Emma Mojet: A Database of Early Modern Epistolaries by Arenhold, Estermann and Molhuysen
Combined with the URL to a Scan of the Work
Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit Cultures of Knowledge and EMLO on a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM). The STSM was for Working Group 4 of COST Action IS1310 “Reassembling the Republic of Letters.” More specifically, my task in this mission was to compile a database of early modern epistolaries combined with the URL to a scan of the work. This scan should then preferably be machine readable (OCR’d), but it was interesting to see how many scans were available and of which titles. Important in finding these scans was to certify that they were publically accessible. Scans which were only available after registering or signing-up via an institution, were avoided. I did this so that any link in the database can be accessed at any time or place. Furthermore, I made sure to keep track of where I was finding the scans. This statistic is of explicit interest to the Cultures of Knowledge group, since it gives insight into what works are available where.
I worked with the database which had been compiled by Lara Berger, my STSM colleague who visited Oxford in February. She had entered all epistolaries recorded by Arenhold, Estermann and Molhuysen in our shared Zotero folder. My work consisted of searching for these titles and finding openly accessible scans to attach to the data which had been entered by Lara. To do this, I started by plugging the title into Google. Usually this would give a couple of hits or a direction in which I needed to search further. Because I used Google a lot, many of the hits came from GoogleBooks. Google has digitalised many works over the years and has compiled scans from different archives and universities and made these accessible. Furthermore, most of the scans on GoogleBooks are machine readable, which makes GoogleBooks a very valuable source for research with early modern letters. After searching through Google, I always checked Internet Archive and Europeana, which often linked to the German digital libraries or the French national library. I did this so as to find as many scans as possible, hence ensuring the best possible scans. At times I would find .txt, .xml or .pdf files which I also attached to the database. Having completed the titles from Arenhold, my statistics are as follows:
|Det Kongelige Bibliothek (DK)||1|
|GWLB (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek)||2|
|ONB (Österreichse National Bibliothek)||22|
|SBB (Staats Bibliothek Berlin)||5|
|Uni Halle (ULB)||1|
|University of Waterloo||1|
|Total with many counted twice or thrice||1225|
|Total entries Arenhold||816|
Here I have highlighted in yellow my top five sources for the scans. Of the 816 entries from Arenhold, I was unable to find 94, 11.5%. This is an extremely good statistic and I am very happy with this percentage. I had not expected to be able to find this many early modern works online, publicly accessible. It shows that projects such as this and Cultures of Knowledge are really worthwhile attempts to collect and connect all this data. Furthermore, the fact that I have 1.5 as many URLs as entries from Arenhold (1225 scans with 816 entries) means that the material is available in various places and formats, probably also with varying quality. I find this surprising but especially very promising for further research!
My week at Cultures of Knowledge was instructive and inspiring: I really enjoyed the talks which we had concerning my findings and progress, and I learnt a lot from them. In addition to working in the middle of the Cultures of Knowledge group, I was able to attend a workshop organised by EMLO on correcting the dates of letters in the database. This Correct-a-date-athon (not a dating workshop) was not only interesting, but it was also a lot of fun. During the week, I met many interesting people and had some great conversations. I am really thankful for the warm welcome and friendly environment which I met while working at Cultures of Knowledge and my stay has been very enjoyable. I would especially like to thank Miranda and Arno for this. It has been a great introduction to the University of Oxford, to Cultures of Knowledge, and to EMLO, and I really hope to be back.
Note: As of 1 April, the Zotero database EROL counts 1874 titles. Of these, 1666 are linked to online editions in the open domain. References: S,H, Arenhold, Conspectus Bibliothecae Universalis Historico-Literario-Criticae Epistolarum: Typis Expressarum Et M[anu]S[crip]tarum, Illustrium Omnis Aevi Et Eruditissimorum Auctorum, Hanover 1746; M. Estermann Verzeichnis der gedruckten Briefe deutscher Autoren des 17. Jahrhunderts. Tl. 1: Drucke zwischen 1600 und 1750, 4 vols, Wiesbaden, 1992-1993; P.C. Molhuysen, Lijst van geëxcerpeerde boeken voor hs. Ltk. 1643 (apparaat Molhuysen) Leiden University, shelfmark DOUSA 80 1604.