A Central German Court Scholar with European Connections: the publication of Ernst Salomon Cyprian’s correspondence in ‘Early Modern Letters Online’

by Hendrikje Carius und Daniel Gehrt

For the Gotha Research Library [Forschungsbibliothek Gotha], participating in data and resource networking is an important component of its collection-related research and digital humanities activities. This is especially true for the early modern collections, which are being catalogued as part of the Library’s focus on the history of the Reformation and Protestantism. To this end, another milestone was reached recently when the project funded by the German Research Foundation to catalogue the manuscripts from the literary estate of Ernst Salomon Cyprian (1673–1745) was completed. The data was entered into the union catalogue Kalliope, a German national reference tool for literary estates, autographs, and publishing archives, and then released as a printed catalogue. The 4,274 letters from Cyprian’s correspondence with 784 persons in the German Empire and in other parts of Europe have now also been made available in the research hub and union catalogue Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO] where—of more than 160 curated correspondences—Cyprian’s is one of the more extensive. The transfer of metadata was supported by Nodegoat, a web-based data management, network analysis, and visualization environment.

Figure 1. Portrait of Ernst Salomon Cyprian, by Christian Schilbach. (Source of image: Gotha Research Library, inventory no. 817)

Ernst Salomon Cyprian (Fig. 1) ranks among the foremost scholars on Reformation and contemporary church history in the first half of the eighteenth century. As a leading representative of late Lutheran Orthodoxy, he defended the legitimacy of state-controlled Lutheran churches and of the body of authoritative confessional writings composing the Book of Concord (1580). Unlike others, he rarely used theology to this end. Instead, he made ready use of argumentative strategies of Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) and other theorists of natural law in his historiographic works.

Born in 1673 as son of a pharmacist in the Franconian town of Ostheim, Cyprian attended school in the nearby cities of Salzungen and Schleusingen. He enrolled at the universities of Leipzig and Jena, focusing his studies initially on medicine and later on theology. His interest in church history prompted him in 1698 to follow his mentor Johann Andreas Schmidt (1652–1726) to Helmstedt where he received a position as extraordinary professor of history and logic. In particular, his adroit rebuttals of Gottfried Arnold’s (1666–1714) highly controversial Impartial History of the Church and Heretics (1699/1700) gained Cyprian a reputation as a historian. Subsequently, he was accepted into the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1703 upon Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s (1646–1716) recommendation.

In 1700, the Ernestine dukes Frederick II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1676–1732) and Henry of Saxe-Römhild (1650–1710) had granted Cyprian a position as professor of theology and director of the Casimirianum in the Franconian town of Coburg, a school whose curriculum equalled to a considerable degree that of a university. The princes had a particular interest in Cyprian’s historiographical work, financing, for example, his travels to the Netherlands in 1704 to gather information on diverse denominations for studies on contemporary church history. In 1713, Duke Frederick II made Cyprian his church councilor in the western Thuringian town of Gotha, where the renowned scholar remained until his death in 1745. As such, he was involved in inner-Protestant politics at the imperial and European level. Alongside his other duties at the Friedenstein Palace, Cyprian worked continuously on a comprehensive history of Christianity from 1500 to his own time. He served also as director of the court library. In this office, he vigorously expanded the collections, especially those pertaining to his own scholarly interests, and he promoted the fame of the library across Europe through various publications and his extensive correspondence (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Visualization of Cyprian’s correspondence using Nodegoat. (Source of image: Map data ©2022 Google)

Digital images of more than 3,950 letters in a twenty-six-volume collection of Cyprian’s correspondence in the Gotha Research Library (Chart. A 422–447) will be uploaded gradually in the Digital Historical Library of Erfurt/Gotha (DHB). The volumes Chart. A 422–440 are already available.

The Gotha Research Library plans to publish other correspondences in EMLO, including that of the jurist, state theorist, and historian Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff (1626–1692). This will enable further contextualization and linkage to other networks and will provide new insights and fresh impetus for research in the international and trans-confessional history of the European Republic of Letters.


