modern Letters Online editorial team, the enormity of what lies ahead is helped by the dialogue and communication maintained when at the coalface. If you would like to be involved in these conversations and are interested in where the project will be taking this data, and if you wish to focus on the analysis of early modern correspondence networks, the offer to join us is open, but the deadline is set for Monday …

Good luck!

The delivery of post. Detail from Christoff Weigel, ‘Abbildung Der Gemein-Nützlichen Haupt-Stände Von denen Regenten …’ (Regenspurg, 1698), p. 160. (Image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, obj. no. RP-P-1896-A-19368-1602)

Johan de Witt: a partnership moving forward

While eyes across Europe this week have been fixed in disbelief on the latest proceedings on the green benches in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, a remarkable instance of a harmonious Anglo-Dutch partnership and a series of ensuing publications focussed on early modern correspondence have been celebrated in The Hague. At a reception held last Thursday in the British ambassador’s residence, the Johan de Witt Correspondence Project marked the release of the first instalment of the Grand Pensionary’s catalogue in EMLO alongside publication of a hard-copy anthology of a selection of his letters.1

The United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Wilson CMG hosted the event and, in the course of his welcome, drew the attention of the guests to the long history of close relationships between individuals from the two countries. In her role as the project’s director, Dr Ineke Huysman explained the purpose, the background, and the ambitions of the Johan de Witt Project, as well as the focus for the first instalment of metadata in EMLO on De Witt’s incoming diplomatic correspondence. A further three talks highlighted the roles of the project’s partner institutions: Professor Lex Heerma van Voss, director of the Huygens ING, discussed the reasons why early print editions tend to be partial and all too frequently include neither complete texts nor a full listing of the surviving letters; Professor Charles Jeurgens of the University of Amsterdam and the National Archives of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief) explained the tendency for historic library catalogues not to provide descriptions at the level of the individual letter and how digital work is beginning to unlock what may be described as the ‘black boxes’ of the archive; and I spoke about Early Modern Letters Online, Networking Archives, and the ongoing international work of Cultures of Knowledge, which — as the correspondence of many of the individuals under investigation currently demonstrates — promotes pan-European scholarly and technical collaboration through our own times of uncertainty. Emeritus Professor Jonathan Israel from Princeton University (the author of the indispensable The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806) placed Johan de Witt in context, describing both the significance of the Grand Pensionary and Anglo-Dutch relations in the early modern period.2 He spoke in detail of the admiration the English diplomat William Temple (1628–1699) held for De Witt, and observed how Herbert Rowen, whose work he confessed to have exerted a crucial role early in his own career, would have welcomed and benefitted from such an invaluable digital initiative.3 The formal part of the celebrations concluded with a presentation in which the Ambassador handed the first copy of Johan de Witt en Engeland to the Algemeen Rijkarchivaris (General State Archivist) Dr Marens Englehard.

This beautifully produced and unique publication draws on twenty letters from De Witt’s correspondence, all with an English connection, through which the imaginative and creative illustrations by project member Jean-Marc van Tol have been threaded seamlessly, each one inspired by an early modern painting or print. The letters selected range from those written in the 1640s, a period when England was in turmoil prior to the execution of Charles I and when Johan and his brother Cornelius visited the country on a leg of their European travels, to May 1672, just two months before the murder of the De Witt brothers. Publication of this anthology, together with the release of the first instalment of metadata in EMLO, is testimony to the hard work of the team of volunteer contributors who dedicate so much in terms of time and commitment to the project.

In the course of his political duties, Johan de Witt corresponded with large numbers of heads of state, dignitaries, and diplomats. However, he was also a mathematician and, when a student at Leiden, he lodged in the house of Frans van Schooten the elder, a lecturer in mathematics at the university who, in addition to De Witt, taught Johannes Hudde, Christiaan Huygens, and René François de Sluse, as well as his own son Frans van Schooten the younger. De Witt, who trained as a lawyer, published a number of mathematical treatises, including the ‘Waerdye van Lijf-renten naer proportie van Los-renten’, in which he attempted to price life annuities with respect to their true value.4

Dr Ineke Huysman presenting the Johan de Witt correspondence project in The Hague (with Charles I looking on from the side!), 14 March 2019.

