Tag Archives: epistemic communities

2.5 Degrees from Ego

The correspondence network of Adriaan Reland (with data taken from Early Modern Letters Online) as a ego network taken to 2.5 degrees

Friday n° 37, June 28th, 2019

The last weeks have been packed with work, so that my last two blog posts had to be cancelled because I had to write chapters, presentations, papers, and other things (all about or issuing from the project, so that has all been working time) and was not able to communicate the state of work here for the time being. As promised, I am now returning to my schedule as the flood begins to sink and I’m no longer fearing to drown any moment, and will from now on again deliver my weekly research stats.

Hooray for data!

And to begin this week’s state of research, let me take the opportunity to advertise the ‘other thing’ I have been working at for the past weeks, which actually is a data set. Thanks to and in collaboration with the ERC Skillnet project I have been able to publish some of the letters I’ve been working as ‘The correspondence of Adriaan Reland’ on Early Modern Letters Online. 212 letters have either survived or can be inferred from those letters which I close-read with certainty, and, sadly, that’s all that is left. The metadata of these letters to and from Reland are now accessible via this collection, so I’d like to invite you all over to have a look at these. The added value of embedding them in a larger context as provided by EMLO of course lays in the possibility to explore the wider interconnections of this parcel of letters within the res publica litterarum of Reland’s time, so I thought, let’s give that a try for today.

A 2 degree Ego network

The 212 Reland letters have been sent to 36 correspondents, not so many in terms of scholarly correspondences, so it seemed a good idea to construct a second degree ego network from this in EMLO terms: I checked all of Reland’s direct correspondents via EMLO for their contacts among each other, to see how densely they were interconnected apart from their shared correspondence with Reland. So what you see in this visualization of the whole network is Adriaan Reland at the centre, highlighted in red, as befits a good ego network, and gathered around him his direct correspondents as green nodes, with the communication to Reland as green arrows also. The thickness of the edges depends on the amount of letters exchanged, whereas the size of the nodes is due to the total number of references to the scholar the node represents in terms of the whole network. Connections between Reland’s direct correspondents drawn from EMLO are visualized by black arrows, the thickness again keyed to the number of letters.

The missing 0.5 degrees…

But first of all there is a lot of blue and grey stuff in this diagram which I have not yet said anything about, and second I promised you a 2.5 degree network in the opening headline. So what about that?

Well, as you suspect already, both things are directly related. To start with the missing 0.5 degrees, this was due to the way in which I collected data on these letters. As my project is all about references to other scholars to track the circulation of information, I went through a part of these letters very closely, trying to identify each person and publication mentioned therein. Now EMLO does not support inclosing information on publications in their metadata on the letters, but they do support inclosing mentions of persons, so this is all in there. And that means these data were there to work with them in drawing up the ego network. So what I wanted to have a look at was if the people mentioned to Reland’s direct correspondents would line up with the rest of the network – that is, the contemporary people mentioned. That would give an indication as to whether this is something like an 18th century communication bubble and thus might provide a way to reconstruct missing epistolary evidence. All of these mentions I took to constitute a triad between a) the person who mentions a name, b) the person who is mentioned, and c) the person this name is mentioned to, and all of these relations are visualized in grey within this diagram, as they quite literally are somewhat shady in terms of ‘real’ network edges.

Click the image for a full view of the visualization graph.

What I then did was checking in EMLO if those people who were only mentioned in Reland’s direct correspondences had direct contacts with his correspondents or amongst each other. This would be something in between a real third-degree connection and a second-degree connection, so I decided to label it 2.5 degrees of separation. For those people and connections who had such connections, nodes and edges are coloured in blue to clearly distinguish them from the green nodes of the inner circle of direct correspondents and the green and black relations of these with Reland and amongst each other.

… and what they revealed

What’s really of interest now is of course: What did I gain from doing this? Is there anything new for my project in there? And yes, it was. There are 116 people mentioned in the letters between Reland and his correspondents, 97 out of which still lived in 1680, the year which I took as the point of demarcation between roughly ‘contemporary’ scholars and those whose correspondences I did not take to be relevant to Reland’s connectedness within the republic of letters in any way (this starting point is of course debatable, but one has to start somewhere). This testifies to Reland’s letters discussing more recent issues then debating past works and results; quite a large share of these 97 scholars mentioned whom I designated as ‘contemporary’ actually survived him, sometimes for several decades.

