‘liberal measure … from the Muses’ spring’: the correspondence of John Milton

It is a joy to announce, four hundred and eleven years to the day following the poet’s birth, that the catalogue of correspondence of John Milton (1608–1674) is available for consultation in EMLO. The first correspondence to be compiled by a member of the Networking Archives project, Dr Esther van Raamsdonk (the team’s current Research Associate based at the Queen Mary University of London), this inventory is in the process of being augmented with detailed metadata and expanded.

Milton’s personal correspondence survives as a body of—at present—just fifty-nine letters. Of these, approximately two-thirds were authored by the poet himself. In his final and sixty-sixth year, Milton published a volume containing a collection of thirty-one of his private letters,[1. John Milton, Joannis Miltonii Angli, Epistolarum Familiarium Liberunus … (London, 1674).] and it is this edition that has formed the basis of EMLO’s catalogue. A couple of ‘ghost’ letters for which no print or manuscript version remains have been included; these were listed by A. Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall in their edition of Oldenburg’s correspondence,[2. The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, ed. A. R. Hall and M. B. Hall, 13 vols (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press; London: Mansel; London: Taylor & Francis, 1965–86), vol. 1 p. 32.] alongside two further letters from Oldenburg to Milton for which manuscripts (one a draft, the other a copy) survive in the Royal Society LIbrary.[3. Ibid., pp. 108–09 and pp. 140–1.]

Milton is known to have retained copies of the letters he composed during the interregnum when in the employment of the State as ‘Secretary for Foreign Tongues’, a role which involved preparing international diplomatic correspondence in Latin. These letters were published in 1676, just two years after the poet’s death.[4. John Milton, Literae pseudo-senatûs Anglicani Cromwellii reliquorumque perduellium nomine ac jussu conscriptae a Joanne Miltono (Amsterdam and Brussels, 1676). The metadata that describes these letters will be added to the correspondence catalogue in the course of 2020 once Esther van Raamsdonk has embarked upon her British-Academy-funded research at the University of Warwick.] Given Milton removed these manuscript copies and preserved them in his possession throughout the decades following the Restoration, it is curious that no further correspondence, neither incoming to nor outgoing from the poet, survives. Whether Milton followed Thomas Hobbes’s example of destroying a selection of his papers for fear of investigation is not known.[5. See Noel Malcolm’s introductory page to ‘The correspondence of  Thomas Hobbes’, published in Early Modern Letters Online, 19 December 2017.] However, the presence of a draft and a manuscript copy of two of Oldenburg’s letters to Milton, both of which appear to have been sent, indicates that the latter’s archive of incoming correspondence has not survived.

Richard Jones, third viscount and first earl of Ranelagh (1636–1712), c. 1700. (Natural Trust Collections, Attingham Park, see: <http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/609016> )

As the number of letters increases in EMLO, one of the pleasures of working with the union catalogue is to witness first-hand the plethora of connections settling into place. Milton worked as a tutor. Among his pupils was Richard Jones (1641–1712), the eldest son of Arthur Jones, second Viscount Ranelagh (d. 1670) and Katherine Jones (1615–1691), the daughter of Richard Boyle, earl of Cork and the sister of Robert Boyle. This young nobleman travelled to France in the care of none other than Henry Oldenburg, who worked as a tutor in the years following his arrival in England. The pair visited Saumur, where Milton advised his former charge in a letter of 1 August 1657: ‘I would not have you drink too deep of the wine of Saumur, which you hope to enjoy, unless you are careful to dilute the vintage of Liber with a more liberal measure of water from the Muses’ spring, in the proportion of more than five parts to one. But you have the best of advisers [Oldenburg] on this subject, and do not need a word from me. You will find it it to your own best interest to obey him …’.[6. See the letter from Milton to Jones of 1 August 1657.] Milton knew his former pupil well, having previously advised him with regard to a library that ‘unless it enables the students to improve their minds by the best instruction, it would deserve the name of ‘book repository’ rather than of “library”. You are very well aware that for this reason the desire to learn and habits of industry must be added to all these advantages.'[7. See the letter from Milton to Jones with the inferred date of May 1656.]