As Cultures of Knowledge continues its work with clusters of correspondence and their underlying networks, interesting overlaps between the Johan de Witt project and the Networking Archives project, which is centred around the letters to be found in the Tudor and Stuart state papers, are certain to emerge. Even at this early stage, manuscript versions of the same letter preserved in both The National Archives at Kew and the Dutch National Archive have come to light, and the ability (through EMLO) to link manifestation versions of a letter is a prospect the partners relish. As EMLO, the De Witt project, the National Archives of the Netherlands, and the Huygens ING step forward together, sharing knowledge and sharing platforms, the spotlight seems set to draw into focus early modern networks that have relevance for aspects of our own lives and our situations today.

  1. Johan de Witt en Engeland. Een bloemlezing uit zijn correspondentie, ed. Ineke Huysman and Roosje Peeters, with illustrations by Jean-Marc van Tol (Soest: Catullus, 2019).
  2. Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806 (Oxford,: Oxford University Press,1995). A full list of Jonathan Israel’s publications may be consulted here.
  3. See H. Rowen, John de Witt, statesman of the ‘true freedom’ (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986) and John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland, 1625–1672 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978).
  4. Details of De Witt’s mathematical treatises may be found on the MacTutor History of Mathematics database hosted at St Andrews.

‘Networking archives’: an opportunity for collaboration, training, research, and publication …

With work at Early Modern Letters Online continuing apace and a number of different strands and projects being juggled simultaneously, it is always encouraging to announce exciting new opportunities and promote collaboration. One such opportunity involves Cultures of Knowledge‘s Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] funded research project Networking Archives. As explained in an earlier post on this site entitled ‘Announcing “Networking Archives: Assembling and analysing a meta-archive of correspondence, 1509–1714″‘, Networking Archives is a collaboration between Cultures of Knowledge, Dr Ruth Ahnert (Queen Mary University of London), and Dr Sebastian Ahnert (University of Cambridge), with Gale State Papers Online. At present, preparatory work is underway to prepare and interrogate the metadata collated from the correspondence to be found within the Tudor and Stuart State Papers — both domestic and foreign — alongside the data contained in Early Modern Letters Online. This combination of datasets, together with use of the project’s accompanying tools and infrastructure, will enable researchers to query and analyse their own epistolary metadata and to pose new kinds of questions on the history of the different forms of ‘intelligencing’ between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries.

One of the ambitions of Networking Archives is to bring together and to foster a community of scholars, data analysts, and developers who share an interest in correspondences that overlap and intersect with the datasets under investigation. Applications are being accepted currently for participation in a scheme that involves a series of training schools and a colloquium. These events, scheduled to take place in Cambridge and Oxford over the course of the next two years, are intended to provide hands-on training in data collation and curation, in network analysis, and in basic coding. Successful applicants will be offered the opportunity to develop their research into chapters that will be published in an edited collection.

Further details of these events, and the conditions regarding application, may be found on the Networking Archives project news page.


Antiquarian ‘Science’ in the Scholarly Society: a workshop

On a day in which Mary-Ann Constantine from the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies [CAWCS] at the University of Wales gave an inspirational paper on travel writing and the letters exchanged between the antiquarian Richard Gough and the naturalist and writer Thomas Pennant (introducing the former with the show-stopping phrase ‘Gough tends to be known most widely as a shelfmark’), it is a tremendous pleasure to be circulating news of a forthcoming workshop that will explore how ‘antiquarian science informed collecting’ and collections in the’ early modern scholarly academy’. Organized by the historians of science Anna Marie Roos and Vera Keller, this event will take place on 1 and 2 April at the Society of Antiquaries of London and will examine the work of many of the early modern figures who crossed the divide between natural philosophy and antiquarianism. Full details of the programme and speakers, together with information regarding registration for the workshop, may be found here.


In praise of the pioneering student: Elena Cornaro Piscopia

In November 2017, a delegation of scholars from Oxford, including the Chichele professor of medieval history Julia Smith, the Cultures of Knowledge project director and professor of early modern intellectual history Howard Hotson, and the professor of modern history Robert Gildea, visited the University of Padua to discuss potential collaboration between the two institutions. One outcome of this visit was the establishment of a framework to enable student exchange, and duly an undergraduate from the Galileian School and the University of Padua was selected to visit Oxford in Trinity term 2018. With the support and encouragement of Professor Paola Molino at the University of Padua, this first student, Francesco Zambonin, elected to spend his month in Oxford learning about epistolary metadata with Early Modern Letters Online.