Of the 97 contemporaries mentioned, 26 had contacts either amongst each other – represented by blue arrows – or with members of the green inner circle of correspondents, represented by black arrows. Together with the interconnections of Reland’s direct correspondents between themselves, the second degree of the Ego network, the second-and-a-half-degree connections make clear that he actually was situated in an environment where most people directly or indirectly knew each other, and much of what he relates to in his letters has to be seen in this context. Although these people were spread out across the Netherlands, France, Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, Italy, and Denmark, it seems that they formed a remarkably tight-knit community. If this was a strength or a weakness of the network in question would have to be evaluated against contextual information which EMLO does not provide, but it gives hints where to look next.

Mind the gap!

All I’ve written in this post so far has to be taken with a grain of salt, of course, because EMLO is – as great and wonderful a resource as it is – far from being complete (although I would think it is comprehensive). This means that most probably there are interconnections which I missed out on because they are not (yet) in there. And this becomes even more pronounced as I did not close-read all of Reland’s remaining letters but only about a third of them, so I have missed out on a lot of mentions which would have given me new leads to track in EMLO as well. From the point of a study of remembrance and forgetting such as mine this is of course something to emphasize: What is in there is what is still – at least in some way – in circulation, in this case triggered by current research into these phenomena; and the gaps are caused by processes of discarding and source loss, which are parts of structural forgetting. So by mapping out the gaps, I do get a better grip on what I am really at also. And it’s never bad to gain added benefits from something.

And: Mind the results nevertheless!

But the point was precisely this: To see what I could do with this resource even as it stands now and regardless of the patchiness of my own research so far. And that proved quite a success, because in all likelihood I would only have ended up with more connections in the end, not less, which strengthens my initial hypothesis that the 2.5 degrees are a useful way of coming to terms with gaps in the physical evidence. In Reland’s case, this worked out well and points to him as really being closely connected within a certain epistemic community (as I once termed this) of his day.

What now remains to be done is to see if this also works out for my other three protagonists, since this would provide a way to cope with the dearth of direct epistolary evidence. I’ll see to it that I can present some preliminary results from going in this direction during the coming weeks.

PS: Actually, it’s a funny coincidence that today is not only the 37th Friday of my project but also my 37th birthday. Makes it feel even better to be back on track again. And now I’m off for some cake. See you next Friday!

And the winner is…

Snippet of the network visualization for the 502 publication sample described in this post; mind the prominent position of Reland’s “Palaestina Illustrata” (big green dot left on top) and the unconnected component in the lower right corner.

… Adrien Reland’s 1714 Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata!

And so the winner is me, too, for I guessed it correctly.

A two weeks’ post

But one thing after the other. First, the date: this is my blog post for

Saturday, March 9th, 2019, for Friday no. 22;

I seem to acquire a bad habit of posting on Saturdays rather than Fridays. For today, my excuses are, in chronological order, a) I had to help out at my son’s school, fixing some shelves; b) I had to figure out how to clear some financial matters regarding how to pay my salary from this project in a way that some of it actually ends up with me in the end; c) my youngest daughter stubbornly refused to go to sleep this evening. Obviously I am not very good at scheduling my home office work hours, for although I started out at 8:00 in the morning, by 21:30 I had got down to a meagre seven hours of working time. And d) I made a tiny configuring mistake, messed up my calculations, and had to start all over again, ruining some two hours of work. I suspect I better had not started calculating only at 21:30, but a), b), and c) forced me to.

Going for some metrics, step 1: Gathering data

But the calculations are crucial, because that’s what I originally intended to show you. As I announced in my last post, I now have finished three-quarters of my projected sample of scholarly journals, which has taken me two weeks to complete, clean, and analyse now.

