Monthly Archives: July 2015

Philip Sidney: a herald of correspondences

OUPetcfinallogos4We could not be more delighted to announce today’s publication in EMLO of a fascinating sixteenth-century correspondence catalogue: that of Philip Sidney, the poet and Elizabethan diplomat and courtier, which comes to us as the result of an exciting new partnership between EMLO and Oxford University Press’s major digital publishing enterprise, Oxford Scholarly Editions Online [OSEO].

When discussion began between these two projects at the end of last year, little did we at EMLO realise that, as a pilot dataset, we would be presented with meticulously prepared metadata for this gem of a correspondence from Roger Kuin’s exemplary publication, The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney, which was published in hard copy by OUP in 2012 and released on OSEO in September 2013.


Detail from the portrait of Sir Philip Sidney, after an unknown artist. (© National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG 2096)

For those who have yet to explore the veritable virtual library that is OSEO — launched just three years ago to widespread critical acclaim — there is a treat in store. Over 600 scholarly editions are mounted online already under the banner of this landmark OUP digital project, including letters, plays, poems, and a host of prose works from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. In the case of Sidney, alongside the letters, OSEO offers texts of this remarkable young man’s poems and prose. In coming years, OSEO will release correspondence calendars of many other key early modern figures for republication in EMLO, with each letter record linking back to the OUP’s edited text. EMLO users within subscribing institutions will be able to move seamlessly from EMLO to the printed texts in OSEO, whilst even those without full access will be able to take advantage of the relevant bibliographic information, including page numbers, for the hard-copy volumes.

Diplomat to the core, the iconic English poet Sidney heralds a glimpse into what lies ahead for us all. We hope our users will enjoy exploring Sidney’s correspondence, his short life, and his remarkable literary work, and will relish also the appearance within EMLO of a long series of OSEO corespondences to be added in the coming months and years as a result of this invaluable partnership.

‘All Change! All Change!’


‘Old Maude’, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s mallet locomotive. Postcard, c.1900–06.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Most of her friends would probably agree: Lizzy Williamson does not look like a locomotive. Yet in reviewing the year and a half in which CofK’s Digital Project Manager pulled this weighty, complicated, and sometimes troublesome project forward with steadily increasing velocity through sheer force of will, this is the image which comes irresistibly to mind. Or at least it would be irresistible if locomotives were capable also of moving trains on multiple tracks simultaneously, of re-engineering their rolling stock while continuing to build up speed, and of decoupling themselves and racing round a few countries at the pace of a TGV before returning to their main task before it had lost an ounce of momentum.

lizzyFor those readers who can scarcely imagine Cultures of Knowledge without Lizzy in the driver’s seat, it is my sorrowful duty to confirm the implication of this opening paragraph: yes, our friend and colleague, Lizzy Williamson, has headed west for a life in the New World. Oxford to Baltimore is a difficult commute and so, armed with her green card, Lizzy has taken the decision to move continents and to settle with her husband in Maryland.

At moments such as these, CofK’s Director should pause and take stock of where the Project is now and how it could possibly have got here without the assistance of such gifted and devoted collaborators. Lizzy joined us just five months into our second phase of funding when Cultures of Knowledge was coming to grips with major technical challenges. EMLO was emerging from the Project’s first phase with its in-depth focus on six pilot correspondences; we needed to re-engineer our self-contained union catalogue to enable it to incorporate metadata from a wide range of partners, from independent scholars to scholarly projects, from publishers of digital and hard-copy editions alike to compilers of repository catalogues. Lizzy came on board at this pivotal moment and in the twenty months during which we have been fortunate to have her working with us, EMLO has been substantially re-engineered, relaunched with a new-look user interface, begun a phase of rapid and sustained growth, and found itself at the centre of exciting discussions about ambitious future developments in a COST network involving over thirty countries.