Secondary Literature:

Hendrikje Carius, ‘Europäische Gelehrtennetzwerke digital rekonstruieren: Vernetzung von Briefmetadaten mit Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO)‘, in Bibliotheksdienst, 55, 1 (2021), pp. 29–41.

Daniel Gehrt, ‘Arguing for the Moral Necessity of Reformation History: Ernst Salomon Cyprian’s Historiographic Use of Natural Law in Defense of the Lutheran Church’, in Daniel Gehrt, Markus Matthias, and Sascha Salatowsky, eds, Reforming Church History: The Impact of the Reformation on Early Modern European Historiography (Stuttgart, 2023), pp. 243–70.

Howard Hotson and Thomas Wallnig, eds, Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age: Standards, Systems, Scholarship (Göttingen, 2019).

Katalog der Handschriften aus dem Nachlass Ernst Salomon Cyprians (1673–1745): Aus den Sammlungen der Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha’schen Stiftung für Kunst und Wissenschaft sowie aus den Beständen des Landesarchivs Thüringen – Staatsarchiv Gotha und der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirchengemeinde Gotha, Augustinerkloster, cataloged by Daniel Gehrt (Wiesbaden, 2021).



Clusters, continued collaborations, and the correspondence of Isaac Casaubon

Since its inception, EMLO has worked in close partnership both nationally and internationally with scholars, research projects, institutions, and publishing houses. Following the publication in 2012 by Librairie Droz of Paul Botley’s and Dirk van Miert’s eight-volume edition of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, the metadata from which provided an inventory for the catalogue of Scaliger’s correspondence in EMLO, it is a joy to be working for a third time with Paul Botley.[1. The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, ed. Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert, 8 vols (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2012), ISBN-13 978-2-600-01552-3.] On this occasion, Paul has, together with Máté Vince, generously contributed metadata created in preparation for the edition of Isaac Casaubon’s letters written and received during the years the scholar resided in England, and this is now published in EMLO as part of a catalogue of the correspondence of Isaac Casaubon (1559–1614).

The impressive four volumes that make up The Correspondence of Isaac Casaubon in England are published once again by Librarie Droz.[2. The Correspondence of Isaac Casaubon in England, ed. Paul Botley and Máté Vince, 4 vols (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2018), ISBN-13 978-2-600-05888-9.] Focussed on the surviving letters Casaubon sent and received between his arrival in England in 1610 and his death in London on 1 July 1614, edited transcriptions have been included for a total of 731 letters, 312 of which are published for the first time. Header-level descriptions of these letters, including extended incipits, are now brought together in EMLO to join records for earlier letters both to and from Casaubon found in the catalogues of Hugo de Groot [Grotius] (1583–1645) (contributed by the Circulation of Knowledge project from the ePistolarium database); Amandus Polanus of Polansdorf (1561–1610) (contributed by Iva Lelková at the Institute of Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences); Johannes Isacius Pontanus (1571–1639) (contributed by the Cultures of Knowledge project); Johann Wilhelm Stucki (1542–1607) (contributed by Marc Kolakowski); Richard Thomson (c. 1569–1613) (contributed again by Paul Botley); and of course that of Scaliger, contributed by Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert, as well as three additional letters located in the Stuart State Papers at the UK National Archives, Kew, that came to our attention during work on the recent Networking Archives project.

To witness the inventories of these scholars’ letters being knitted together in a union catalogue is a exciting and a privilege, and their correspondences will by joined shortly by a catalogue for the letters of Dutch statesman and historian Janus Dousa the elder (1545-1604), thanks to the research of the late Chris Heesakkers and the indefatigable work carried out over the past couple of years by Wil Heesakkers-Kamerbeek. As you wait for this catalogue to join the cluster, we hope very much you will enjoy browsing the inventory of Casaubon’s letters, and that you will consult the texts of the letters in this impressive edition.

