Cultures of Knowledge: An Intellectual Geography of the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters An Intellectual Geography of the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters Wed, 15 May 2013 14:54:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cultures of Knowledge Has Moved! Tue, 14 May 2013 19:42:54 +0000 You’ve found our old website, which represents an archive of our activities during the first phase of Cultures of Knowledge, which ran between 2009 and 2012. To find out what we’re up to between now and the end of 2014, and to stay up to date with all things CofK, please visit our shiny new site. See you on the other side!

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CFP: Translation and the Circulation of Knowledge in Early Modern Science Tue, 18 Dec 2012 12:57:43 +0000 Paper proposals are invited for a one-day colloquium on Translation and Translators in the Circulation of Knowledge in Early Modern Science, which will take place at London’s Warburg Institute on Friday 28 June 2013. The event ‘will explore the role of translation in early modern science, providing a forum for discussion about translations as well as the translators, mediators, agents, and interpreters whose role in the intellectual history of the period remains ill defined and deserves greater attention’. Suggested topics include the philosophy and theory of translation; the ‘professional translator’; the function and use of translations; auxiliary languages; translation in learned correspondence; the readers of translations; and informal translations (adaptations, paraphrases).

The deadline for proposals for 25-minute papers and full panels is 28 February 2013. For further details and submission instructions, see the colloquium webpage.

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Journal Special Issue: New Directions in Early Modern Correspondence Fri, 14 Dec 2012 18:25:10 +0000 Those seeking to balance the port and mince pies this holiday season with some state-of-the-art reflections on early modern epistolarity are in luck: the latest issue of Lives & Letters – the free online journal of UCL’s Centre for Editing Lives and Letters – is devoted to New Directions in the Study of Early Modern Correspondence.

Guest-edited by James Daybell and Andrew Gordon, and developing out of a conference held at Plymouth University in 2011, the issue features an introduction to the latest developments in the field (in which EMLO gets a name-check); eight case studies of particular correspondents and correspondence networks; and a spectacularly useful select bibliography on the manuscript letter in early modern England. All articles are free for download from the journal website. James also contributed to our 2011 seminar series (here’s the podcast), while his latest book on the material letter has just been reviewed by the IHR.

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CFP: Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century Fri, 30 Nov 2012 16:29:59 +0000 The Centre for Seventeenth-Century Studies at Durham University is seeking papers for a conference on Intellectual Networks in the Long Seventeenth Century (30 June–2 July 2013). The event – which will feature a keynote lecture from our own Howard Hotson – will ‘explore the emergence and consolidation of systems of intellectual and cultural exchange during the long seventeenth century, while assessing their lasting influence on the history of scholarship, literature, diplomacy, science, and religious communities’. Proposals are encouraged on (inter alia) erudite correspondence; academic networks; diplomacy; literary circles; intellectual exchange within religious communities; the book trade; women and intellectual exchange; and popular cultural exchange.

The deadline for proposals for 20-minute papers and full panels is 15 January 2013. For further details and submission instructions, head along to the conference webpage or download the flyer (pdf).

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Journal Special Issue: Shaping the Republic of Letters Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:08:26 +0000 The new Journal of Early Modern Studies has launched with a special issue on Shaping the Republic of Letters: Communication, Correspondence, and Networks in Early Modern Europe.

Edited by the Foundations of Modern Thought Research Centre at the University of Bucharest, and featuring our very own Howard Hotson on its Advisory Board, the new publication is billed as a ‘an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal of intellectual history, dedicated to the exploration of the interactions between philosophy, science, and religion in Early Modern Europe’. The epistolary opener features seven contributions (as well as related review essays and book reviews) on particular correspondents and correspondence networks, including an article by Noel Golvers on Sino-European exchanges in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; Noel initiated our seminar series in 2010 with a wonderful paper on this topic (listen to the podcast). For full details and to order your copy, visit the journal webpage.

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Presenting EMLO at Digital Transformations Moot Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:58:40 +0000

Howard mid-‘yack’

Visit event website

An outing to London last Monday when we presented Early Modern Letters Online at the Digital Transformations Moot, curated and funded by the AHRC. The day long event brought together digital humanists with thinkers and practitioners from other disciplines and sectors ‘to explore the possibilities of the Digital Transformations theme for new and exciting ways of working: to hack, to make, to break’.

The Moot did a great job of showcasing the very wide range of work (and attendant debates) currently being done at the intersection of the humanities and the technical, and in particular in highlighting and fostering new kinds of connections between digital technologies, arts and the humanities, and the creative and cultural industries (the latter being much more strongly represented than is usual at DH gatherings). It was also really interesting from the perspective of event design. Decked out in bracing, challenging terminology – debates were ‘moots’; delegates were ‘mootlings’; papers became ‘yacks’ – the day spread keynote lectures, panel discussions, software demos, and PechaKucha-style talks across multiple tracks and spaces in a kind of freeform digital smörgåsbord that rewarded curiosity and encouraged the creation of individual narratives and serendipitous connections between the sampled components. Further details on the Moot webpage, while the Twitter hashtag was #digitrans; videos of the various live streams will be posted the the webpage shortly.