This remarkable transition has been made possible in no small measure by Lizzy’s extraordinary combination of passion for the project and coolness in the face of adversity, and of a chameleonic capacity to reinvent herself as constantly evolving demands require, together with constancy of underlying purpose. Lizzy’s contribution to setting the stage for the project’s third and most expansive phase has been immense, and our gratitude for her foundational contribution has only been increased by the assistance she has continued to give in recent weeks as we transition into a new era in the history of the project.

Thankfully, the sorrow felt among Project staff as Lizzy departs has also been countered by our excitement at the arrival of her successor as Digital Project Manager, Arno Bosse. arnoOnce again, CofK seems to have attracted just the person it needs to confront a new set of challenges. For six years before his recent period as Digital Humanities Research Associate in the Research and Development Department of Göttingen State and University Library, Arno was Director of Technology in the Humanities Division at the University of Chicago. Only a few weeks into his new post and it is already crystal clear that the wealth of experience obtained in these roles equips him admirably for confronting the unprecedented technical challenges of growing EMLO into a collaboratively designed, built, and populated resource.

Of course there can be no delay on our CofK train, coupled as it is with the rapidly evolving COST Action and, as we pass through this particular station, we have a few further changes to announce. Our trusty Project Administrator, Emma Curran, has alighted in order to focus on a single part-time job while she brings her PhD to completion, and our admirably efficient inaugural COST administrator, Briony Truscott — although thankfully not leaving the History Faculty — is handing over to a new colleague, Dobrochna Futro, dobwho joins us to combine the dual roles of CofK and COST Administrators. With significant experience in event management and administration, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate that Dobrochna has settled into her crucial seat to enable this invaluable link between the two projects to be created. It may be ‘All Change’ at present the length of the train, but our long term destination remains steadfast ahead, and we would like once again to thank all past and present staff for travelling with us down this particular track.

The advent of Johann Valentin Andreae

We are delighted to bring you news of a momentous arrival: from today, the first instalment of Johann Valentin Andreae’s substantial correspondence HABis available for consultation in the front end of EMLO. This publication marks a significant milestone in the history of Cultures of Knowledge and we could not be more pleased to share with you records for 3,696 manuscript letters (from what will be an eventual total of more than 4,500) contributed by our esteemed partner, the Herzog August Bibliothek [HAB] in Wolfenbüttel.


Engraving of Johann Valentin Andreae by Wolfgang Kilian (source of image: Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel).

Work on this catalogue extends back to the very first days of CofK when, at a Phase I technical workshop, our Project Director Howard Hotson remembers Jill Bepler leaving Oxford to return to Wolfenbüttel with the remark that it was ‘time to get going on Andreae’. This was in 2010 and, since the HAB obtained the necessary funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in 2012, we have worked towards this moment in partnership with staff at the HAB, and in particular with Dr Stefania Salvadori, who is immediately responsible for the exemplary ‘Inventory of the correspondence of Johann Valentin Andreae (1586–1654)‘. The German theologian, reformer, and churchman Andreae, a figure highly representative of his era, now takes his place in EMLO alongside two younger contemporaries inspired directly by his work: Jan Amos Comenius [Komenský] and Samuel Hartlib. This catalogue pilots cooperation also between two of the greatest libraries founded in the century of Andreae, Comenius, and Hartlib: England’s Bodleian Library and Germany’s Herzog August Bibliothek.

Although most of Andreae’s earliest correspondence was destroyed by a fire in the city of Calw in 1634, the surviving collection amounts to more than 4,500 manuscript letters to and from the theologian. By far the greatest portion of this vast correspondence is the care of the HAB: some 5,672 folios entered the library over a short period of time, not only because Andreae wrote tirelessly to Duke August the Younger himself, but also as a result of the collection and purchase of others by Wolfenbüttel’s librarians in the years following Andreae’s death. The 3,715 letters published in EMLO today range in date from 1630 to 1654. Work to prepare the remaining section of this enormous correspondence is underway, to be added in a second instalment during the coming months. Each letter record in EMLO links straight through to both the HAB’s OPAC catalogue entry and to the relevant MS guardbook, and we hope very much that interested users are able to carve out time over these summer months to explore this large and magnificent jewel of an early modern correspondence.