Oxford Research Associate vacancy: The Letters of John Aubrey

Applications are invited for a two-year full-time postdoctoral fellowship to assist with an edition of the complete correspondence of the seventeenth-century biographer, antiquary, and natural philosopher John Aubrey (1626–1697). The surviving corpus of Aubrey’s correspondence is significant, totalling around 900 extant letters, chiefly located in Oxford repositories. The successful applicant will assist Dr William Poole of New College, University of Oxford, in the completion of an annotated edition of this corpus, to be published in printed form across several volumes, as well as potentially to be made available electronically.

Aubrey’s letters have not been edited hitherto in their entirety, although portions of his correspondence have appeared in the complete editions of some of the figure with whom he corresponded, for instance Isaac Newton and Thomas Hobbes. Manuscripts of his letters are widely scattered, but the majority are to be found among the Aubrey, Tanner, and Wood manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. The successful candidate will be expected to take responsibility for the transcription and editing of the letters in MS Aubrey 12 and MS Wood F 39, and to divide the remainder with Dr Poole.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday, 27 April 2022; interviews will be held towards the end of May. For further details about how to apply, please see here.

Detail of letter dated 11 October 1673 from John Aubrey to Anthony Wood [Anthony à Wood]. (Bodleian Library, MS Wood F 39. fol. 232; see: http://emlo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/w/500378)

Margaret Fell: a constant through difficult and dangerous times

Detail showing the signature of Margaret Fell, from a letter of 20 January 1660 (UK National Archives, Kew, SP 29/91 f.9; source of image courtesy of Gale Cengage, Stuart State Papers Online)

People willing and able to act as linchpins frequently prove themselves indispensable, not least in moments of crisis as individuals scatter and communication between the disparate and moving parts of a group becomes ever more complicated. The early Quaker Margaret Fell (1614–1702), some of whose correspondence has been collated and added to EMLO to create a ‘starter catalogue‘, emerged in the late-seventeenth century as one such crucial figure. Referred to frequently today as ‘the Mother of Quakerism’, this Lancashire-born woman established and maintained over decades a complex epistolary network that united members of the Quaker community across Europe and North America. Margaret Fell acted as the constant. Diligently she exchanged letters with the itinerant faithful during their extensive travels and relayed relevant, up-to-date information regarding the travels and travails of members of the movement, as well as providing all available details of the imprisonments and trials that preachers in the early Quaker church were forced to endure.

Thanks to today’s network of scholars working on women’s early modern letters both with and through Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO], Marjon Ames contributed metadata describing a considerable number of Fell’s letter, each of which she had worked with during the preparation of her 2016 publication Margaret Fell, Letters, and the Making of Quakerism.[1. Marjon Ames, Margaret Fell, Letters, and the Making of Quakerism (Routledge [Taylor & Francis], 2016).] To the listing of these letters was added a further cluster of record describing Fell’s correspondence that survives in the Stuart State Papers at The National Archives at Kew, which has been a focus of attention during the recent Networking Archives project. Together, these letters form the beginnings of a significant catalogue for Fell and her fellow Quakers in EMLO and WEMLO, with each record including a text that summarizes the content in detail.

The past three years have been far from ‘run of the mill’ at EMLO as externally funded research under the aegis of the AHRC Networking Archives project has been conducted alongside EMLO’s more habitual workflows of collating, combining, and publishing descriptions of early modern scholarly correspondence. As EMLO switches this year into a fresh phase of work, momentum is building once again and users should expect to benefit from more frequent publication of new catalogues, together with the provision of increasing numbers of links directing them to both manuscript images and accessible texts hosted on a wide range of partner databases. We hope very much in addition that this body of early Quaker correspondence will increase during the coming year and extend from these foundation letters of Margaret Fell and her circle. Should anyone reading this post be interested in collating metadata for, or preparing texts of, early Quaker correspondence, we at EMLO should be delighted to strike up a conversation.

