Early Stage Researcher (PhD and Postdoc) Funding Opportunity

Cost actionWe are pleased to announce a fourth call for applications for short term research visits (“Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMS)” relating to the EU COST Action IS 1310: Reassembling the Republic of Letters, 1500-1800.


This funding promotes international mobility between COST Countries participating in this Action, particularly for Early Stage Researchers.


Most successful applications will contribute directly to fulfilling the agendas of one or more of the Action’s six Working Groups, each of which is described under its own heading on this site. A list of abstracts from previously funded STSMs may be reviewed on the COST Action’s website.


Interested researchers are advised to follow the directions provided below and submit their application and supporting documents to the STSM Coordinator Vanda Anastácio  by the deadline of 15 August 2016.


The proposals must cover activities taking place between 1 October 2016 and 30 March 2017 (the end of our third grant period). All STSM activities must be entirely completed within these dates. In addition, a written report on the activities carried out during the STSM is due within 30 days of the end of the research visit.


Purpose of a STSM

STSM are aimed at strengthening existing networks and fostering collaborations by allowing researchers to visit an institution in a participating COST country. A STSM should contribute to the specific research objectives of the COST Action, while at the same time learning new techniques or gain access to specific expertise, instruments and/or methods not available in their own institutions.


In the specific case of COST Action “Reassembling the Republic of Letters”, this call explicitly addresses persons who deal with the digital processing of (early modern) learned correspondence, from different professional perspectives: librarians and archivists; scholars; IT specialists; digital humanities and media experts.  For detailed information on COST Action IS1310, please see the Memorandum of Understanding.


STSMs are especially (although not exclusively) targeted at persons at early stages of their professional career (defined as eight years since the award of the PhD or equivalent). We also particularly encourage the application of women, and/or persons from “inclusiveness countries” (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey).


Further information regarding the STSM programme and the eligibility criteria can be downloaded here. For full details on the COST STSM funding rules, please see the COST Vademecum



Deadline for applications to be submitted: 15 August 2016
Notification of application outcome will be shortly after this deadline
Period of STSM: between 01/10/2016 and 30/04/2017
All STSM activities must occur in their entirety within the period specified above.


Contact person for clarifications:
Prof. Vanda Anastácio (STSM Coordinator)
University of Lisbon
Faculdade de Letras
Alameda da Universidade
Lisboa 1600-214  Portugal

Rethinking the Republic of Letters – Annual Conference in Warsaw

The Annual Conference of the COST Action IS 1310 “Reassembling the Republic of Letters” took place at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, Poland from 11 to 15 June 2016.

Having previously explored scholarly work from the perspective of shared technical standards, the Warsaw conference pursued the opposite path: digital functionality was discussed from the perspective of current scholarly strands about the Republic of Letters.READ MORE

Working Group 4 meeting: Cataloguing standards for manuscript letters.

On Friday 4 March 2016 a meeting of WG4’s sub-group on metadata of manuscript correspondence was held in Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin.


manuscript letters cataloguing standards

The meeting was followed by a tour of the Edward Worth Library, given by Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library.


Convened by Dr Elizabethanne Boran, Librarian of the Edward Worth Library, Dublin, and Leader of Work Group 4, the workshop included presentations by Dr Gerhard Müller (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) on the Kalliope Union Catalogue; Dr. Ad Leerintveld (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) on CEN (Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum); and Ms Miranda Lewis on EMLO (Early Modern Letters Online).


The function of the workshop was to agree metadata standards for the description of manuscript correspondence. International Cataloguing standards were circulated in advance of the meeting and agreement was reached on the vast majority of elements. It was agreed that further research needed to be undertaken on a small number of problematic elements and that these would be discussed at subsequent meetings of WG4. It was decided that WG4’s session at the Warsaw conference in 2016 would address the issue of how we define letters.