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A ‘Hasty Blotted Scribble’: New Boyle Original Discovered Tue, 13 Nov 2012 18:07:04 +0000

While ferreting around in the archives of Trinity College, Oxford finalizing annotations for Volume IV of The Correspondence of John Wallis, I came across a letter from Robert Boyle, the eminent natural philosopher, to the theologian and physician Ralph Bathurst, whose papers I was exploring. This manuscript was previously missing; while the letter is included in the monumental 2001 edition of Boyle’s complete correspondence (and can be consulted in Electronic Enlightenment), the editors had to base their text on a version of the letter in a 1761 print edition of Bathurst’s papers, rather than on this autograph original. Here’s the letter:

Trinity College Oxford Archive, Fellows 2/1/1: A new Boyle original. Images reproduced courtesy of Trinity College.

The missive – described by Boyle as a ‘hasty blotted scribble’ – is an intriguing one, shedding fascinating light on a failed publishing project. It was sent in April 1656, one of those Oxford months when lots of things were happening (even Henry Oldenburg was in town, inter alia, to sample the rich scientific culture developing in and around the university). Unfortunately for Oldenburg, two giants of the local philosophical scene were absent when he arrived. His friend Robert Boyle, who had moved to Oxford around the beginning of the year (and would stay on and off until 1668) had gone to London. Likewise in the metropolis was John Wilkins, the warden of Wadham College, who had gathered around him an illustrious circle of like-minded practitioners, including Seth Ward, Thomas Willis, and Wallis.

Sender Robert Boyle

Recipient Ralph Bathurst

One of Boyle’s main tasks while in London was evidently to see through the press a promising book by Ralph Bathurst, one of the members of this glittering cadre of experimentalists. A fellow of Trinity College, who would go on to be College president and later vice-chancellor of the University, Bathurst had written three lectures on respiration as part of his examination as doctor medicinae in 1654; during the following two years, these texts were circulated scribally among the Wilkins circle, which evidently suggested revisions and emendations. Bathurst added numerous marginal notes to the manuscript of the Praescriptiones tres de respiratione and – notoriously reluctant to publish his work – was probably encouraged to do so by his celebrated friends. Boyle headed to the capital with the manuscript to spearhead the enterprise.

Bathurst’s letter book

Objects and Letter-Objects

In the absence of Boyle and Wilkins (the two men who had promoted the venture most strongly), however, Bathurst began to get cold feet. Probably around the end of March, in a letter that is now lost he wrote to Boyle in London to inform him of his change of heart and to request that the manuscript be returned. Boyle did not receive the letter immediately, for he had been invited by Wilkins to inspect some peculiar natural phenomena elsewhere. Writing back to Bathurst in the April letter, Boyle expressed his disappointment at the ‘unwelcome orders you send me, concerning your excellent Lectures’, which presumably placed him in an awkward position. Indeed, Wilkins was evidently hoping to get plans back on track, and instructed Boyle not to follow Bathurst’s wish ‘to have those Jewells sent backe to Oxford’.

The efforts of Wilkins and Boyle to save the book were to no avail; Bathurst’s Praescriptiones tres de respiratione first saw light of day when it was published posthumously – alongside this letter – in Warton’s The Life and Literary Remains of Ralph Bathurst (London, 1761). The collapse of the project to publish Bathurst’s Praescriptiones illustrates the close relations between knowledge-makers in Oxford and London at this time. The incident even came to the attention of Samuel Hartlib, who recorded in his Ephemerides ‘Mr Boyle knows one that hath an excellent Ms. De Respiratione which hee will not publish’.

We are extremely grateful to Professor Michael Hunter for confirming the originality of this manuscript and for additional help and advice on its background.

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Letters in Focus: Things That Go Bump in the Night Mon, 29 Oct 2012 17:33:53 +0000

So, the evenings draw in, All Hallows’ Eve is upon us, and I find myself creeping through autumnal mists to the Bodleian’s Special Collections in search of ghosts.

There are many fleeting glimpses of hauntings in EMLO. In 1675, William Fulman asked Anthony Wood to confirm ‘the story of a ghostly funeral procession at night to St Peter le Bailey which terrified some of the Masters who were walking with the Proctor, but two which followed the procession to the Church door found the doors to open of their own accord, and then all to vanish and are since dead’. In 1706, Anne Griggs reported ‘the ghostly interview at Souldern Vicarage between the Vicar Mr Shaw and the apparition of his friend Mr Naylor on July 28… The apparition foretells the death of Mr Shaw…’ (sadly, Mr Naylor was a well-informed ghost; the Clergy of the Church of England Database [Person ID: 20286] reveals that one Geoffrey Shaw, rector of Soulderne, Oxfordshire, died on 17 November 1706, less than four months after this ghoulish encounter).

Bodleian Library, MS Ballard 1, fols 72–73: A seventeenth-century poltergeist. Images reproduced courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries.

