Friday n° 46, August 30th, 2019
As an Apology: Beyond the Ivory Tower…
…there is an everyday realm which does not always comply with the plans made inside the ivory tower. In my case, this meant that renovating one room to make it into a third children’s room went a bit out of control and took far longer than I had planned – which caused me to skip the post that would have been due last week already. I’m sorry, but I can promise with a clear conscience that this will not happen again. I don’t have got any other rooms to renovate. But since I’m done with that room now, here’s what I’ve found since then.
Into the forests and up into the Mountains
Well, I went back into the paper forest of learned journals, this time tackling the only one left to do for my comparative study, the Nova Acta Eruditorum, appearing in Leipzig in continuation of the Acta Eruditorum from 1732 until 1776 (technically until 1782, but there were no more issues since 1776). And to my surprise, I discovered a significant peak. I’m not sure yet if it really qualifies as a towering mountain, but at least it appears to be one if put into a diagram properly. What becomes visible here is that the Nova Acta Eruditorum took quite a liking to Adriaan Reland, who is referred to on 57 pages in the 25 years between 1732 and 1756 which you see to the right of this paragraph, dwarfing all my other protagonists. This is more than four times the number of references to the next in line, Eusèbe Renaudot, who is referred to 14 times during this period, and more than double the number of the references to all the other three combined, which total 27 for these years: Renaudot’s 14 plus 9 for Thomas Gale and 4 for Johannes Braun.
The high time of references to Reland in the Nova Acta Eruditorum thus are the 1740s, and this is interesting because this is precisely the time when the patterns of references to my protagonists in all the other Journals I have surveyed so far fall into the on-and-off mode of mentioning them now and then every few years which I have labelled ‘intermittent referencing’ and which I take to indicate being structurally forgotten within the frame of the medium in question. And until 1737, when references to Reland begin to multiply again, the same pattern could be observed concerning him in both the Acta Eruditorum up until 1732 and the Nova Acta Eruditorum since then. So this might be the specific difference which I have been searching for, the difference which explains why Reland’s posthumous remembrance career has been so much more successful than those of my other three protagonists.
Why the peak?
Stating a difference is one thing; declaring it relevant another; and both are neither equal nor conductive to explaining, which again is a totally different thing altogether. So having encountered and labelled the phenomenon, how am I to explain it? Why were the people writing reviews for this Middle German learned journal so much more fond of Reland than of my other three protagonists – whom they knew, but were not really interested in – at this particular time?
Perhaps it is best to start with the content of these references. The pattern that underlies the peak is a very straightforward one: All the references to Reland take place within a specific context and are directed towards a specific work, and that is his last major publication, the 1714 two-volume Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata which had already come out as a central reference focus in my analysis of the three-journal sample made up from the Maandelyke uittreksels, the Journal des Savants and the Philosophical Transactions.
Protestant Orientalist Learning
The specific context the interest in this particular book stems from was a decidedly Protestant one. The writers of the works in the reviews of which the references to Reland were made in the Nova Acta Eruditorum were either Lutheran ministers or Theologians employed as university or high school professors. The scholars in the reviews of whose works Reland was mentioned in 1740 and 1741, for example, were
- the Zürich-born Georg Heinrich Werndly (1694-1744), Calvinist minister in Batavia and afterwards professor of Oriental languages at Lingen;
- the studied theologian, cartographer and geographer Johann Matthias Hase (Haas, Hasius, 1684-1742), professor of mathematics at Wittenberg university;
- the historian Johann Christoph Harenberg (1696-1774), professor of Greek, Hebrew, church history, and geography at the Collegium Carolinum, Brunswick;
- the Swiss Calvinist minister and orientalist Johann Rudolf II Gruner (1705-1778);
- the deputy headmaster and professor of church history at the Gymasium of Halle, Johann Simonis (1698-1768);
- the Lutheran minister Johann Christian Biel (1687-1745), a studied theologian with archaeological and antiquarian interests;
- and, as the only scholar from a non-German speaking and non-Protestant country, Étienne Fourmont (1683-1745), also known as Ismaël Ben-Abraham and 傅爾蒙 (Fu Er Meng), a French orientalist studying Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Chinese, and thus working within a shared disciplinary context.
They were interested in Oriental studies because such studies seemed useful to better understand the linguistic, cultural, and geographical setting of the Old Testament, ancient Israel or Palestine, the Holy Land. The Northern and Middle German Protestant universities of the time thus fostered the respective studies – of Hebrew, of Arabic, Persian, and other languages ‘Oriental’, of Biblical geography and history – and to do so, they built upon the results achieved by the scholars of the Dutch universities, among them Reland, with whom they shared much of the preconceptions of what godly scholarship and learning should be like. It surely was no coincidence that the Nuremberg publishing house of Monath in 1740 chose to reprint its 1716 pirated copy of Reland’s Palaestina Illustrata, thus providing fresh copies for the German market.
In the middle of the 1750s this fascination for Reland’s Palaestina Illustrata waned in the Nova Acta Eruditorum, which might be connected with the shift from a theologically based Orientalism to a more secularized discipline within the German universities; but this is something to be explored further. But as it seems, this decade of interest may have been crucial to fix Adriaan Reland within the emerging discipline of German Orientalism, and thus to pull him from structural forgottenness for a while.
 Peter Conrad Monath (ed.), Adriaan Reland: Hadriani Relandi Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata; in tres libros distributa, tabulis geographicis necessariis, iisque accuratis exornata, et a multis insuper, quae in primam editionem irrepserant mendis purgata, Nuremberg: Monath 1740.