Category Archives: Websites, Databases, Apps, & Code

EMLO re-launch! New website, new catalogues, and old friends

It gives us huge pleasure to announce the re-launch of Early Modern Letters Online – EMLO – our union catalogue of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth- century letters, comprising of a complete aesthetic makeover for the website and the release of nine new collections focused on significant figures of the republic of letters.

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Letters in Focus: Nativity Scenes

Christmas is just around the corner and for those with young children this may well entail – as well as wrapping late and waking early – obligatory attendance at the traditional school plays that re-enact a particularly famous birth. The Nativity may be unique, but whether for celebration, ritual or act of witness, the account of a birth has a real potency, and rarely more so than in the context of dynastic royalty.

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Digital Prosopographies Workshop: Podcasts and Slides Now Available

Podcasts, slides, and brief write-ups from our recent workshop on Digital Prosopographies: Case Studies in Online Collective Biography (Monday 29 July, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford) are now available in our Resources section. Predicated on the idea that the insights and methodologies of prosopography – or, the ‘investigation of the… characteristics of a historical group’ – underpins much social network analysis, the event brought together eight European projects to explore case studies, standards, and best practices relating to the electronic capture and representation of people, biographies, social and professional relationships, and their underlying sources. Findings will feed into the development of a more sophisticated prosopographical toolset within Early Modern Letters Online and the development of a series of prosopographical visualizations, focusing in the first instance on the epistolary communities around Samuel Hartlib and Jan Amos Comenius, in 2014.

20,000 Dutch Letters Now Online: CKCC Launch the ePistolarium

Our great friends and colleagues at Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic (CKCC), based at Huygens ING, have just launched their virtual research environment for Dutch scientific correspondences, the wonderful ePistolarium. This major new resource contains metadata on and full texts of around 20,000 letters sent to and from nine seventeenth-century scholars (including René Descartes, Constantijn and Christiaan Huygens, and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek), and is equipped with faceted search, a neat visualization suite (results can be displayed on timelines, maps, and as both correspondent and co-citation network diagrams), as well as some bleeding edge techniques in corpus linguistics such as named entity recognition and topic modelling. Check it out!

The ePistolarium was launched in the magnificent Gertrudiskapel in Utrecht on 13 June 2013, and, alongside presentations from its creators (and a terrific video), our very own Howard Hotson was on hand to celebrate this new tool and to consider its relationship to Early Modern Letters Online as well as its significance to scholarship on correspondences more broadly (a video of his talk, entitled ‘The ePistolarium and the Digital Republic of Letters: The Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Twenty-First Century’, is above). Indeed, these are exciting times for the Digital Republic of Letters in general and the relationship between our two initiatives in particular; we’re going to share metadata, are co-applicants with other interested parties on major funding proposals to COST and Digging into Data, and will be sharing the stage at several forthcoming events, most imminently (with Antony McKenna) at our panel on ‘Electrifying the Republic of Letters’ at Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century at Durham next week. Congratulations to Charles, Guido, Walter, Wijnand, and the rest of the CKCC team!

Open-Sourcing EMLO-Edit: Code for our Editorial Interface Now Available on GitHub!


We are pleased to report that the complete code base of EMLO-Edit, the editorial interface for all of the metadata underlying Early Modern Letters Online, is now freely available for reuse on GitHub. Built from scratch by our Founding Developer Sue Burgess from Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services (BDLSS), EMLO-Edit is a powerful, user-friendly editorial environment for describing, tagging, and managing letter records, including facilities for uploading images, dealing with people and places, merging duplicate records and metadata, user management, full version histories, and exports. The resulting data provides an ideal basis for front end applications in a variety of languages (we’ve used Python/Pylons but you could also develop, say, a Rails application). The code is ready for deployment, and includes full installation instructions for setting up a working version on your own servers; we will be adding a bit more documentation on how to customize the code for your own purposes, but in the meantime grab it while it’s hot, and let us know if you make use of it!

