Monthly Archives: June 2019

SKILLNET project catalogues in EMLO: the scholars Willem Surenhuis and Adriaan Reland

As this post is written and released, the conference to which it refers is well underway and the launch of the catalogues with which it is concerned is due to take place this very afternoon. The conference in question, ‘The Mishnah in Early Modern Europe: Jewish Law for Christians and Jews‘ is the concluding event in a six-month international research project led by Piet van Boxel and Joanna Weinberg and based at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. On the concluding day of this conference, at 2.55 p.m. today, Dirk van Miert, the director of the SKILLNET project with which Cultures of Knowledge works in close partnership, will celebrate publication in EMLO of the metadata of two key scholarly correspondences: that of Guilielmus Surenhusius [Willem Surenhuis] (61 letters) and Adriaan Reland (212 letters).

Considerable team work has taken place to draw this metadata together, with Tobias Winnerling of the MSCA project ‘The Fading of Remembrance. Charting the process of getting forgotten within the humanities, 18th–20th centuries‘ contributing the calendar of correspondence for the Reland catalogue, which was in turn set out for upload to EMLO by SKILLNET team member Milo van der Pol, while Dirk van Miert, who has been in Oxford as a Polonsky Fellow for the past term based at St Anne’s College, has collated (with assistance once again from Milo back at ‘home base’ in Utrecht) the metadata for the correspondence of Surenhusius.

Would that there were a live stream for us to witness this launch (the grape vine has it that a red curtain is involved!). But given there is not, we urge followers of this blog to read the introductory pages to this brace of catalogues, to explore the correspondence metadata, and to follow the links provided therein to a range of relevant online resources, as well as to track the continuing and inspiring work in Utrecht of our partners at SKILLNET.


Exemplary collaboration: a new upload of metadata for the correspondence of Johannes Kepler

As we focus here in Oxford on work with the ARHC-funded Networking Archives project, it may seem as if the pace of the publication of catalogues in EMLO has slowed in recent months. Behind the scenes, however, the collation of epistolary metadata—both for fresh catalogues and for collaborative expansion of those in which basic metadata are already in place—continues unabated. At present we are working with colleagues at the Royal Society Library to publish in EMLO a listing of the Society’s incomparable Early Letters collection; we have in preparation correspondence calendars for a number of key early Fellows of the Royal Society, including Edmond Halley, John Locke, and Isaac Newton; we are collating metadata for the correspondences of certain peripheral figures within the circle of Samuel Hartlib; and we are working as proactively as ever with a wide range of partner scholars and projects.

The preparation of catalogues is not always as straightforward a task as those who have not tried their hand at it might think. It takes time to set out metadata for the letters and their associated people, places, repositories, shelfmarks, and bibliographic details in a format from which upload is possible. It takes time too to prepare records for the authors and recipients involved (and frequently the people mentioned), as well as for the places of origin and destination, identifying and attaching correctly those that exist in EMLO to the relevant letter and creating new people and place records for those entering the union catalogue for the first time. If a contributor is to conduct analysis on his or her data, and if the calendar is to be of use as a finding aid to researchers, this preparatory work cannot be rushed. Accuracy is key. The attachment of the wrong ‘John Smith’ as a letter’s author, or the wrong ‘Boston’ as a letter’s destination, for example, can create untold complications and confusion.

In this phase of the union catalogue’s development, we are delighted once again to be working with students, librarians, and scholars who volunteer to help, and we will be adding soon to the team page biographies for members of this flourishing and committed community. In addition, we shall be releasing a listing of early modern correspondences for which we are interested in compiling calendars and with which would welcome offers of help. While this list will include a number of correspondences already collected in modern editions, it will set out also a selection of ‘starter catalogues’ concerning early modern individuals for whom we have recorded already within EMLO a significant portion (but by no means the entirety) of his or her known correspondence, and on which further research and archival work is required. Some of these ‘starter catalogues’ might form the basis for a student research topic, and those in search of a ‘subject’ will be more than welcome to be in touch to discuss involvement. I shall write in detail about this scheme in a future post. In the meantime, should anyone find the prospect of working with letters appealing and be reading this blog as a potential volunteer, I’d like to suggest considering the catalogue of the correspondence of Johannes Kepler as an apposite example of how the contributions of scholars and students may be layered and brought together into a greater whole.