‘Bring up’ the transcriptions: the letters of Thomas Cromwell

Detail from the portrait of Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the younger. 1532–3. (Frick Collection, New York, Henry Clay Frick Bequest; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

One of the joys of working with a union catalogue that combines correspondence metadata drawn from the research and publications of a wide range of scholars and projects is watching letter records accumulate for early modern individuals who have not been, thus far, a focus of attention in Early Modern Letters Online. Unintended catalogues you might term these, or ‘starter catalogues‘ (as we refer to them at present), each of which requires further collation of letter metadata to bring the inventory as close to completion as possible. For the past three years, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC], EMLO has been involved in a partnership forged between the Cultures of Knowledge, the Networking Archives, and the Tudor Networks of Power projects with a focus on the correspondence identified in the UK’s early modern State Papers. The primary concern of this collaboration has been network analysis—including the development of customized investigatory tools—using metadata drawn from the Tudor and Stuart State Papers and running investigations on these data in combination with those contained in EMLO.[1. A range of outputs resulting from the Networking Archive project is in preparation for forthcoming publication and each will be announced on this blog post as it appears. The sheer volume of metadata cleansing, disambiguation, and reconciliation required for the project has led to an interruption in recent months of posts on this blog but, as we reach the end of the labour-intensive task and transition into a new phase, this will be remedied.] As a result of the data-cleaning conducted during the initiative, a number of ‘starter catalogues’ are emerging at EMLO that draw upon letters from these hitherto disparate datasets and link them with manuscript letters preserved in other repositories. Some are being prepared for publication as basic inventories that contain no more than minimal descriptions; others include abstracts of the letters published in the State Paper calendars (for example, that of the art agent, miniature painter, architect, and diplomat Balthazar Gerbier [1592–before 1667]), or abstracts from EMLO’s Bodleian Card Catalogue (you will find these in the letter records for the Orientalist, antiquary, and librarian Thomas Smith [1638–1710]). And an increasing number of ‘starter catalogues’ are in the process of being worked up still further with full transcriptions of the texts attached, as—with this week’s publication—in the correspondence of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex (c. 1485–1540), chief minister to Henry VIII (and, yes, he is the Thomas Cromwell of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy and Mark Rylance fame).

In this particular case, Caitlin Burge, a PhD candidate at Queen Mary, University of London (funded by the London Arts & Humanities Partnership, an AHRC consortium) and a participant at the Networking Archives project Training School, is transcribing a number of Cromwell’s letters as part of her ongoing research into ‘Letters, Networks of Power, and the Fall of Thomas Cromwell, 1523–1547’. Thanks to current funding at EMLO from the Packard Humanities Institute, a small pilot batch of Caitlin’s transcriptions for a selection of letters in the British Library and The National Archives has been released in EMLO where they sit alongside letters records from Cromwell’s incoming correspondence that have been itemized already by Mary C. Erler during research on the abbess Margaret Vernon for her publication Reading and Writing During the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns 1530–1558.[2. Mary C. Erler, Reading and Writing During the Dissolution: Monks, Friars, and Nuns 1530–1558 (Cambridge University Press, 2013).] Further records describing letters in the correspondence of the towering figure in Tudor politics and Reformation England will be added on an ongoing basis as they become available, either with inventory descriptions or with Caitlin’s transcriptions. And, as ever, contributions of additional metadata or transcriptions of Cromwell’s letters in the care of other archives (for example, those in the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service) will be most gratefully received for this burgeoning catalogue.

Meanwhile, by way of background reading, EMLO users who have not explored these biographies might be interested in Tracy Borman’s Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell: A Life.[3. Tracy Borman, Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014), and Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Thomas Cromwell: A Life (Penguin Random House, 2018).] And please don’t neglect either Hilary Mantel’s compelling fictional account of the son of a blacksmith who ‘put an edge on anything’, or the BBC adaptation of the first two books in her trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.[4. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Fourth Estate, 2009); Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate, 20)12; and The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate, 2020).]