Richard Jones, who engaged in English politics in the 1670s, married Elizabeth (d. 1695), the daughter of Francis Willoughby, Baron Willoughby of Parham; Elizabeth’s sister, Frances, married William Brereton, third Baron Brereton (1631–1680) of Brereton Hall, who played an important role in the years following the death of Hartlib in March 1662.[8. See Leigh T. I. Penman, ‘Omnium Exposita Rapinæ: The Afterlives of the Papers of Samuel Hartlib’, Book History, 19 (2016), pp. 1–65.] Both Brereton and Jones became original fellows of the Royal Society and were elected in April and May 1663 respectively, the latter on the same date as his uncle, Robert Boyle.[9. 20 May 1663.] Jones was expelled from the Society in 1682 however, and, whatever Milton and Oldenburg taught their pupil, it was not a consummate skill in accountancy, for he ended his days surrounded by allegations of corruption and financial mis-dealings.[8. See C. I. McGrath, ‘Jones, Richard, earl of Ranelagh‘, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, version published online 3 January 2008 (requires consultation via a subscribing institution).]

Milton’s small but intriguing catalogue of letters sheds light on some of his Italian and Greek (amongst others) connections. And it provides us with tantalising glimpses into what Milton was reading, into his role as a tutor, and, more widely, the circles of which he formed a part.

Happy Birthday, John Milton!


The Royal Society’s Early Letters

It is a privilege to announce this week that a listing of the Royal Society’s collection of Early Letters has been released within Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]. The catalogue contains at present (and this ‘at present’ will be explained further into the blog post for those who choose to read on) 4,109 letters drawn from a total of 4,390 manuscripts itemized in the Royal Society Library’s catalogue. The letters range between 1613 and 1740 (although three post-1740 letters have been identified) and, as a collection, they form an invaluable archive of the original incoming correspondence received at the Society by way of the institution’s secretaries, its office holders, and its early Fellows. Many of these letters were copied into the Society’s Letter Books and were referenced in the Register Books; many were published in the Philosophical Transactions. The letters encompass a remarkably diverse range of topics and scientific activities.

The Royal Society Early Letters catalogue is published in EMLO.

The suggestion to publish this inventory of the Early Letters in EMLO was initiated at a workshop entitled ‘Digital Approaches to the History of Science‘, an event organized last year by the AHRC-funded Reading Euclid project. Subsequently, metadata for the collection was prepared using EMLO’s many and various bespoke tools in partnership with the Royal Society Library, under the guidance of the Librarian, Keith Moore, and the Digital Resources Manager, Louisiane Ferlier. The first step involved removing the data that described a number of non-epistolary manuscripts; secondly, disambiguation (the ‘which Thomas Smith is which‘ process) and reconciliation for the associated people and the places were carried out (although a few queries remain still to be resolved); thirdly, the texts of the abstracts underwent an editorial ‘tidying’; and, fourthly, links were inserted into EMLO records at every turn—whether for a letter or for an early Fellow—to guide users to a range of the Royal Society’s rich resources available online.

Further updates to the listing of letters (and this where the ‘at present’ mentioned above comes in) include identifying and clustering within one EMLO record manifestations that the Library catalogue itemizes as separate records (for example, different manuscript versions of the same letter, or translations of the letter in different languages). This work will mean the total number of records in the early letters catalogue will decrease overall in EMLO. Thereafter, the numbers will swell once again as bundles of letters batched together hitherto in the Library’s catalogue (for example, three letters from Person A concerning Topic 1) are identified, separated out, and described individually. In consequence, EMLO will display a slightly different inventory to that maintained at the Library, but each EMLO manifestation will link to its relevant entry in the Society’s catalogue. And, in addition, details from other Royal Society Library sources will be recorded—whether entry in the Letter Books or publication in the Philosophical Transactions, as well as details of the date a letter was read to the Society. What is exciting about this element of the forthcoming work is that, combined with the way the manifestations will be ordered in EMLO and based upon how many versions exist and how many entries reference the letter, it will be possible to rank and determine at a glance the importance of individual letters to the early Society. Over the course of the next six months, updates to the Early Letters catalogue in EMLO will be released, as will further new catalogues of correspondence for a number of key early Fellows (and officer holders) of the Royal Society, including those of the Society’s president from 1703 to 1727 Isaac Newton … watch this space …

The letters of Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière (1740– 1805)

A presentation of the Correspondance d’Isabelle de Charrière / Brieven van Belle van Zuylen took place on Saturday, 26 October at the Utrecht Archives (Het Utrechts Archief). The novelist, essayist, and composer known within the Netherlands as Belle van Zuylen and elsewhere as Isabelle de Charrière (1740–1805) is regarded today as a leading light in the Utrecht literary canon. This reputation is due in no small measure to van Zuylen/de Charrière’s correspondence of which approximately 2,600 letters, written in French, survive.