That is to say, I have gone through the digitized versions of the Journal des Savants, the Philosophical Transactions, and the Maandelyke uittreksels, of Boekzaal der geleerde waerelt (more info here), between 1700 and 1799. I have added all issues of these journals referencing one of my four protagonists in any way to my database. In numbers, this means 117 issues of the Journal des Savants, 9 of the Philosophical Transactions (yes, only nine, but I have already argued they are somewhat special here), and 89 of the Maandelyke uittreksels – or 205 journal issues in total. In going through these issues I have examined each page on which at least one of my protagonists was referenced, identified all other scholars and all publications on that page, and stored these data, too, as a basis for co-citation analysis to identify perceived epistemic communities and their changes over time. This netted me another 287 quoted publications, and another 739 scholars referred to and/or connected to quoted publications (as authors, editors, translators etc.). I must confess that I am a bit proud of having managed to completely identify close to 690 of these, or more than 90%. But today everything will be about publications, so the really interesting figure is that of 502 publications in this sample.

Going for some metrics, step 2: Setting a framework for analysis

The problem that I now got was how to deal with these data. Plain visualizing did not work out anymore to really map out the intriguing details. So it needed to be done the rough way, by calculating metrics for the sample, hoping for something interesting to turn up. The visualizations did help me, in the way of pointing out which ways to structure the relations to be investigated would likely not yield good results. I first thought I might try something like mapping ‘shared contributors’, that is, connecting publications by way of the same scholars contributing to them (as authors, editors, or translators). This turned out to be pretty useless because it only favoured large edited collections who assembled texts from many different authors. And that’s the reason why this post is not about persons but publications only; the real co-citation analysis still has to wait for a bit. So it seemed better to bypass persons for the time being and only to link publications to publications, and I did so by way of quotations, that is, two publications are seen as connected if at least one of them quotes the other. That brought some interesting results about.

Going for some metrics, step 3: Finally going for metrics!

With the framework set up to network this publication sample, it was high time (half past nine already!) to start calculating metrics. To facilitate calculation, I started with assuming the network edges to be undirected, that is, a link from publication A via a quote in A to publication B works both ways, from A to B and from B to A. I know that this might be a questionable simplification; but as this may be tested by comparison, I will set this matter aside for a rainy day when I don’t have any idea what to write in this blog for the week to have the opportunity to at least redo these calculations for directed edges. (And as I once started tracking time in this post, it is now 4:00 in the morning and high time that I get to bed to have at least some sleep. I’ll continue around noon.) Moreover, as the structure of connections within what one takes to be a network depends on what the question is, and I am interesting in tracing perceived epistemic communities here – that is, publications seen as belonging to shared domains of knowledge – edge directionality is less important than it might be for other questions to ask. (This is a piece of midnight reasoning, but it still looks sound now at 10:30 on the day after.) I could as well also have collapsed the journals into edges connecting the rest of the publications to more explicitly claim this, but I wanted to also get an impression of the position of the individual journal issues, and so I kept them as nodes. Admittedly, this model does have the drawback that relying on quotations only provides only a quite simplified picture of the interconnections structuring domains of knowledge, but it should serve to give a good first impression of the sample’s general structure. Having sample and model settled, I used the opportunity to test Nodegoat’s analysis functions and calculated some metrics.

A lot of numbers

To keep the scores comparable across different metrics, I chose to normalize them where possible. A short look at the visualization (see header for larger picture) made clear what was to be expected: the network is disconnected. Not all publications are referred to as situated in overlapping domains of knowledge; some are distinctly separate from the rest. This is important here because it directly impacts the calculations of the closeness metric. Closeness serves to indicate how close any given node is to all other nodes in the network. In mapping out shared domains of knowledge this might be quite interesting, as nodes with low closeness scores might be supposed to partake of many fields at once being referenced in differing contexts, and thus be important to look at. But closeness measures path lengths to calculate the average distance from node X to all other nodes, and this does not work in disconnected networks (because two nodes between which there is no path would be at undefined = infinite distance from each other). Nodegoat provides a workaround to that by substituting a maximum distance for path length between unconnected nodes, this maximum being equal to the total number of nodes in the network.[1]

First: Betweenness

The first measure I calculated was betweenness[2] (because of the problems with closeness). Betweenness works on disconnected networks and thus was the obvious first choice. Roughly put, betweenness serves to indicate whether a certain node may be considered a gatekeeper, that is, if it is situated at a vital connection point in the network. In assuming an undirected graph, for mapping shared domains of knowledge this resembles closeness: it should point to publications situated at the intersection of several domains, and thus of potential importance for each of these. I must qualify this as ‘potential importance’ because only being situated between different fields of knowledge does not equal making important contributions to any of these fields; this will have to be cross-checked with other metrics, then.