(Source of image: Posteitaliane)

In addition to acquiring valuable experience in the necessary preparation of metadata prior to upload into an epistolary union catalogue, Francesco chose to compile an inventory of correspondence for one of the most fascinating Italian female scholars in the early modern period. We are delighted to be publishing in EMLO this week the fruits of his work with the release of the catalogue of the letters of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia.

Cornaro Piscopia (1646–1684) was born illegitimate, the third child of a Venetian patrician (and subsequent procurator of St Mark’s) Giovanni Battista Cornaro and his then mistress Zanetta Boni; although the couple married in 1654, only their sons were legitimized. Cornaro Piscopia’s gift for languages (which earned her the title ‘Oraculum Septilingue‘), music, and mathematics, in addition to her erudition in theology and philosophy, were encouraged from an early age and permitted to flourish.1 This female scholar chose not to marry — rather, she entered the Benedictine order as an oblate — and her scholarship became renowned across Europe. At the age of just nineteen, she was referenced in the dedication to her father by the Swiss theologian Johann Heinrich Hottinger in the sixth volume of his Historia Ecclesiastica, and she is recorded as having been elected as member to seven academies in five different Italian cities between 1669 and 1672.2 In 1678, Cornaro Piscopia was awarded her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Padua and in the process — as far as has been established to date — she may have become the first woman to attain this degree. Certainly, the process attracted widespread attention: her viva was conducted in front of crowds too numerous to be accommodated in the university hall and thus the ceremony was moved to the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, where Cornaro Piscopia chose to discourse on Aristotle, whose work she had studied under the guidance of the philosopher Carlo Rinaldini (1615–1698).

Upon her death from some form of wasting illness in 1684 , Cornaro Piscopia was buried in Santa Giustina, Padua. The following year a medal was struck by the university in her honour and in 1688 a collection of her writings was published.3 This same year, in a letter to his friend Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn wrote of: ‘Helen Cornaro, daughter of a procurator of St. Marco (one of the most illustrious families of Venice), who received the degree of Doctoress at Padua for her universal knowledge and erudition, upon the importunity of that famous University prevailing on her modesty. She had been often sought in honourable marriage by many great persons, but, preferring the Muses before all other considerations, she preserved herself a virgin, and being not long since deceased, had her obsequies celebrated at Rome by a solemn procession, and elogy of all the witness of that renowned city.’4 Notwithstanding Corrnaro Piscopia’s wish to be interred simply and not in a tomb more fitting with the status of her father’s family, the scholar’s remains were disinterred in 1895 by the English Benedictine Abbess Mathilda Pynsent and placed in a new casket, and a new tablet was erected to her memory. It seems fitting today that the pioneering student to visit Oxford from Padua within the parameters of a new exchange scheme should honour the memory of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia in EMLO with the beginnings of an inventory of her surviving correspondence.

  1. See Edward Aloysius Pace, ‘Elena Lucrezia Piscopia Cornaro’, Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), vol. 4.
  2. See Johann Heinrich Hottinger, Historia Ecclesiastica Novi Testamenti … Seculi XVI. Pars II. (1665); and Patrizia Bettella, ‘Women and the Academies in Seventeenth-Century Italy: Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia’s Role in Literary Academies’, Italian Culture, 36, 2 (2018), p. 100.
  3.  Benedetto Bacchini, Helenae Lucretiae (Quae & Scolasticae) Corneliae Piscopiae … Opera quae quidem haberi potuerunt (Parma: Ippolito Rosati, 1688).
  4.  Diary and correspondence of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (1857), vol. 3, p. 296.