With different sections of the correspondence available hitherto only in Dutch, English, or Japanese translation, and with interest in the writer generating Wikipedia pages in no less than twenty-five different languages, a project team at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands [KNAW] has come together under the direction of Suzan van Dijk (Huygens ING) and Madeleine van Strien-Chardonneau (Leiden University) to digitize the surviving correspondence. This project has set out to publish a complete digital edition of the letters, and intends to mount transcriptions of the original French alongside manuscript images as well as, in the fullness of time, to add translations.

Over the past couple of years, members of the Belle van Zuylen Association have been working in eLaborate, a tool developed at HuygensING, to create transcriptions. Taking as their starting point the authoritative print edition (Oeuvres complètes, edited by Van Oorschot and published in 1979–84), spellings have been standardized, the layout adapted, and the text annotated. The transcriptions are scheduled to be released online incrementally, and the event at the Utrecht Archives celebrated the release of the first  batch of 199 letters, the manuscripts of which reside in the care of archives and libraries in the Netherlands—the National Archives, the Dutch National Library, and Museum of Dutch Literature (The Hague), Archives of the Province of Gelderland (Arnhem), and the Utrecht Archives.

The event included a symposium at which Belle van Zuylen/Isabelle de Charrière, her work, and her importance within the field of cultural history, as well as her subsequent reputation and legacy, were discussed. Kaj van Vliet (archivist, Utrecht Archives) considered the roles played by both van Zuylen/de Charrière and her seventeenth-century predecessor Anna Maria van Schurman with reference to the new exhibition currently on display in the same building. Suzan van Dijk examined the writer’s oft-quoted words: ‘Je n’ai pas les talents subalternes’ (I have no talent for subordination), and revealed that in the letters she had studied in the Dutch archives (the majority of which are addressed to members of van Zuylen’s Dutch aristocratic family) this characteristic was not on display, a fact which reveals an infinitely more interesting and complex personality. Kees van Strien, who has just brought out his latest book Belle van Zuylen. Een leven in Holland (Belle van Zuylen: A life in Holland), spoke about Gijsbert Jan van Hardenbroek, a member of an influential Utrecht family, as well as several of his friends and contemporaries. The private documents of this circle are housed today at the Utrecht Archives, and were published by Van Strien in 2005; on the basis of these letters and diaries, Van Strien considers Hardenbroek as having lost his heart to Van Zuylen and fallen ‘victim to Cupid’. Dirk van Miert (director of the SKILLNET project at Utrecht University) presented the writer as a citizen of the eighteenth-century Republic of Letters, comparing her to Dutch female contemporaries Hyleke Gockinga and Etta Palm: Gockinga was seen as a ‘second Schurman’ on account of her linguistic skills; Palm corresponded with a number of politicians belonging to Van Zuylen’s extended circle, and the two women are likely to have encountered each other in Paris, where Van Zuylen/de Charrière became aware of Palm’s reputation, refering to her as ‘cette intrigante hollandaise’. Josephine Rombouts (author of Cliffrock Castle) recalled the strong impression made upon her (at the age of nineteen when she moved from home to begin university) by Belle van Zuylen, and the opening sentences of the first letter sent by Van Zuylen to D’Hermenches were central in her talk.

The digital edition Correspondance d’Isabelle de Charrière/Brieven van Belle van Zuylen is being released as a ‘work-in-progress’. Letters from the Dutch archives constitute only a small percentage of Van Zuylen/de Charrière’s surviving correspondence, and the focus at this point is to complete the considerable work conducted already on the letters to be found in the Swiss archives. In due course an inventory of the letters will be added to Early Modern Letters Online where it will be searchable both as part of Women’s Early Modern Letters Online and within the entire union catalogue. For those with a particular interest in early modern women’s writing, or in French literature, the Correspondance d’Isabelle de Charrière / Brieven van Belle van Zuylen project is keen to involve additional volunteers, and anyone interested in making a contribution is welcome to contact Suzan van Dijk (suzan.van.dijk@huygens.knaw.nl) or Madeleine van Strien-Chardonneau (madeleinevanstrien@yahoo.fr).