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:


Bavarica 1
BDAlentjeo 1
BSB 252
Delpher 1
Det Kongelige Bibliothek (DK) 1
Ebookdb 1
EEBO (free) 3
e-rara 14
Europeana 3
Fondo (ES) 1
Gallica 34
GDZ (Göttingen) 7
GoogleBooks 531
GWLB (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek) 2
HAB 13
HathiTrust 74
Internet Archive 95
Internet Culturale 21
ONB (Österreichse National Bibliothek) 22
SBB (Staats Bibliothek Berlin) 5
SLUB (Dresden) 14
Uni Halle (ULB) 1
Uni Hamburg 1
Uni Paderborn 2
University of Waterloo 1
Uppsala Uni 1
Not found 94
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.

Plamena Popova: Developing of Open policy for metadata’ sharing within digital platforms [WG5]

My Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) proved to be a very useful first step towards developing an understanding of the legal challenges faced by digital platforms such as Reassembling the Republic of Letters. It was planned as a stay that would allow me to finalize some work on the legal issues related to Reassembling Republic of Letters project. Instead, it has provided a thorough basis for further research in the field.

Oxford houses the core team of the project. I had warm, welcoming, and thorough guidance through the essence and ideas behind the project. It was invaluable experience that helped me build my full understanding of the project’s idea.

The results of my short mission relating to the legal framework of the project leave enough room for further comprehensive exploration, and I can look back on mission to view it as a great starting point. It has tabled questions and made a start in finding the best solutions that will serve the project in the very near future.

Vittoria Feola: The Bartolomeo Gamba Project

During my stay as an STSM grantee in Padua and Bassano between 17 November 2014 and 17 February 2015 I collaborated with colleagues at the History Department and the Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Padua, and carried out archival research in the Bassano City Library. My aims were, first, to establish how many letters really make up the whole of the Bartolomeo Gamba collection; and, secondly, to investigate the nature of the Bassano collection. Firm data and amazing discoveries leading up to spin-off projects are the outcomes of my STSM.


I have ascertained that the number of letters kept in Vienna is 930 in total, while those in Bassano are 2741. This proportion makes the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection a weighty treasure trove of correspondence of eminent Italian scholars in the early modern period, as letters span the sixteenth through the first half of the nineteenth centuries.


Thanks to research which my Paduan colleagues have crucially facilitated, I have been able to realise the potential hidden in the Gamba letters. Most of their authors or recipients were alumni of the University of Padua, and their correspondence kept in Bassano complements the Padua University Archive as far as Padua professors’ personal papers are concerned. I have benefited from collaboration with the Centre for the History of the University of Padua. As a result, I am writing up an article about the significance of the Bartolomeo Gamba collection in Bassano for the Quaderni per la Storia dell’Universita’ di Padova.


Moreover, the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection contains a huge amount of the eighteenth-century Newtonian polymath Francesco Algarotti (1712-64), whose correspondence has only been partly edited so far. Thus my STSM has helped me realise that the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection is possibly the single largest repository of Algarotti’s correspondence. Similarly, the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection contains a number of letters from the correspondence of Enlightenment philosopher Pietro Giannone of which historians, such as Giuseppe Ricuperati – Giannone’s foremost intellectual biographer – were not aware so far. The Algarotti and the Giannone letters in the Bartolomeo Gamba Collection are generating spin-off projects and useful interactions with other scholars involved in the study of the Republic of Letters.