Jeanine De Landtsheer: ‘In Pursuit of the Muses. The Life and Work of Justus Lipsius’

Famed for his ground-breaking philological, philosophical, and antiquarian writings, the Brabant humanist Justus Lipsius (1547–1606) was one of the most renowned classical scholars of the sixteenth century. In this forthcoming volume, Marijke Crab and Ide François bring together the seminal contributions to Lipsius’s life and scholarship by Jeanine De Landtsheer (1954–2021), who came to be known as one of the greatest Lipsius specialists of her generation.

In Pursuit of the Muses considers Lipsius from two complementary angles. The first half of the volume presents De Landtsheer’s evocative life of the famous humanist, based on her unrivalled knowledge of his correspondence. Published originally in Dutch, it appears here for the first time in an English translation by Jan Machielsen. The second half presents a selection of eight articles by De Landtsheer that, together, chart a way through Lipsius’s scholarship. This twofold approach offers the reader a valuable insight into Lipsius’s life and work, creating an indispensable reference guide not only to Lipsius himself, but also to the wider humanist world of letters.

If you wish to be included in the Tabula amicorum that will be printed inside the volume, please fill out this online form or send an e-mail to info@lysapublishers.com containing your address and contact details before 15 October 2021, specifying your name, surname, and town as they are to be mentioned in the Tabula amicorum.

The four wives of William of Orange: a day of celebration

Visitors to the home page of EMLO will glimpse today portraits of three sixteenth-century women arranged in the ‘featured catalogues’ niches. The portraits will change at intervals through the day to showcase four in total. These are the wives of William of Orange (1533–1584) and publication of their correspondences in EMLO is celebrated this afternoon at the Museum Prinsenhof Delft.

The inventories of the correspondences of the four women have been collated as part of the ‘Epistolary Power: the Correspondence of the wives of William of Orange, 1552–1617, and of the wives of the Dutch and Frisian Stadtholders, 1605–1725‘ project, headed by Dr Ineke Huysman of the Huygens ING. With assistance from Annashireen Eslamimoghaddam and a contribution of metadata (for the correspondence of Anna von Sachsen) by Femke Deen, the letters have been described in EMLO and linked to images at the Koninklijke Verzamelingen, The Hague, where the majority of the manuscripts are conserved.

The launch of the letters in EMLO is being marked during the opening of a specially curated exhibition ‘Historische vrouwen. Vrouwen rondom Willem van Oranje en vrouwen van nu [Historical women. Women around William of Orange and women today]’ at the Museum Prinsenhof Delft, which may be visited until 20 February 2022. The celebratory event will be live-streamed and includes a short presentation on Early Modern Letters Online and Women’s Early Modern Letters Online.

In EMLO, the correspondences for each of William’s wives may be viewed separately: Anna van Egmond (1533–1558); Anna von Sachsen (1544–1577)—whose misfortunes gave rise to a tragic and lonely death; Charlotte de Bourbon (1546/7–1582)—who nursed William back to health from an assassination attempt in 1582; and Louise de Coligny (1555–1620)—who, with their young son, witnessed William’s murder in 1584. The four correspondences may be viewed also as a discrete collection or together with the correspondences of the seventeenth-century Stadtholders’ wives. As the presentation explains, these letters may, in turn, be viewed within the context of WEMLO, and of course this rapidly growing dataset of early modern women’s letters may be explored against the backdrop of the whole of EMLO. It is thanks to the hard work and collective endeavour of our wonderful network of scholars, students, archivists, interns, volunteers, and projects that that the voices of so many early modern women are finally beginning to emerge. Enjoy the celebrations!