Guglielmo Sirleto, a British Academy grant, and the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

A worthy recipient of British Academy funding Dr Jan Machielsen set off for Rome in April this year equipped with a laptop and access to his EMLO-Collect workspace. Once settled in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, he began to weave together listings of the correspondences of a number of hitherto neglected late-sixteenth-century Catholic scholars. The author of Martin Delrio: Demonology and Scholarship in the Counter-Reformation (Oxford, 2015), a study that positions the life and work of the Jesuit theologian (who was born in Antwerp in the midst of the Dutch Revolt) within the wider processes of Catholic Reform, Dr Machielsen is engaged at present on a related publication Making a Church Ever the Same: Catholicism between Rome and the Borderlands, c. 1550–1620’ (forthcoming). This new work will examine the Catholic intellectual geography of (and I use Dr Machielsen’s words) ‘the fragile borderlands and exile communities’ that played such a key role in Catholic Reform alongside those from the ‘traditional Mediterranean heartlands’.

Portrait of Guglielmo Sirleto. Seventeenth-century engraving. (Image: Jan Machielsen)

The first of a number of correspondences collated in the course of this research—that of Guglielmo Sirleto (1514–1585)—has just been published in EMLO. Sirleto was prefect of the Vatican Library, and ultimately its cardinal librarian; he was an observer of proceedings at the Council of Trent. In his introduction to EMLO’s catalogue, Dr Machielsen recalls: ‘I had looked at Guglielmo Sirleto’s correspondence during the final stages of writing my first monograph on the Flemish-Spanish Jesuit Martin Delrio. I was struck, then, by the content and tone of letters by Netherlandish scholars such as Laevinus Torrentius, Jacobus Pamelius, and especially Willem Lindanus. Not only did they turn to Sirleto for help, they also regarded the Vatican Library as an arsenal to be employed against the heretics.’

A British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant presented Dr Machielsen with the enviable (or, given the numbers of surviving manuscript letters, some might feel daunting) prospect of ten weeks in Rome to focus on Sirleto’s correspondence, together with those of a number of relevant key scholars, with an eye to piecing together the extent of their networks beyond the Italian peninsula. Although the large majority of Sirleto’s correspondents resided south of the Alps, many of the letters turned out to be exceptionally rich and, as he worked, Dr Machielsen posted abstracts of a number on Twitter (hashtag #PopishPost). With a number of catalogues collated while he was in Rome currently in preparation, updates regarding their publication will be posted on this blog.

And whilst considering invaluable British Academy funding, for those who might be interested but missed earlier announcements, it’s worth noting that Dr Esther van Raamsdonck, the Postdoctoral Research Associate working at present with the Cultures of Knowledge Networking Archives project, will be beginning shortly her own three years of British Academy funded research centred around John Milton and the Dutch Republic. The application deadline for Esther’s replacement at Queen Mary University London has passed, but the call for a second post-doctoral position, to be based at the University of Oxford under the guidance of Professor Howard Hotson, has just one more week to run and applications for this position should be received by 14 October. For further details see this earlier blog post, or visit the Networking Archives website.

Calling prospective Postdoctoral Research Associates: ‘Networking Archives’ Project

For those who missed the initial announcement (or for those who did not but would appreciate a reminder), it is worth noting that just two weeks remain until the closing date for applications for a post-doctoral position with the AHRC-funded project ‘Networking Archives: Assembling and analysing a meta-archive of correspondence, 1509–1714‘.

Launched just a year ago and led by Professor Howard Hotson (PI, University of Oxford), Professor Ruth Ahnert (Co-I, Queen Mary University of London), and Dr Sebastian Ahnert (Co-I, University of Cambridge), this exciting initiative involves working with metadata taken from a combination of the correspondence to be found in the Tudor and Stuart State Papers (courtesy of Gale Cengage Learning and the State Papers Online) and relevant correspondence within the union catalogue Early Modern Letters Online. The project team, of which the post-doctoral research associate will form an integral part, is combining quantitative network analysis with a traditional research approach to investigate the ways in which ‘intelligence’—both of a political and of a scholarly nature—was communicated. The successful applicant will be based in Oxford for eighteen months and will work under the guidance of Professor Howard Hotson to ‘study the intersection of political and intellectual ‘intelligencing’ in mid-seventeenth-century England, with particular reference to the genesis of the English half of the “circle” documented in the papers of Samuel Hartlib’.

