Seminar 8: Peiresc’s Mediterranean Merchant Network

Marseille in 1575. View sourced from Historic Cities.

In the eighth and final installment of the Project’s inaugural seminar series on Wednesday 23 June, held in conjunction with the conference John Selden (1584–1654): Scholarship in Context, Professor Peter Miller (Bard Graduate Center) delivered a wide-ranging overview of ‘Peiresc’s Mediterranean Merchant Network’. Focusing on the letters sent by the polymath from Marseille in the early seventeenth century, Miller elaborated a fascinating story of ‘Peiresc and the sea’ in four parts (which focused respectively on Marseille, space and time in the Mediterranean, merchants, and names). The small, fast nature of Marseillaise ships, especially compared to Venetian craft, meant that letters dispatched from the French port arrived at their destinations quickly (reaching Leiden, for example in fifteen days), and Peiresc’s epistolary activities in the Mediterranean were reliant on an extensive maritime network of non-elite merchants, captains, and sailors, whose identities are in many cases painstakingly recorded (along with other names and biographies) in the letters themselves. This means that it is possible to reconstruct this particular correspondence ‘cloud’ (in Miller’s phrase) in particular detail, and during discussion he provided us with a tantalising glimpse into his forthcoming digitisation initiative which will both visualise Peiresc’s Mediterranean network and link it in an innovative way to an online monograph. For past lectures in the series, please see the seminar webpage; details of the 2011 series will be available shortly.

Leave a Reply