This past week has seen the release in EMLO of metadata based on the letters published in volume XVII of Max Caspar’s monumental edition of Kepler. Gesammelte Werke. The story of EMLO’s Kepler catalogue runs thus: whilst researching his Cambridge University Press monograph, Bearing the Heavens. Tycho Brahe and the Astronomical Community of the Late Sixteenth Century, Professor Adam Mosley assembled a significant quantity of metadata on astronomical correspondence from the later decades of the sixteenth and early years of the seventeenth centuries, including the basic metadata for the correspondence of Kepler. These metadata were, with the blessing of Professor Mosley, handed via EMLO to Dr Francesco Barreca of the Museo Galileo, Institute and Museum for the History of Science, Florence, for significant expansion. In particular, Dr Barreca focussed on the creation of abstracts, the addition of keywords, and links were inserted from each letter record to the Kommission zur Herausgabe der Werke von Johannes Kepler where, if users click on the relevant volume, a fully searchable PDF of the letter texts is available for download. Dr Barreca has identified also which letter was sent in reply to which, and this data (which cannot yet be set in place automatically in the union catalogue) will be added manually in the coming weeks by members of the wonderful EMLO volunteer team, who will be contributing thereby to this collaborative venture. When the work is complete, should scholars wish to make use of the data, I suggest they read one of Dr Barreca’s abstracts (that for the letter from Kepler to Wilhelm Schickard of 11 March 1618), bear in mind what it says, and write to us at EMLO!

And should anyone following this blog this wish to volunteer to work with EMLO, a universe of letters awaits …

Tycho Brahe and Johannes Keper, Hradčany, Prague. (Source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

‘Mijnheer ende broeder’: letters from Cornelis de Witt to his brother Johan

Once again the dedicated and industrious Johan de Witt project team, based at the Huygens ING in Amsterdam under the direction of Dr Ineke Huysman, has been hard at work, and the latest instalment of correspondence metadata to be added to the Johan de Witt catalogue in EMLO consists of a listing of four-hundred-and-twenty letters sent to Johan by his elder brother Cornelis de Witt (1623–1672). Publication of this section of the catalogue has been orchestrated to coincide with the opening of an exhibition on the De Witt brothers, De Gebroeders De Witt. Iconen van de Gouden Eeuw, at the Historisch Museum Den Briel.

At the heart of this exhibition, which has been guest curated by Dr Ronald Prud’homme van Reine, stands the gold and enamel goblet presented to Cornelis de Witt by the States of Holland in 1668. Created by Nicolaas Loockemans (d. 1673), this cup celebrates the actions of Cornelis in June of the previous year when he was selected to accompany Michiel de Ruyter in the infamous (in the Netherlands at least—it tends to be somewhat downplayed in this country) raid by the Dutch navy on the Medway. During this particularly embarrassing episode for the Stuart navy, the Dutch fleet sailed to the coast of Kent, captured the fort at Sheerness, breached the English defensive chainline across the estuary, made their way up the Medway to Chatham—where they burned or captured a number of ships—and left unscathed with both the fourth rate ship the ‘Unity’ (which had itself been captured from the Dutch just two years previously) and the English flagship the ‘Royal Charles’ in tow. (And, if you’re interested, do read about the subsequent fate of this symbolic prize as a tourist attraction!). The exhibition brings together a complementary selection of paintings, prints, drawings, medals, and portrait busts, and from a regional perspective considers the role of Cornelis as ‘ruwaard’ (prosecuting attorney) of Putten, the court for which was in Gervliet, just five kilometres from Brill.

As with all the correspondence published thus far in the Johan de Witt catalogue, users are able to follow the link provided in each individual letter record to a digitized image of the relevant manuscript. Access to these images is proving invaluable for scholars, and Dr Huysman, the Johan de Witt team, and the directors and heads of the Dutch libraries and archives involved are to be thanked and commended in equal measure for making this possible.

Detail of the goblet created by Nicolaas Loockemans and presented to Cornelis de Witt. (Musée national de Moyen Age-Musée de Cluny. Déposé au Musée du Louvre, OArt Paris. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais, Musée du Louvre/Jean-Gilles Berizzi.) The goblet is on display in the ‘De Gebroeders De Witt. Iconen van de Gouden Eeuw’ exhibition at the Historisch Museum Den Briel between 16 June and 8 September 2019.

Closing date reminder: Paris-Oxford Research Fellowship in Digital Humanities

A brief reminder for all who intend to apply for the three-year fully funded fellowship at the Sorbonne University (Paris, France) that the closing date is tomorrow, Friday, 14 June 2019. Applications should be sent to Alexandre Guilbaud ( For further details about the opportunity, please see the post published on this blog last April.

Un bref rappel à tous ceux qui ont l’intention de soumettre une candidature pour la bourse de recherche de trois ans à l’Université de la Sorbonne (Paris, France) que la date de clôture est demain, vendredi 14 juin 2019. Les candidatures doivent être envoyées à Alexandre Guilbaud ( Pour de plus amples renseignements sur cette opportunité, veuillez voir le post publié en avril dernier.