Top 10 Betweenness

These are the top ten results in terms of betweenness for the whole of the network:

And those are the respective results for the top-scoring publications of/connected to:

Adrien Reland, by Betweenness

Eusèbe Renaudot, by Betweenness

Johannes Braun, by Betweenness

Thomas Gale, by Betweenness

What becomes directly apparent is that there are a lot Reland’s publications in the network, not only on vital connection points but also in total. In fact, 37 out of 287 non-journal publications have Reland as their main author/editor, or 12,9 %; the number does matter because I only added publications to this sample when coming across a quotation within the sample. Compared to 2.8 % for Eusebè Renaudot (8 publications), 1.7 % for Johannes Braun (5 publications), and 1.4 % for Thomas Gale (4 publications) this looks even more impressive. But a large output as such does not tell anything about the quality or the reception of that output. There also is one publication by Eusebè Renaudot among the top ten in betweenness, too.

Second: Closeness

As already said, the closeness scores for this sample are to be taken with a grain of salt because of the disconnectedness workaround implemented in Nodegoat. But the prediction I theoretically made when thinking about betweenness in this network – that it would line up quite closely with closeness because pointing to structurally similar positions within the network – did come true in looking at the results for closeness, so I am tempted to regard these results as usefull still. Important: The first score in the “A” for Analysis column is always the one discussed!

Top 10 by Closeness

The top ten publications of the network in terms of closeness scores are:

This again underscores the relevance of Reland’s publications within the network as a whole, and especially of his Palaestina Illustrata.

And those are the respective results for the top-scoring publications of/connected to:

Adrien Reland, by Closeness

Eusèbe Renaudot, by Closeness

Johannes Braun, by Closeness

Thomas Gale, by Closeness

Third: Degree

In undirected graphs such as this, Degree just counts the number of connections any given node in the network has. To be precise, Nodegoat counts the number of all edges starting from and ending at any given node, allowing for duplicates edges, thus producing high scores on average.[3] For an analysis of shared domains of knowledge as proposed here Degree should be relevant as a corrective. Whereas Betweenness and Closeness both point to structural positions of publications in regard to their location between domains of knowledge, Degree points to the importance of a given publication at this structural position. Or, to put it more precisely, to the attention generated by the publication in question, as I am focusing on quotations made by scholarly journals to this publication; and many such quotations do not necessarily point to the scholarly but in any case to the public impact a work made.

Top 10 by Degree

Looking at the Degree scores from this perspective makes clear that while Reland’s publications might share in more domains of knowledge, within their respective domains Renaudot’s publications obviously attracted comparable attention. And looking at the respective results for the top-scoring publications of/connected to Johannes Braun and Thomas Gale in comparison makes clear that they were not only tied more closely to special domains of knowledge but also attracted less attention by the journals in question, perhaps because of this more stringent specialisation. So here are the Degree scores for publications divided by individuals:

Adrien Reland, by Degree

Eusèbe Renaudot, by Degree

Johannes Braun, by Degree

Thomas Gale, by Degree

A cautionary note: It does not pay to put too much trust in Degree scores, because they tend to push publications situated within certain reference patterns. Consider the example of Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze’s Lexicon aegyptiaco-latinum, the Coptic dictionary edited and published by Karl Gottfried Woide in 1775 which has already featured in one of my posts.

With a Degree of 33 it scores shortly below a top 10 place in Degree which, following the reasoning laid out above, should indicate its importance for its particular domain(s) of knowledge – it attracted a lot of attention, because it has a lot of quotes. But all of these quotes are in fact derived from one singe journal issue, the June 1774 issue, part one, of the Journal des Savants, as becomes visible from the cross-references section of its database entry.  