Unlike the early modern employers authoring or receiving many of the letters with which members of the project team are working at present, those on the selection panel do not expect relatives to write with requests for the position on an applicant’s behalf, nor are petitions welcome . . . and as for ‘presents’ delivered in expectation of appointment, well, they’re also a straight ‘no’—no ginger, no wine, no oranges, no duck, no venison, no Dutch cheese, and no promise of significant financial return from a future venture! (These are just a few of the fascinating seventeenth-century recruitment bribes glimpsed recently during the disambiguation work on the Stuart State Papers metadata.)

However, scholars wishing to know more about the position will find further details on the Networking Archives project News page, and may download full details of the posting and the application process. Applications for the post should be uploaded online by 12.00 noon on 14 October 2019.

Details of letters in the Stuart State Papers, The National Archive UK, SP 29/408, fl. 13 and SP 29/166, f. 45. (Images courtesy of Gale State Papers Online)


A Call for Papers: ‘Between the Labyrinth and the Way of Light—Early Modern Metaphors of Knowledge and Johannes Amos Comenius’

A call for papers has been issued by the Department of Comenius Studies at the Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, for an international conference entitled ‘Between the Labyrinth and the Way of Light: Early Modern Metaphors of Knowledge and Johannes Amos Comenius’. Scheduled to run between 30 September and 3 October 2020, this conference will take place at the Institute of Philosophy, where it will be organized and hosted by the Department of Comenius Studies together with the German Historical Institute Warsaw. Keynotes will be delivered by Professor Paula Findlen (Stanford University) and Professor Howard Hotson (University of Oxford). Abstract proposals for papers should be submitted by 31 October 2019. Further details may be downloaded in a pdf format, or consulted below.

‘Between the Labyrinth and the Way of Light: Early Modern Metaphors of Knowledge and Johannes Amos Comenius’
30 September – 3 October 2020
Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Organizer: Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Co-organizer: German Historical Institute Warsaw
Keynotes: Paula Findlen (Stanford), Howard Hotson (Oxford)
Abstract submission deadline: 31 October 2019

In his ‘baroque’ novel The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco devoted a chapter to a debate about metaphors. A learned Jesuit, Padre Emanuele, praises metaphors as ‘the most acute and farfetched among Tropes’, as the very quintessence of ingenium, which consists ‘in connecting remote Notions and finding Similitude in things dissimilar’ and produces Wonder, while enabling us to learn ‘new things without effort and many things in small volume’.

It is no coincidence that Eco attributes a keen interest in metaphors and their close connection with the field of knowledge to his seventeenth-century characters. His fiction reflects the early modern boom of practical and theoretical interest in metaphor as an effective, though in a certain sense problematical, instrument of the imagination. The entirety of early modern scholarly discourse is imbued with a multitude of metaphors that denote different segments of the culture of knowledge, involve various methods of its production, organization and administration, and help to capture the nature of the new knowledge and the meaning of new theories. The terms labyrinth, path, light, darkness, tree, gate, theatre, mirror, garden, and other metaphors are poetic, and at the same time cognitively effective, instruments for representing knowledge. However, the rhetorical nature of the metaphor made it also a subject of criticism. Many members of the early modern scholarly community dissociated themselves from the use of metaphors altogether and created an image of the new science as something separate, set at an ostentatious distance from such rhetorical figures. What emerges is a particular situation in which metaphors are simultaneously desired and not desired, and in which they function not only as an effective means of explicating knowledge and theories but also as a means of self-definition and self-presentation.

The aim of this conference is twofold. Its first purpose is to discuss and analyse metaphors representing scholarship, learning, and knowledge in early modern scholarly discourse. We would like to focus on their multiplicity, function, and ambivalent standing. A possible starting point is the well-known cognitive concept of metaphor according to which this trope is not only a linguistic adornment of poetic language but also an important tool of cognition. However, we do not want to prevent participants from using other interpretative frameworks; indeed, interdisciplinary approaches to the topic are highly encouraged.