Letters in Focus: Crowning Around

Sixty years on from the coronation of Elizabeth II could be a moment to consider the coronation of another British queen for whom this time-honoured ceremony ran neither seamlessly nor to plan. Not only did the bishops apparently forget the communion bread and wine but it seems the crown was put on askew by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Queen herself was obliged to readjust it. Subsequently, as the Scottish Episcopal bishop Archibald Campbell relates in his letter to the non-juroring bishop Thomas Brett, the crown fell off entirely.

Given the date of 17 October, and the reference to Henry Gandy’s age and susceptibility, we may deduce that the letter was written in 1727 and that the monarch in question was none other than Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II and the first queen consort to have been crowned since Anne of Denmark. This dual coronation, conducted by the then-ailing Archbishop William Wake, took place on 11 October 1727 and was the ceremony for which Handel composed his four renowned anthems (‘Let thy hand be Strengthened’, ‘Zadok the Priest’, ‘The King Shall Rejoice’, and ‘My Heart is Inditing’ – there is some confusion regarding what was played when during the service, once again resulting from the hand of the hapless Wake) which have been used in every coronation service since. As to Campbell’s somewhat uncharitable commentary, we are left wondering if the crown itself really did fall to the Abbey floor or whether we’re witnessing a characteristic instance of epistolary exaggeration. If anyone is able to supply us with further details of the ceremony, we would like very much to hear…

Detail from Street scene with heavy wind and rain, by Jan Luyken. 1698-1700, pen and brown ink (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Letters in Focus: A January in May

To all who are far from these wet and windswept coastal lands of western Europe, we extend an apology for the choice of this record from Early Modern Letters Online and would point out the great good fortune of those of you for whom spring has sprung and who do not long for this rain and unseasonable chill to end. For all those whose thoughts of shorts and sandals are – for the present – thwarted, we’d like to offer reassurance that the May we have experienced this year is not unique. In May 1684, a twenty-three year old William Digby was travelling with his tutor through France. He wrote from Blois to Thomas Smith (Smith was, at this point, vice-president of Magdalen College, Oxford, Digby’s alma mater) that he had nothing to report but the unseasonable inclemency of the weather – it was, indeed, a January in May – and it had become so cold that he and his travelling companions had been forced to don winter clothes. Plus ça change.

Bess of Hardwick’s Letters Now Online

Bess of Hardwick’s Letters: The Complete Correspondence c.1550-1608 has recently gone online. Created by the AHRC Letters of Bess of Hardwick Project, led by Dr Alison Wiggins (University of Glasgow), this wonderful new digital edition makes freely available full texts of all 234 letters to and from Bess – one of Elizabethan England’s most famous figures – alongside colour images of 185 missives (with transcription facilities), contextualised by extensive commentaries on Bess and on the material and linguistic characteristics of early modern English correspondence that are alone worth the price of admission. Alison discusses the creation of this extraordinary resource in this super talk from our 2012 seminar series. Congratulations, Alison and team!

Ghosts in the Machine: (Re)Constructing the Bodleian’s Index of Literary Correspondence, 1927–1963

With the first phase of our Project at an end and our second phase now well underway, it seems an appropriate moment to look back at our work thus far on EMLO and to return to the dataset that lies at its core: the ‘Index of Literary Correspondence’ in the Bodleian Library, a card catalogue which occupies an imposing set of wooden filing drawers at the ‘Selden End’ of the Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room.

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CofK Spin-Off Site: The Travel Journal of Martin Lister

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Our former Martin Lister Research Fellow Anna Marie Roos has recently launched a small but perfectly formed spin-off site Every Man’s Companion, or An Useful Pocket-Book: The Travel Journal of Dr Martin Lister (1639-1712). Funded by a British Academy small grant, the site brings to life the notes kept in an almanac by Lister during a medical peregrination to Montpellier in 1663, and includes the text of the journal (rendered as a blog); supporting material from Lister’s memoirs and correspondence; a cross-referenced index of people, places, and books; and some sumptuous photographs taken by Anna Marie when she retraced Lister’s steps in the summer of 2011. Anna Marie discusses the project in this paper delivered at our 2011 conference Intellectual Geography: Comparative Studies, 1500-1750.