The particular case of Jan Baptist Van Helmont, enhancing existing EMLO metadata, and ‘starter catalogues’ …

As we pass from the old year into the new, EMLO’s users may find of interest the recently highlighted catalogue created for Jan Baptist Van Helmont (1579–1644). This catalogue is small yet significant: tantalizingly few letters — at present just fifteen — have survived to be recorded in the correspondence of the Flemish medic and ‘chymist’. This seems to be due, in part, to the actions of the ‘Count of Gilinius’ who, according to Van Helmont’s son Franciscus Mercurius [Francis Mercury] (1614–1699), plundered [‘spoliasset’] the letters, papers, and books that had belonged to his father and which were preserved in the family estates at Vilvorde, near Brussels.1 The loss of this precious material was noted also on the far side of the English Channel in London, where Samuel Hartlib wrote in his ‘Ephemerides’:

By some bodies instigation Gleen was made to fall upon some of Helmonts houses which he plundered and set on fire, wherein many excellent writings of his perished. Amongst others a great Volume of letters written by himself and by others to him about many arcana.’2

Detail from Hartlib’s ‘Ephemerides’. (Hartlib Papers, University of Sheffield, 28/2/24B)

Although Van Helmont’s letters seem to have been lost and only this minute number from what was perhaps an extensive body of work appears to survive in the correspondence archives of others, this does not prevent scholars today from enriching further the records of what is logged already in EMLO. We are delighted that Dr Georgiana Hedesan has offered to provide abstracts for Van Helmont’s known letters and to tag the people mentioned and the topics discussed therein, as well as to consider the influence and afterlife of the influential Paracelsian through the lens of the correspondences of others in the period.

In addition to enriching existing metadata (as in this example of Van Helmont), scholars are encouraged to identify and help complete significant correspondence listings for which no more than partial inventories exist in the EMLO union catalogue at present. A number of what might best be termed ‘starter catalogues’ are in the process of being identified, and students and established academics alike are invited to be in touch concerning work that might be done to help bring these to completion. A preliminary selection of the ‘starter catalogues’ will be highlighted on EMLO early in the new year and should any of these prove to be of interest and should you wish to contribute in any way, please let us know …

In the meantime, we’d like to take this opportunity to wish all users of Early Modern Letters Online a happy new year. We look forward greatly to hearing from and, we hope, working with many of you in 2019.

  1. See Francis Mercury van Helmont, ‘Vita authoris’, in J. B. van Helmont, Ortus medicinae, sig. (E4)v; and Sietske Fransen, ‘Jan Baptista van Helmont and his Editors and Translators in the Seventeenth Century’, PhD dissertation, Warburg Institute, University of London, 2014, p. 108.
  2. Samuel Hartlib, ‘Ephemerides’, 1651; see Hartlib Papers, University of Sheffield, 28/2/24B. The ‘Ephemerides’ was Hartlib’s diary and record of his many and various undertakings. Gleen, or Gilenius, was to Count Godfried (Godard) Huyn van Amstenrade (1590-1657).

The correspondence of Livonia’s most influential humanist: David Hilchen

Back in the spring of this year the COST-funded Reassembling the Republic of Letters action organized its third and final training school, EMLO ‘on the road’. At the suggestion and invitation of Dr Kristi Viiding, who is working on the Livornian humanist and lawyer David Hilchen [Heliconius] (1561–1610), this two-and-a-half-day event was hosted by the Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Tallinn, and was dedicated to the preparation of epistolary metadata for inclusion in a union catalogue of early modern correspondence.

EMLO is truly delighted at the close of the year to be publishing the first installment of metadata for the inventory of David Hilchen’s correspondence. Under the direction of Dr Viiding, who serves currently as General Secretary of the International Association of Neo-Latin studies, The Hilchen Project is compiling an inventory of the humanist’s entire correspondence, and — in addition to publication of this listing in EMLO — the work of the project will form the basis for a future critical edition. About eight-hundred letters written over a range of more than three decades survive from Hilchen’s private correspondence. The vast majority of these are in Latin, and many letters include short passages or phrases in Greek

This inventory is being published in EMLO in two installments. The first consists of the basic metadata for ninety-eight surviving letters sent by and to Hilchen prior to his departure from Livonia at the end of January 1603. The second installment will contain the letters written during the humanist’s exile in Poland between March 1603 and May 1610 (the month preceding his death), and these will be added to EMLO in the autumn of 2019. For the present, we trust EMLO’s users enjoy exploring the catalogue, and we look forward greatly to continuing our work with Dr Vidiing and her team in the course of the forthcoming year.

Antonio Agustín and the Spanish Republic of Letters

Amidst the bustle of this autumn’s activities, it is a tremendous pleasure to be announcing the publication in Early Modern Letters Online of a new correspondence catalogue — that of Antonio Agustín (1517–1586) — in celebration of the partnership between Cultures of Knowledge and the Spanish Republic of Letters [SRL] project, an inspiring initiative that is gathering momentum on the far side of the Atlantic.