One record above all others tempts me out into the damp October fog: on a handwritten index card from the Bodleian card catalogue that gives no year, and describes a John Mompesson writing to a Reverend Doctor (now known to be William Creed, Oxford’s Regius Professor of Divinity) on 6 December (now known to be 1662), are the words ‘supernatural beating of drums’. Calling up the letter, I encounter a spine-chilling tale of a seventeenth-century household terrorized by a poltergeist. Mompesson describes how, following his apprehension of a fraudulent drummer in Ludgershall (Wiltshire) and the confiscation of the latter’s instrument, his family home in nearby Tedworth (now Tidworth) was assailed by nocturnal thumps and noises so extreme that ‘the windows would shake and the beds’. His children were special targets; apart from a brief interlude of three weeks after his wife gave birth, their beds were beaten, and the family had to endure the tune ‘Roundheads and Cuckolds goe digge, goe digge’ (more on this popular early modern ditty here). Whatever ‘it’ was ran ‘under the bed-teeke’ and scratched as if it had ‘iron talons’, tossing the young ones in bed; it left sulphurous smells, it hurled shoes over the heads of adults, pulled the infants by their nightgowns and hair, and even threw a bedstaff at the rector of Tedworth, John Cragge (CCED Person ID: 21834, yet another cleric who died relatively soon after his brush with the supernatural). See the letter images above for the whole terrifying story.

A demonic representation of the Tedworth drummer from Glanvill’s 1681 treatise

Endorsements on the letter, including a cross-reference to a 1663 news book

The Drummer of Tedworth, it turns out, is a celebrated case within the historiography of witchcraft and the early modern occult; it was given a central place in Joseph Glanvill’s 1681 attack on scepticism, the Saducismus Triumphatus, its notoriety continued to grow in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it has even been subject to minor Disneyfication. The incident, its manuscript witnesses, and its complex appropriation and memorialisation by and within different intellectual traditions is analysed in detail in a 2005 article (pdf) by Michael Hunter, which includes a full transcription of this same 6 December letter collated from three known extant versions: a copy in Corpus Christi, Oxford; a now untraceable copy formerly in a private collection in Dorset; and a copy in the hand of Anthony Wood. The document thrown up by our cryptic Bodleian card record is almost certainly not Mompesson’s original letter – there is no seal, and the lines extending to the page edges on both sides of the folio are indicative of copying – but rather adds a fourth scribal copy into the mix, one that, judging by the endorsements in two separate hands, enjoyed a complex afterlife before becoming part of the Ballard collection, most likely via the papers of Arthur Charlett (on the scribal publication and circulation of newsworthy missives in early modern England see chapter seven of James Daybell’s recent monograph on the material letter and his podcast in our 2011 seminar series). Even if this account is second-hand, close the curtains, pull up a chair, and get reading; there’s nothing like a percussive poltergeist to add drama and intrigue to Halloween…

emlo_logo_infrastructureLetters in Focus with Miranda Lewis

Miranda is editing metadata from the Bodleian card catalogue of correspondence for our union catalogue, Early Modern Letters Online. On a regular basis, she brings us hand-picked and contextualised records.

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CFP: News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750 Tue, 23 Oct 2012 14:20:56 +0000 The News Networks in Early Modern Europe research group is seeking papers for its terrific-sounding concluding conference on News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750 (Queen Mary, University of London, 26-28 July 2013). Emphasizing the transnational attributes of news networks and their superimposition on pre-existing systems of exchange (physical/logistical, commercial, religious, diplomatic, military, and scholarly), the event is after contributions on the following themes: ‘International news; networks of news; news in transmission; translating news; war reporting; news from beyond Europe; forms of news; orality/manuscript/print; the uses and afterlives of news; old (and recycled) news; images of news; news and institutions; news and the state; news and the city; news readers’.

The deadline for 250-word proposals for communications of twenty minutes is 28 February 2013. For further information, submission instructions, and contact details, head along to the News Networks in Early Modern Europe Blog.

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Journal Special Issue: Natural History, Medicine, and New Science Fri, 19 Oct 2012 18:18:54 +0000 Our pertinacious (we’re running out of adjectives) Martin Lister Research Fellow – and recent inductee of the Linnean Society – Anna Marie Roos has guest-edited a special issue of the prestigious journal Notes and Records of the Royal Society.

The special issue publishes the proceedings of the day conference History Comes to Life: Seventeenth-Century Natural History, Medicine, and the New Science, organized by Anna Marie at The Royal Society in April (with the financial and logistical support of the project, The Royal Society, the Wellcome Trust, the John Fell Fund, and the BSHS). It features six fresh and fascinating articles from leading authorities on a wide range of topics at the intersection of seventeenth-century natural history, medicine, and science, including Buffon and animals, Francis Willughby and insects, and Jan Swammerdam’s abiding intellectual infatuation with frogs and toads. You can now enjoy early access to the articles online; the print version of the special issue will be available at the end of November. You can also listen to the podcasts from the conference. Congratulations to Anna Marie and the rest of the contributors!

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