Monthly Archives: November 2015

Outreach from Prague: Polanus, Sachs, and ‘classes’ of Czech students

Crown_of_Bohemia_1648 copy

Map showing the Crown of Bohemia in 1648. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

This week’s publications in EMLO are focussed firmly around ongoing work orchestrated in ‘the Lands of the Bohemian Crown’ and we see the correspondence of Amandus Polanus of Polansdorf join the union catalogue, together with an ‘omnium gatherum’ of the correspondence of late-sixteenth and early seventeenth century Czech students who travelled to the Protestant learned centres of western Europe.

Amandus Polanus, the Silesian-born theologian, studied in Troppau [Opava], Breslau [Wroclaw; Vratislav], Tübingen, Basel, and Geneva, before settling as professor of Old Testament in Basel. The calendar of his correspondence has been assembled thus far under the aegis of a project established in Prague, ‘Correspondence networks between Central and Western Europe: From Comenius and Kircher to Hartlib and Oldenburg’, which was funded by the Czech Academy of Sciences for three years from mid-2012 to support cooperation between the Institute of Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences and the University of Oxford. Members of the project’s team have investigated the relationship of the Unity of Brethren to the Reformed centres of education in the Empire and Switzerland, the connection of Jan Amos Comenius [Komenský] and his circle to the large international communication networks of the seventeenth century (in particular to the circle of Samuel Hartlib), the overlaps between Jesuit mathematicians in Prague and the correspondence networks of Athanasius Kircher and Christiaan Huygens, and contacts of scholars from Silesia with the Academia naturae curiosorum and the Royal Society. Funding from this project has enabled scholars working in these areas to be brought together and a series of workshops, meetings, and talks were conducted in Oxford, Prague, and Vienna at which new research topics were discussed and presented. Two exemplary workshops were organized in Prague: ‘Databases in Early Modern Research: Tracing People, Books and Letters’ took place in September 2013 and was followed a year later with ‘The Practice of Scholarly Communication: Correspondence Networks Between Central and Western Europe, 1550–1700’. A volume, edited by Vladimír Urbánek and Iva Lelková and based on reworked contributions from the latter workshop, as well as newly commissioned papers, is in preparation currently for publication next year with Ashgate. The project also funded extensive research in the archives and libraries in Wrocław, Berlin, Budapest, Leipzig, Halle an der Saale, Herrnhut, Oxford, London, Basel, Zürich, Olomouc, and Brno, and a number of hitherto unpublished letters from Comenius’s correspondence have been discovered and added to the catalogue in EMLO. Together with Czech participation in the European COST Action Reassembling the Republic of Letters, this project has enabled continuation of the fruitful collaboration between the Department of Comenius Studies and Early Modern Intellectual History of the Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences and our own Cultures of Knowledge here at Oxford.

In addition to the Polanus catalogue, for which metadata of the letters from the Swiss archives (Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Zentralbibliothek Zürich, and Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich) is published this week with further letters from a number of Czech archives to be added in the near future, a catalogue has been compiled of the correspondence of the physician Philipp Jacob Sachs von Lewenheimb, and this was published in EMLO last year. Meanwhile, ever eager to pull its weight, Cultures of Knowledge has rolled up its proverbial sleeves and, in partnership with our Prague colleagues and the Digital Library of the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University, Brno, has assembled a calendar taken from František Hrubý’s 1970 edition of correspondence of Bohemian and Moravian students who studied at Protestant universities in Western Europe. It is a truly fascinating selection of letters and, all in all, these publications in EMLO and the work of our partners in Prague are a cause for celebration. We hope very much you will explore in EMLO some of the research being headed by Vladimír Urbánek at the Czech Academy of Sciences and enjoy the fruits of an invaluable collaboration.

In celebration of Richard Baxter: an edition, an exhibition, and a symposium

Dissent and nonconformity are firmly in focus this week with the quatercentenary of the birth of the ejected minister and religious writer Richard Baxter (1615–1691) to be celebrated on Thursday and, in consequence, we would like to draw your attention to an important editorial initiative as well as to a related symposium and to the beginnings of Baxter in EMLO.