As its second aim, the conference will focus on Johannes Amos Comenius and his works in order to mark the 350th anniversary of his death. Comenius, like his contemporaries, enjoyed making use of rich figurative language. In his texts he employed a number of metaphors through which he conceptualised knowledge, learning, memory, the universe, and other things. Some of his book titles are themselves metaphorical and indeed became emblematic (Theatrum/Amphitheatrum universitatis rerum, Via lucis, Lux in tenebris, Labyrinth of the World, Janua linguarum, Vestibulum latinae linguae). As the author of theoretical writings from the fields of poetics and rhetoric, he also dealt with the nature of metaphors and parables and their place in contemporary rhetoric.

We welcome contributions related to Comenius and/or to broader topics of early modern knowledge, focusing on the following thematic groups:

1) What do metaphors and the scholarly strategies which use or refuse them reveal about early modern cultures of knowledge? In what way are they connected with the systematisation of learning and its division into disciplines? Were metaphors universally shared in the common literary and scholarly space of the respublica litteraria or are they tied to specific social environments, scholarly networks, fields of knowledge, or languages?

2) To what extent do changes in the cultures of knowledge correlate with changes in using metaphors? Is there a tendency for figurative language to reaffirm established images (the continuity of medieval metaphors), or is it rather an instrument that creatively transforms models of thinking, producing new meanings for old metaphorics?

3) How does language react to a changing audience, to the emergence of new communication media and to the transformed functions of text in a society whose literateness is steadily increasing? And in what way do these developments prepare the ground for the use of figurative language in post-eighteenth-century discourses of knowledge?

4) Do metaphors function as an instrument for creating grand narratives? Do self-legitimation narratives, for instance, use specific figurative tools?

5) How does figurative language reflect denominational and religious differences? For example, does the extent, to which metaphor is used in the Catholic milieu and in the Protestant one, differ? Can such a comparison be valid in relation to Jewish or Muslim scholarly texts, if we know that different religious currents had radically different attitudes towards metaphorical/non-metaphorical interpretations of their sacred texts?

6) Early modern natural science discourse abounded in proclamations about the need to eliminate metaphors. To what extent are these bold statements connected with a departure from the tradition of philosophical rhetoric that was based on ancient philosophy? What was the relationship between these proclamations and new experimental practices?

7) Do new types of non-elitist knowledge related to crafts and arts produce new metaphors? And what place do these metaphors occupy in cultures of knowledge?

8) In general, what is the role of the construction of similarity and the transfer of meaning in the scholarly discourse of the 17th century? How is a metaphor (on the lexical level) connected with the construction of similarity on the syntactic level or even on the level of larger textual units?

9) How is the language of science used in other segments of early modern textuality? And particularly, in what way do early modern poetic and theological texts use ‘scientific’ metaphors?

10) How do metaphors of learning apply in early modern fine art, architecture, and festivities, and how can one study the relationship between their artistic and textual representation?

We also welcome case studies devoted to individual metaphors (such as cognition as light, ignorance as darkness, method as a path, lack of a system of information as a labyrinth) or to sets of metaphors in such fields as book printing, agriculture, craft, mechanics, optics, or cartography.

Conference fee: 50 EUR; 30 EUR for students.

An abstract (250–300 words) and a brief CV should be sent via email to the main organizers no later than 31 October 2019: Vladimír Urbánek (urbanek@flu.cas.cz),  Lenka Řezníková (reznikova@flu.cas.cz), and Petr Pavlas (pavlas@flu.cas.cz). Applicants will be notified by 15 January 2020. The organizers plan to publish selected contributions in a peer-reviewed SCOPUS journal or edited volume.

New catalogues, new opportunities, and forthcoming work

With autumn approaching, followers of this blog might like to consider a small catalogue that slipped into EMLO while many were enjoying a summer vacation, that of the Socinian writer Martin Ruar [Ruarus] (1589–1657). Compiled from the metadata drawn from the edition published in 1681 by Ruar’s son David, this catalogue consists at present of records for one hundred letters and is a correspondence for which additional contributions would be welcome. Indeed, it is one of a number of ‘starter catalogues’ that will be listed shortly on EMLO as correspondences only partially collected thus far in the union catalogue which are ripe for expansion. Details concerning these catalogues will be set out in a future post. In the meantime, there is much to look forward to as a cluster of inventories takes shape for release, including a number of key history of science correspondences and a selection of scholarly, theological, and neo-Latin catalogues.

Whilst writing of opportunities, I should like also to draw attention to two post-doctoral openings being advertised at present with Cultures of Knowledge’s Networking Archives project. The closing date for applications for the Queen Mary University of London position is 23 September; for the Oxford University position it is 14 October. Details for both may be found available on the Networking archives website.