And there it assembles all of these quotes because it features in many different respects in the announcement written by Woide himself to highlight his upcoming publication, which makes the reference section of this piece look a bit monothematic:

Snippet from the references contained in Woide’s publication announcement

So while Degree may be taken as an indicator of importance within a given field by capturing public attention, this is easily manipulated, and has to be cross-checked against another metric for validation.

Fourth: Pagerank

Nodegoat allows for calculating Pagerank scores, following the original Google algorithm. As Pagerank was originally invented to determine the relative importance of information sources (in this case, websites) in a network through which a user might randomly move, this model might also be applied to domains of knowledge in a web of publications, treating quotations as paper-borne hyperlinks. Random movement through the graph is facilitated by its undirectedness, so please keep in mind that modelling it as undirected may be a questionable decision, and don’t trust these metric too much. The good thing about Pagerank is that allows for determining both the relative importance of quoted publications and of quoting journals in this particular configuration, so I would like to use it to counterbalance the shortcomings of Degree pointed out above. In running Pagerank, Woide/la Croze’s dictionary disappears from the leading places all of a sudden, so this seems to work. The top publications according to Pagerank thus are:

Top 10 by Pagerank  

Surprise, surprise: The main hubs for distributing quotes – and thus sorting domains of knowledge – are journals! Makes me almost wonder why I chose to go by them in the first place… But more interesting in here is that there one publication from the 287 quoted works in the sample which managed to get a place in the top 10, and that is – surprise again! – Reland’s Palaestina Illustrata. This in turn is due by it being quoted by a number of journal issues (from all three journal series) which are themselves important quotation hubs, as becomes evident when looking at the cross-references to Palaestina Illustrata, that is, the publications in the sample linking to it.

This looks as if Pagerank indeed might be a good tool to determine the importance of a publication at its respective structural position, at best in combination with Degree (and Palaestina Illustrata scores high on both). So what about the top scores for the rest of the field?

Adrien Reland, by Pagerank

Eusèbe Renaudot, by Pagerank

Johannes Braun, by Pagerank

Thomas Gale, by Pagerank

Combining metrics

Well, that was a lot of tables, numbers, and scores. Well done! Only a few more to go. Now the last thing to do is to find a way to purposefully combine the different metrics results assembled so far to draw something relating to my larger research question from it. To do so, I ventured for a first try to identify the top 5 publications of each of my protagonists by comparison of the results I presented above. This yielded the following table[4]:

Top 5 by: Betweenness Closeness Pagerank Degree
Reland Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata
Reland De nummis veteris Hebraeorum De nummis veteris Hebraeorum Antiquitates sacrae vet. Hebr. (4th ed.) De nummis veteris Hebraeorum
Reland De religione mohammedica De religione mohammedica Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum De religione mohammedica
Reland Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum Verhandeling van de godsdienst Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum
Reland Encheiridion studiosi Dissertationum Miscellanearum Oratio de galli cantu Hierosolymae Decas exercitationum […] nomine Jehovae
Braun Commentarius in epistolam ad Hebraeos Commentarius in epistolam ad Hebraeos Leere der verbonden (4th ed.) Doctrina foederum
Braun Leere der verbonden (4th ed.) Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum Avertissement necessaire aux eglises Leere der verbonden (4th ed.)
Braun Avertissement necessaire aux eglises Doctrina foederum Commentarius in epistolam ad Hebraeos Commentarius in epistolam ad Hebraeos
Braun Doctrina foederum Avertissement necessaire aux eglises Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum Avertissement necessaire aux eglises
Braun Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum Leere der verbonden (4th ed.) Doctrina foederum Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum
Renaudot Historia patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Historia patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio
Renaudot La perpetuité de la foy, 4 Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio La perpetuité de la foy, 4 Defense de l'”histoire des patriaches”
Renaudot Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio La perpetuité de la foy, 4 Anciennes relationes des Indes Anciennes relationes des Indes
Renaudot La perpetuité de la foy, 5 La perpetuité de la foy, 5 La perpetuité de la foy, 5 La perpetuité de la foy, 4
Renaudot Anciennes relationes des Indes Anciennes relationes des Indes Historia patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Genadii patriarchi homiliae
Gale Antonini iter Britanniarum commentarius Antonini iter Britanniarum commentarius Antonini iter Britanniarum commentarius Antonini iter Britanniarum commentarius
Gale Jamblichii de mysteriis liber Jamblichii de mysteriis liber Historiae poeticae scriptores antiqui Historiae Anglicanae scriptores V.2
Gale Historiae Anglicanae scriptores V.2 Historiae poeticae scriptores antiqui Historiae Anglicanae scriptores V.2 Historiae poeticae scriptores antiqui
Gale Historiae poeticae scriptores antiqui Historiae Anglicanae scriptores V.2 Jamblichii de mysteriis liber Jamblichii de mysteriis liber

