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

Mikkel Munthe Jensen: A Critical Study of Prosopographical Data Models

Challenges and Possibilities of a Pan-European Prosopographical Platform


In the period 4th – 22nd January 2016, I stayed at Oxford University as a STSM grantee. During my stay, I was so fortunate to be able to work and collaborate with the Culture of Knowledge Team ( and its friendly, cooperative and very competent team members. Together with them and my STSM colleague, Jetze Touber, we entered a productive symbiosis of shared thoughts, ideas and experience, which not only supported my work there but also made my stay a very pleasant one.


The purpose of my stay was to critically study and to evaluate the EMLO’s prosopographical data model on the basis of my own experience with prosopographies. It was an exciting and in many ways also a challenging task, since it is the data model that constitutes the very fundamental structures underlying the entire prosopographical platform. During my time in Oxford, I worked therefore especially with the categories and the structure of categories, i.e. the data model, and together with the Culture of Knowledge Team I worked towards a clear and manageable system, that could encompass every prosopographical event from the protestant North to the catholic South, from a detailed level to generalisation, all through 300 years.


By evaluating the EMLO’s data model, I also re-evaluated my own prosopographical work, my own system and reason of choice. The STSM was therefore also very beneficial for my own research.


Finally, after my three weeks STSM my understanding of the entire ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’ project stands even clearer. It is a visionary project with a huge potential for current and future historians, working in all corners of intellectual history and history of science. Not only will it provide various researchers with a large range of tools to analyse their prosopographical data (network analyses, visualisations, mapping of mass data, statistics etc.), but it will also serve as pan-European collective container of prosopographical data and knowledge for all to share, use and populate.

Marco Gurrieri: Database on life and correspondence from/to French musicians actives in the courts of North of Italy

The main goal of this STSM was to find letters from/to French musicians active in Verona during the Renaissance period and archival documents concerning their professional life, in order to gather information and data for an existing prosopographical database about musicians’ careers – Prosopographie des chantres de la Renaissance directed by David Fiala and Philippe Vendrix at the CESR in Tours. The town of Verona has been evidently chosen because of its historical and geographical importance during the Renaissance.


As a result of my new in situ research, two other institutions have been added to the initially previewed list of institutions of where to search for archival documents and letters (the Archivio di Stato, the Archivio Storico della Curia and the Biblioteca Capitolare) : the Accademia Filarmonica and the Biblioteca civica (hosting a section of the municipal archives). Here I have also found several useful bibliographical contributions by local scholars.


The final outcomes of my research can be shortly recapitulated as follows:

  • a list of more than 300 items of musicians active in Verona between 1480 and 1600, all including detailed and documented information (with archival references) about their professional life;
  • a structured Excel database of almost 50 letters of musicians, providing diplomatic transcriptions, material analysis (dimensions, seals, watermarks, countermarks, etc.), and bibliographical references (if any).


Concerning the prosopographical part of this STSM, the newly collected data about musicians’ careers have permitted me to correct or to complete some aspects of the existing musicological literature. Among the transcribed letters, some stand out for their importance. Of particular interest is the group of 10 letters by the Franco-Flemish composer Jan Nasco (of which only 7 have been partially published, as excerpts in essays by local scholars), or 2 letters containing the name of the French composer Lambert Courtois. Several until now unknown letters were found, in particular 2 letters dealing with the Italian composer Orazio Vecchi, and some unpublished letters by members of the Accademia Filarmonica housed in the Archivio di Stato.


Robin Buning: Reassembling the Correspondence of Isaac Vossius: A European Network of Knowledge

My STSM to Oxford was part of a larger project aiming at an inventory of the complete correspondence of the Dutch philologist, manuscript collector, and polymath Isaac Vossius (1618-1689) and making it publicly available in Oxford’s union catalogue of learned correspondence Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). Vossius was one of the main European intellectuals of the third quarter of the seventeenth century, who spent large parts of his life in Sweden as court librarian and in England, where he devoted his time to science. Having an inventory of his correspondence would be of great help for anyone involved in research into the history of the book in general. It would also enhance the study of the intellectual history of the Dutch Republic, Sweden and England, and more broadly of the Republic of Letters.


Vossius’s correspondence has been dispersed over Europe, but most letters are kept in the university libraries of Amsterdam and Leiden, and in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The collection in the Bodleian is the third largest with 629 letters. Since the Amsterdam, Leiden and Oxford collections have autograph letters and manuscript copies, there was bound to be overlap, but no one had ever compared the collections. During my STSM of a month I entered the metadata of the letters kept in the Bodleian (sender, recipient, their locations, date, shelf mark, etc.) in EMLO’s newly designed webform for inputting letter metadata. This webform, however, was not well suited for searching for duplicate letters. Being the first to use it on this large scale, my feedback and recommendations helped improving the webform. I also made use of the extensive collection of printed catalogues available in the Bodleian to track down letters in other libraries, archives and museums.


597 of the letters in the Bodleian proved to be copies of autographs kept in Amsterdam University Library. This made the total number of individual letters smaller than I initially estimated. Through printed catalogues I tracked down another circa 50 previously unknown letters. The resulting catalogue of Vossius’s complete correspondence consisting of 1,702 letters has now been published in EMLO and can be consulted at: It includes an introduction to Vossius’s life and work with a detailed calendar of his life and a visualization of his correspondence network.
This visualization was created in collaboration with the software development company for research in the humanities Lab1100 in their platform Nodegoat.Buning_Visualization correspondence network Vossius

Iva Lelková: Visualization of Early Modern Scholarly Correspondence

Problems and Questions Demonstrated on an Example of J. A. Comenius’ (1592-1670)


During my stay as a STSM grantee in Milan between 27th September and 23rd October 2015, I collaborated with designers from the DensityDesign Research Lab at the Politecnico di Milano to explore the possibilities as well as the problems of visualizing of J. A. Comenius’ correspondence.


With their help I identified visualization tools that are easily accessible for a beginning user and experimented with them. I created a list evaluating these tools from my point of view and wrote a diary/blog describing my experiments with the data.


However I soon realized that formatting of the data is the key for even the most simple of visualizations and I learned some basic formatting skills. In order to help other scholars with little experience in data formatting and visualizations, I created a video tutorial that shows some basic data formatting steps as well as a geographic visualization of Comenius’ correspondence in the visualization tool Carto DB


At the same time I was also preparing visualizations for the collective volume Practice of Scholarly Communication: Correspondence Networks between Central and Western Europe, 1550-1700 (to be published by Ashgate in 2016) which helped me to get access to various kind of early modern scholarly correspondence data as well as to ideas and visualization requests from scholars.


Early Stage Researcher (PhD and Postdoc) Funding Opportunity

Cost actionWe are pleased to announce a second call for applications for Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMS) relating to 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. A total of €24,000 is available to fund up to 16 STSMs, to a maximum of €2500.


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.  The deadline for completed applications is midnight on 27 July 2015.


Applications are invited for missions occurring between 1 August 2015, and 30 June 2016 (the end of our second financial year).


Purpose of a STSM


STSM are aimed at strengthening existing networks and fostering collaborations by allowing researchers participating in a given COST Action to visit an institution in another participating COST country. A STSM should contribute to the specific scientific objectives of the COST Action, while at the same time enabling researchers to learn 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).


Full information regarding the STSM programme and the eligibility criteria can be downloaded here.


For COST STSM funding rules, please visit the COST Vademecum.


Deadline for applications to be submitted: 27/07/2015
Notification of application outcome: 31/7/2015
Period of STSM: between 1/8/2015 and 30/6/2016
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