A ‘starter’ instalment of Samuel Rutherford’s letters

In the midst of pulling together separate strands of multiple initiatives, it’s a delight to announce publication of the third in a trio of inventories collated during EMLO’s collaboration with the ‘Pastoral Care, Literary Cure, and Religious Dissent: Zones of Freedom in the British Atlantic c. 1630–1720’ research project. Dr Alison Searle (University of Leeds) and Dr Emily Vine (formerly a post-doctoral researcher on the Pastoral Care project and now at the University of Birmingham) have compiled metadata for a subset of letters in the correspondence of the Protestant covenanting divine Samuel Rutherford (c. 1601–61), and this fledgling catalogue now joins two catalogues published earlier this year under the aegis of the project: those for the correspondences of Richard Baxter and The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

Samuel Rutherford, attributed to Robert Walker. (University of St Andrew; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Rutherford’s letters have been regarded as a devotional and literary classic within puritan, pietist, and evangelical circles since their posthumous publication by his secretary, Robert McWard, as Joshua Redivivus, or, Mr Rutherfoord’s Letters in 1664. They have been constantly reprinted and translated. The current standard scholarly edition of the Letters (1848) is that produced by the Free Church of Scotland minister Andrew Bonar (1810–92). As part of the Pastoral Care project, examining how letters were used as a material technology for literary caregiving in early modern Britain, metadata from Bonar’s edition were extracted to create 365 new correspondence records in EMLO. The limitations of this legacy data-set are recognised, but incorporating it into EMLO helps to make visible the critical epistolary networks that underlay the covenanting revolution, and particularly the significance of women as agents of this process. Both religious data-sets and Scottish letter writers remain under-represented within digital recreations of the republic of letters, despite the exciting scholarship being produced on the political and literary cultures of covenanting Scotland. Work is underway at present on a much-needed complete scholarly edition of Rutherford’s writings, and the letter descriptions created by the project will form part of this, drawing on wider research into the cultures of manuscript dissemination and translation that have formed a key part of the long and rich reception history which shapes how Rutherford’s letters are read and used within a range of scholarly, religious, and political communities around the world today.

With Baxter’s and Rutherford’s correspondences currently at different stages in their preparation for publication in full editions, each stands testament to the value of EMLO’s inventories for scholarly editors whether the edited texts are intended for hard-copy or for born-digital publication. Many of the inventories collected in EMLO to date describe letters for which the texts are not published, and these cry out for further work. Additionally, as scholars, students, and research projects continue to contribute epistolary listings to EMLO, descriptions of letters coalesce around certain early modern individuals whose correspondences have not been a focus of study hitherto. Such ‘accidental’ catalogues stand incomplete and offer potential areas for study. Over the past three years, under the banner of the Networking Archives project, we have been assembling in EMLO a list of what are termed (for the present) ‘starter catalogues‘ in the hope that scholars, students, and projects worldwide will step forward to engage with an inventory and will augment it with new letters, helping to bring the listing to completion and, in many cases, engaging with the texts. EMLO’s list of ‘Starter Catalogues’ grows apace; if you would like to be involved with any one of these correspondences, you are invited most warmly to be in touch.

Ioannes Dantiscus: the Corpus of Texts and Correspondence

Publication in EMLO today of the inventory of the correspondence of Ioannes Dantiscus marks the culmination of a collaboration between two major international projects: the ‘Registration and Publication of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Correspondence’ project at the University of Warsaw and our own ‘Cultures of Knowledge’ research project here at the University of Oxford. In turn, this partnership was facilitated within the network of a third pan-European initiative ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters, 1500–1800‘ (funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) [Action IS1310]) and, thanks to the fortuitous alignment, users of EMLO are able now to access records for 6,117 letters, each of which links to the relevant description and text in the ‘Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Texts & Correspondence‘ [CIDT&C] database hosted in Warsaw.

The humanist and neo-Latin poet Ioannes Dantiscus (1485–1548) rose to prominence in the service of the Polish King Sigismund I Jagiellon and Queen Bona Sforza as their most significant diplomat and—once ordained Bishop of Kulm (1530/33–1537) and subsequently Bishop of Ermland (1537–1548)—as an eminent politician. Dantiscus’s surviving correspondence embodies one of the largest epistolary collections of his age, and amongst his correspondents numbers an impressive array of rulers, noblemen, political and diplomatic figures, humanists, and scholars. The ‘Registration and Publication of the Correspondence of Ioannes Dantiscus’ project, led initially by Professor Jerzy Axer and now under the direction of Professor Anna Skolimowska, has overseen publication online of Dantiscus’s texts and correspondence. In Anna’s words, Dantiscus’s correspondence provides ‘a unique source of information for researchers of Polish and European Renaissance history, literature, culture, and history of ideas. It documents the role of Poland and Polish diplomacy in Renaissance Europe and provides valuable information on the cultural and intellectual elite of the time, who shared a community of spiritual formation defined by Latinity (Latinitas) and the Christian religion (Christianitas).’