SRL is in the process of collecting data to examine the networks of Spanish humanists and, by charting the intellectual correspondence exchanged ‘in the different centers of learning of the Iberian Peninsula (cities, universities, the court) and the rest of Europe’, is set to challenge the misconception that Renaissance Spain played a marginal role in the intellectual exchanges of the period. Headed by Dr Guy Lazure and hosted at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, SRL has created a database to house the metadata of both the correspondence and private library collections of major Spanish humanists.

Based on metadata supplied by SRL, the inventory of letters of Antonio Agustín marks the third in a series of catalogues in EMLO of sixteenth-century humanist correspondence from the Iberian peninsula — following those of Juan Luis Vives (1493–1540) and Hernán Núñez de Toledo y Guzmán (1475–1553) [El Pinciano]. Agustín was a canon law historian, a numismatist, a collector of archaeological artifacts, and a bibliophile, and in the course of his life he amassed an impressive library, a partial inventory of which was published following his death in Tarragona on 31 May 1586. Thanks to an exchange of data between the two projects, metadata for the letters from Agustín’s correspondence are available now for consultation within the EMLO union catalogue and users will find links have been provided within each letter record to the SRL database. Data dispatched from EMLO to Dr Lazure for the correspondence of Vives is to be followed by additional inventories that are in the process of being collated in Oxford. For the present, we hope users of EMLO will benefit from this partnership by following the links provided in the Agustín catalogue to explore more broadly the range and scope of the Spanish Republic of Letters database.



At the heart of a distinguished intellectual circle: Lady Anne Conway

This week in EMLO the catalogue of correspondence metadata for a remarkable early modern individual is published: that of Lady Anne Conway (1631–1679). Prevented, as a woman, from attending university, Anne Conway (née Finch) took advantage of her youngest half-brother’s matriculation at Christ’s College, Cambridge, to receive instruction herself via an exchange of letters with his tutor. This tutor was none other than the philosopher, poet, and theologian Henry More (1614–1687). The subsequent correspondence between tutor and pupil matured into a deep and lasting friendship and, through More, Anne Conway came into contact with a number of the Cambridge Platonists, including Ralph Cudworth, Benjamin Whichcote, and John Worthington. A detailed account of the epistolary exchanges within this circle may be found in a number of the publications by Professor Sarah Hutton, who is herself due in Oxford this week to deliver the Annual lecture of the British Society for the History of Philosophy.1

Having married Edward, third Viscount Conway and Killultagh (c. 1623–1683), who encouraged her wholeheartedly in her intellectual pursuits, Lady Anne had access to the family’s collection of books that formed one of the largest private early modern libraries in the country. A victim of severe ill health, she was forced to live in semi-retirement at the Conway family seat, Ragley Hall in Warwickshire but her illness introduced her, as a patient, to some of the renowned physicians of her age, including William Harvey, Theodore Turquet de Mayerne, and Thomas Willis, as well as to the ‘Irish stroker’, Valentine Greatrakes.

In the final years of Lady Anne’s life, Francis Mercury Van Helmont (1614–1699), the son of the Flemish natural philosopher Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580–1644), joined her household at Ragley. As well as encouraging her to study the Jewish Kabbalah, Van Helmont introduced Lady Anne to Quakerism and she received visits from the Quaker leaders George Fox, Robert Barclay, George Keith, and William Penn whilst using her influential contacts to help their imprisoned followers. Shortly before her death, Anne Conway converted to Quakerism, despite opposition both from her family and from Henry More. And those who relish an unorthodox twist to their fairy tales might be intrigued to know that when she died on 23 February 1679, Van Helmont preserved her body in a glass coffin.

To discover more about this fascinating early modern woman, please do explore the correspondence catalogue, procure copies of Sarah Hutton’s publications, and — should you be in town — head to the Maison Française in Oxford for 6 p.m. on Friday, 2 November!

  1. See, for example, Sarah Hutton, Anne Conway, a Woman Philosopher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), and The Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and their Friends 1642–1684. Revised edition, ed. Marjorie Hope Nicolson and Sarah Hutton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992; and available on Oxford Scholarly Editions Online).