NPG D29729; Richard Baxter by Robert White

Richard Baxter, by Robert White. Published 1673. Line engraving, 25.5 by 17.2cm. (Source of image: National Portrait Gallery; NPG D29729)

Here in the UK, an international group of scholars at the Richard Baxter Correspondence Project are in the process of embarking upon their formidable task of preparing a comprehensive critical edition of Baxter’s extensive correspondence. This edition is to be published in nine volumes by Oxford University Press. Building on the detailed foundation laid in 1991 by N. H. Keeble and Geoffrey F. Nuttall in their Calendar of the Correspondence of Richard Baxter (which may be accessed, for those at a contributing institution, on Oxford Scholarly Editions Online [OSEO]), this edition will present for the first time the full text of every surviving letter within the corpus and the prefatory epistles to Baxter’s printed works, and will provide in addition extensive annotation and material description of the very manuscripts themselves. As this correspondence project begins, its elder sibling, the AHRC-funded Reliquiae Baxterianae Project, which is committed to providing — once again for the first time — a fully annotated and reliable scholarly edition of the complete text of Baxter’s 800-page folio Reliquiae Baxterianae (1696), is nearing completion. Both projects are to be congratulated and celebrated in the course of this Baxterian week.

EMLO is delighted to be working both with the Baxter Correspondence Project and with our trusted partners at OUP. To mark the beginnings of the Project’s work towards this monumental undertaking, we are publishing this week a fledgling catalogue, the introductory page for which will serve to update its followers with postings regarding progress and relevant items of interest. As the Baxter scholars proceed with their work in the months and years to come, a full epistolary calendar in EMLO will be pieced together. You will find just eight letters within the catalogue at present — a curious number, you may think — but these pioneer letters have been mounted as a foundation because they have been selected by Baxter editors Johanna Harris and Alison Searle to feature in a small online exhibition, created to celebrate the quatercentenary as well as to act as what we at EMLO hope will seve as the pilot in an ongoing series of correspondence-related exhibitions.

Concerning the week’s concrete celebrations, we would like to draw your immediate attention to a one-day symposium hosted by the Baxter Correspondence Project in collaboration with Dr Williams’s Library, the leading research library of English protestant nonconformity. In the course of Friday’s proceedings, our own Cultures of Knowledge Project Director, Professor Howard Hotson, will deliver a paper entitled ‘”What I had out of books”: Richard Baxter and “the general reformation of common learning”’, and members of the two Baxter projects will present their research and discuss work on the forthcoming edition. Of course, the Baxter archive at Dr Williams’s Library, testifying as it does to Baxter’s arguably unrivalled social, political, religious, and intellectual connections, is a truly invaluable resource and there could be no more fitting place in the world to stage this event. Should you happen to be in London on Friday, 13 November, and would like to attend, please be in touch with the organizers; further details of the day’s proceedings may be found here. And to conclude this run of celebrations, were you to tune into BBC Radio 3 this coming Sunday you would hear broadcast as part of the New Generation Thinkers series a programme, presented by Dr Thomas Charlton from the Reliquiae Baxterianae Project, on the life and ‘trouble-making’ thoughts of our ‘man of the week’. Dissenters enjoy!

STOP PRESS! New Euler volume available: correspondence with Goldbach


‘Leonhard Euler’, by Jakob Emanuel Handmann. 1753. Pastel on paper. (Kunstmuseum Basel, 1849, given by Rudolf Bischoff-Merian; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

by Philip Beeley and Miranda Lewis

As a postscript to last week’s round-up of work in EMLO on mathematical correspondence, we would like very much to draw your attention to the latest volume of Leonhard Euler’s Opera Omnia. Edited by Martin Mattmüller and Franz Lemmermeyer, Leonhardi Euleri Opera Omnia vol. IVA 4: Commercium Epistolicum cum Christiano Goldbach — which is the first volume to appear in the ongoing series since 2004 — presents Euler’s correspondence with Prussian jurist and amateur mathematician Christian Goldbach (1690–1764).

Goldbach’s mathematical career can be said to have begun in Oxford. In 1712, while on a Grand Tour of Europe, he bumped into the Swiss mathematician Nicolaus I Bernoulli, also on European travels, in the Bodleian Library. When in discussion within those illustrious walls Goldbach declared he knew nothing of higher mathematics, Bernoulli lent him a book on infinite series by his uncle Jacob. After numerous false starts, Goldbach was able finally to establish himself as a mathematician and in 1725, then in Moscow, he began his epistolarly exchange with Euler. The new and comprehensively edited volume contains 196 letters, each one transcribed in the original language (either German or Latin) and supplemented with a full translation into English. The correspondence between the two mathematicians charts their lifelong friendship and spans more than thirty-five years. Their fascinating exchange offers an overview of eighteenth-century number theory, its sources, and its repercussions, as well as a glimpse into scholarly circles in St Petersburg and Berlin between the years 1725 and 1765, and, as it reconstructs the development of many of Euler’s most significant achievements, this volume will prove invaluable to mathematical historians around the globe.

For further details, and an order form, see here.