Preparation of the metadata for upload to EMLO has been carried out in a number of stages, the first of which was in 2018 at a Training School—EMLO ‘on the road’—held in Tallinn with support from the Reassembling the Republic of Letters COST Action, and subsequently it was  scheduled around ongoing work in Oxford on the AHRC-funded Networking Archives project. Moving forward in partnership with CIDT&C, the intention is to update the metadata in EMLO at regular intervals to match the continuing editorial work in Warsaw. For the most up-to-date information, however, users of EMLO are urged to make use of the links provided in the letter records to consult the ‘Corpus’ database where, with an interface in English and Polish, they will find in extenso transcriptions of the primary sources, together with critical apparatus. We hope EMLO’s users will relish this opportunity both to examine Dantiscus’s correspondence in the context of EMLO’s union catalogue and to explore the texts in the ‘Corpus of Ioannes Dantiscus’ Texts & Correspondence‘.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts: a timely archival collaboration

As collaborative work within the AHRC-funded Networking Archives project continues between partners in Cambridge, at QMUL, and in Oxford, EMLO has been involved simultaneously over the past year with colleagues at the University of Leeds, at Lambeth Palace Library, in the Bodleian Libraries, and at the United Society Partners in the Gospel on a separate AHRC-funded research project: ‘Pastoral Care, Literary Cure, and Religious Dissent: Zones of Freedom in the British Atlantic c. 1630–1720′. Under the direction of Associate Professor Alison Searle, and with the dedicated assistance of post-doctoral researcher Dr Emily Vine, a number of new correspondences are in the process of being published in EMLO, the first of which is a ‘starter catalogue‘ for the correspondence of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

The letters in the archive of the Society (which was known initially as the SPG and, from 1965, as the USPG) are divided between Lambeth Palace Library and—as a loan collection—the Bodleian Libraries. Following the launch of an initial listing of metadata for 109 letters to coincide with the release of an online exhibition, the fledgling correspondence catalogue may be consulted now in EMLO. The exhibition includes a fascinating and wide-ranging interview given to Rosie Dawson by Bishop Rowan Williams, and we are delighted that Alison and Dr Jo Sadgrove, Research and Learning Advisor at USPG, and Research Fellow at the Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds, have agreed to contribute to this Cultures of Knowledge blog with an insight into how their research and collaborations have taken shape and developed over the course of a COVID-wracked year.

Institution and Archive: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

An AHRC-funded collaboration between USPG and the University of Leeds has explored themes of pastoral care both in SPG’s archive and in USPG’s contemporary global engagements during Covid-19. This collaboration attempts to take seriously the tradition of pastoral care—and the profound failures of care—for bodies and souls that SPG pioneered, and of which USPG and other faith-based organizations are inheritors. It reads the early history of SPG as offering an innovative, though often misguided and morally problematic, vision for the creation of a transatlantic community of care. The project’s aims include not only opening up to a broader public SPG’s earliest archival collections, but also understanding the struggles facing the SPG community in its earliest years and thinking about their connections to present-day mission. What was SPG doing in those early years that was distinct and deemed to be of value to those committed to its vision? How did the Society care for its members across the Atlantic? How should USPG as a twenty-first-century organization understand and communicate that history? How do the concerns of SPG as a nascent Society resonate with and continue to inform the life of the contemporary organization?

