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: http://emlo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/blog/?catalogue=isaac-vossius. 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.