‘Vivre heureux’ et ‘faire des heureux’: the correspondence of Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach

Who would not welcome a hearty dose of hope and of happiness? The work of the philosopher whose correspondence listing is the latest to be added to EMLO provides us with one potential path: ‘live happily’ and ‘make others happy’ were two tenets, according to Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach (1723–1789), that individuals should keep close and hold dear.

Portrait of Charlotte Suzanne d’Aine (left) and Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach (right) by Louis Carmontelle. 1766. Water-colour. (Musée Condé, Chantilly; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

The inventory of d’Holbach’s correspondence, released to coincide with ‘Enlightenment Identies’, the ISECS International Congress on the Enlightenment 2019, which took place earlier this month at the University of Edinburgh, has been compiled by Dr Ruggero Sciuto of Hertford College, Oxford. Together with the Voltaire Foundation, and with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dr Sciuto is preparing a digital edition of the complete works of the German-born, but French-naturalized, philosopher. As work on the edition progresses and further letters come to light, this listing will be enlarged and the metadata in EMLO expanded and enhanced, and updates will be showcased in future posts on this blog.

Details of all the papers and round-tables that took place at the Congress in Edinburgh may be found online (where the eagle-eyed will spot an appearance by the Cultures of Knowledge project director Professor Howard Hotson, who took part in a discussion entitled ‘Expanding digital eighteenth-century studies’). And over the coming months, here at EMLO, we look forward to following the progress of the Digital D’Holbach project.

The humanist, biblical scholar, and hebraist Benito Arias Montano, and ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age’

As the volume describing the discussions and conclusions of the inter-disciplinary community drawn together under the aegis of the COST-funded ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters‘ initiative is made available online,[1. Howard Hotson and Thomas Wallnig, eds, Reassembling the Republic of Letters in the Digital Age: Standards, Systems, Scholarship (Göttingen, 2019). {See: <https://www.univerlag.uni-goettingen.de/handle/3/isbn-978-3-86395-403-1?locale-attribute=en>)] it is particularly fitting to celebrate in tandem the publication in EMLO of a correspondence catalogue for a Spanish humanist compiled by a scholar at the heart of this Action’s pan-European community. The inventory of the letters of Benito Arias Montano has been contributed to EMLO by Antonio Dávila Pérez, Professor of Latin Philology at the University of Cadiz and editor of the scholarly research project Benito Arias Montano: Epistolario.

‘Benito Arias Montano: Epistolario’, Univeristy of Cadiz. (See: <http://thecorrespondenceofbenitoariasmontano.blogspot.com/>)

This project, which focusses on Arias Montano’s correspondence and is working towards a complete edition, was founded in 1995 by Professor J. Gil and Professor J. M. Maestre Maestre, and it has been developed within the Research Group ‘Elio Antonio de Nebrija‘ at the University of Cadiz.

Benito Arias Montano (c. 1525/7–1598), a key figure in the religious and cultural history of the sixteenth century, is best known today for his editorial oversight of the Biblia Regia (often described as the ‘Antwerp Polyglot’), which was commissioned by Philip II from the printer Christophe Plantin. Amongst Arias Montano’s correspondents a number of key humanists are to be found, including Justus Lipsius, Carolus Clusius, Laevinus Torrentius, and Adrianus Junius, as well as Plantin himself. Professor Dávila Pérez proved an invaluable member of the scholarly community that engaged in the wide-ranging discussions held over the four years between 2014 and 2018 under the aegis of the COST ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’ Action, and his significant contribution to EMLO, which may be viewed now alongside growing clusters of Iberian correspondence metadata, is appreciated greatly.

A formal launch for the COST Action’s volume will showcase the fruits of these recent years of discussion and is being planned for October this year (details, when available, will be posted in a forthcoming blog). In the meantime, the volume has been made available online. Judging from conversations taking place in King’s College, Cambridge, this week at the Training School arranged by the Networking Archives project (in which, of course, both Cultures of Knowledge and EMLO both play crucial roles), the publication is proving indispensable already to those interested in the potential of transnational digital infrastructure to facilitate multilateral collaboration in the reassembly of scattered documentation. And, of course, metadata for this scattered documentation are precisely what scholars require to chart the shapes and patterns within the early modern scholarly communities we have under investigation.


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.