The oldest expressions of USPG’s relationships with those ministering in other parts of the world are found in their correspondence archives. For the first twenty years, the SPG was an organization connected by transatlantic letters. These letters were the means by which pastoral care was extended across the Atlantic—from the Society’s headquarters in London to missionaries in North America and the Caribbean, and through those missionaries, to a wide range of other community groups. What SPG generates in the early eighteenth century, as recorded in the letters, is an innovative, complex, deeply entangled transatlantic community of pastoral care. SPG was ambitious in its aims and limited in its attitude and approach to those whom it encountered in liminal zones across the early modern British Atlantic, but it forged a unique community seeking to engage with and care for those whom it encountered, however entangled and inequitable that ambition proved to be in reality.

Pastoral care within this diverse community was provided in a number of ways, as the letters indicate: enabling access to the sacraments for British settlers in North America and the Caribbean; resourcing communities through the provision of education; sending books and other material supports for spiritual life—both for the missionaries themselves and for the provision of spiritual care to others. Polemical works enabled missionaries to defend and differentiate the Church of England from other expressions of Protestantism in North America and the Caribbean and, in doing so, marked out the boundaries of Anglican orthodoxy. But pastoral caregiving was most powerfully expressed through the act of receiving and writing letters. Such letters offered encouragement and implicitly created solidarity, reminding missionaries and their fledgling congregations that they were part of a wider community of pastoral care, even though they often lived isolated and highly precarious lives.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, few could have anticipated that questions about care would become the key moral, political, and economic questions facing communities globally. Who is entitled to care? What does good care look like? How should care be given? How are caregivers themselves cared for? How do we pay for care? How do we care when we are not able to be physically present? How do we care for those who are isolated? How do we care for those in precarious economic situations? These questions, which are now all too familiar, are similar to those that energized and confounded the early SPG missionaries.

The longevity of these questions across time and space means that a deepening understanding of SPG’s earliest archive is able to inform and shape its functioning in the twenty-first century. This archive, which evidences a discourse and genealogy of pastoral care developed over three-hundred years, offers a different grounding for USPG as a contemporary organization, perhaps making more visible the challenging dynamics that continue to influence its functioning and relationships. Thinking about the contemporary life of an organization in dialogue with its archives offers a distinct vantage point from which to reflect on the challenges of relationships over time. Our project has embodied a highly productive process of cross-sectoral discussion between academic research and historical and contemporary organizational praxis. Collaboratively rethinking this shared but conflicted and often painful history has the potential to bring new dimensions to relationships in active dialogue with some of USPG’s oldest partners within the Anglican Communion.

Pastoral care is a highly complex and power-laden dynamic: it appears in many different guises and is expressed in various ways across cultural contexts. What is perceived as pastoral care in one context can be interpreted as brutality in another. Critical questions arise here as to whether what is offered as pastoral care, particularly across contexts, is experienced and received as care? There have been times when the priorities of USPG as an administrative organization, embroiled in Western systems of bureaucracy and accountability, have jeopardized global relationships. As with other organizations, the relational and the administrative aspects are often in tension with each other. The early archive offers a caution about the issues of power that USPG as a twenty-first century organization continues to negotiate. How then might USPG better hold the tension between the administrative and the relational in ways that protect and nurture creativity and relationship? How might USPG be better at including the voices and experiences of partners in thinking about what it means to offer pastoral care for bodies and souls, across multiple contexts and inequities? How might excavating languages of pastoral care in SPG’s early archive enable different ways of thinking about languages and practices of pastoral caregiving in the present?

The online exhibition, which our cross-sectoral collaboration has generated, is a way of interrogating the most innovative and barbaric facets of SPG’s organizational history of pastoral caregiving. It reveals the commitment with which those within SPG sought to care for certain groups across the Atlantic, whilst catastrophically failing in their duty of care for others. It invites ongoing dialogue and reflection about the ways in which faith-based organizations, like USPG, and many others, still operating within the same global networks of relationship that were established during the early modern period, work towards deeper understanding of the history explored in this online exhibition.

Jo Sadgrove and Alison Searle
University of Leeds