Mackenzie Cooley: Mapping ‘Relaciones geograficas’ in Philip II New Spain

“Reassembling the Republic of Letters” brings together people with disparate educations, backgrounds, and languages for a common purpose: using digital tools to understand early modern correspondence, its role in the past, and how its networks have shaped our world today. As part of this project, I traveled to Spain this February to work with Professor Antonio Dávila (Universidad de Cádiz) and Professor Nieves Baranda (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) to investigate how the Relaciones Geográficas del Siglo XVI, an early economic census and natural historical survey of the New World, fit into the Republic of Letters. In a project spanning the late 1570s and 1580s, King Philip II of Spain’s government sent fifty questions to administrators in New Spain—modern Mexico and Central America—who responded with letters; these have since been compiled and published. The letters varied greatly, from long-winded humanist treatises masquerading as letters and letters that included loving natural descriptions that shared rich local knowledge of New World plants, animals, and minerals, to letters that included reflections on both religious and scientific texts, to partial, staccato responses dealing with pragmatic colonial matters. In an early modern world run on letters, administrative correspondence walked a line between being a part of the Republic of Letters and being far outside of it; the line runs through the Relaciones. The complex series of responses that constitute the Relaciones present a challenge in that they are both voluminous and yet cannot simply be coded as raw data. Precisely because respondents used their letters to participate in a geographically extensive intellectual exchange, often ignoring the spirit of systematic data gathering that had underlay the original Relaciones project, the letters need to be studied as a part of the Republic of Letters’ periphery and not as early modern big data.

In Cádiz, Professor Dávila used his extensive work on the Benito Arias Montano correspondence to explain some of the key issues involved in editing letters. He outlined what kind of capabilities a digital platform would need to have in order to move philological work from the print to digital age without sacrificing the exacting scholarship achieved in printed editions. We discussed the key categories with which to analyze correspondence data and how essential it would be to track citations, lapses in epistolary exchange, and the appearance of personal and political events in the letters themselves. Metadata alone would not suffice to capture the stakes of Montano’s correspondence. Reciprocally, I shared some of the visualization techniques I had learned working at Stanford University with the Mapping the Republic of Letters Project and the data organization developed by the Galileo Correspondence Project.

In Madrid, Professor Baranda and the rest of the BIESES (Bibliografía de Escritoras Españolas) team launched me into the world of TEI. I first wondered what this encoding technique might be able to teach me about the Relaciones, which I had already sifted into a database. I had known that the digital humanities offered a broad set of approaches to early modern history, but I had not understood the extent to which TEI offered truly exciting possibilities both for editing texts and for analyzing them en masse. Without obscuring the underlying text itself or sacrificing the structure imposed by the original writer, an editor using TEI can annotate and categorize the text. Like private annotations in the margins of an old book, by marking our sources in this way we can enter into a conversation with them. One does not read a text with marginal scribbles the same way as one reads a text which is naked, untouched; marginal manicules lure our eyes along the paths decided by the past reader, with whom we enter into conversation through the reading process. We can indicate what we want to learn more about and summon it from networks lost to the tides of history, categorizing that information according to our questions; as Professor Baranda put it, “You create your data.” By creating TEI legible text, we help others to contextualize our sources, drawing readers into conversation both with the past document and with the ideas put forward by the modern editor. A PhD student from California studying Mexican documents could not have learned more from her collaboration with the scholars of “Reassembling the Republic of Letters” team.

McKenzie CooleySTSMBlog









Caption: This map from Zempoala in the present-day state of Hidalgo, Mexico, is from the Relaciones Geográficas collection in the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. (Wikimedia Commons)

Visualisation Meeting. Como, Italy, 4th – 8th April 2016

Case Study-Based Explorations into Visualising Data Drawn from the Republic of Letters


During this meeting, which will take place between 4th and 8th April 2016, both scholars and designers will perform a one-week collaboration on a number of thematics related to digital humanities. (For further details please see Meetings page)


The goal of this Training School is to bring together humanists and designers and to see them working on a common task: a case study-based exploration into visualising structured or unstructured data drawn from the Republic of Letters. The Training School will help to unravel many technical doubts and outline good practices and strategies that are useful for designing better tools for digital humanities.


The meeting is being coordinated by Paolo Ciuccarelli (WG6 leader) and Charles van den Heuvel (WG3 leader), with the support of DensityDesign Research Lab.


Subscription Procedure and Deadline

If you’re interested in taking part in this Training School, please fill in the subscription form following this link. Deadline for subscription is 26th February 2016.



Download Training School Letter of Invitation