Creating a Shortest Path Matrix

To fuse this into something more informative I thought I might utilize a special function of Nodegoat’s, and that is its ability to calculate shortest paths between given selections of nodes. In this case, this meant that I first settled on a matrix of four times four publications: The top 4 publications after comparing the scores of all metrics for each of my four protagonists. I chose to use the top four because only four of Gale’s publications made it into the sample, and this provides better comparability then. Now I used the Shortest Path function to calculate the length of the shortest path through this network from each of these publications to each other, and set the results down in form of a matrix.[5] It looks like this.

Conclusions

What does this tell me now? Well, first of all it highlights the isolated position of some of these publications, which obviously do not share domains of knowledge with others; this is true for the five marked with grey lines which have no connections to the rest of the matrix. It moreover points to the broader diversity of Reland’s publications compared to the rest of the network: His four publications all have connections within the matrix, while for Renaudot one publication does not and for Braun and Gale two publications each. Reland’s and Renaudot’s oeuvres and positions are similar in that both are internally coherent – the smallest paths to those of their own publications connected to the rest of the matrix are two each – and well-connected: their publications are not only connected to more of the rest of the matrix, they are also connected by shorter paths, making their works appear to be more central. Braun and Gale on the other hand are similar in having less many publications connected to the rest of the matrix, and in those publications being situated in strongly differing fields, as indicated by their larger internal distance from each other compared to Reland and Renaudot. And both of them are on the outskirts of the network rather than in the centre as indicated by the long shortest paths to other publications in the matrix.

This buttresses the claims I have brought forward based on other impressions already: That Reland and Renaudot form a comparable pair of actors, as Gale and Braun do; and that Reland seems to be the most versatile of all four, which might be the reason why he was the last of the four to get forgotten. And, as I already suspected last week, that his Palaestina Illustrata might be more relevant for this process than his other works, even if they are better known today (as his 1705 De religione mohammedica for instance).

But this has been a fairly static picture of a phenomenon spanning one century, so the next task will be to dynamize it. Work to do!


[1] So in looking at the closeness scores in the following, always keep in mind that the maximum path length taken into consideration is 502.

[2] With duplicated edges taken into account and weighted according to distance, that is, duplicates add edge length.

[3] And Nodegoat does not automatically normalize Degree centrality. But this is an easy operation: If you want to do so, just divide any absolute Degree score by the total number of edges in the network, in this case, 2577.

[4] Publications marked in red only appear once in the table and are therefore discounted from further  comparison.

[5] Please keep in mind that shortest paths are elongated in my setting because two quoted publications A and B are (almost) always connected via a journal in between, so the usual shortest path possible between A and B is two links (A –link one– Journal  –link two– B).  

Proof of Concept

Monday, January 28th, 2019, for Friday No. 17, January 25th, 2019

Apologies first: This post took me a little longer than usual, I’m two and a half days late now. This is due to what I wanted to present here: The first two completed data sets for the tracking of processes of forgetting in the humanities from my project. And finishing the second one took me about 18 hours longer than I had planned. You never know what’s in the sources beforehand…

Data Sets

But now these two sets are done and ready to be presented – at least, a rough oversight of the yields of these collections. What I have done here is going through two journals, the Philosophical Transactions and the Journal des Savants, from 1700 until 1800 (well, in the case of the Journal des Savants until 1792). I went through two digitized Hathi Trust collections to be able to use fulltext search, so for everyone who’d like to check on my results, here you go: Journal des Savants and Philosophical Transactions. The few missing issues were added using other similar Hathi Trust collections. I entered all issues bearing references to my four protagonists into my NodeGoat database, identified all persons co-cited with my protagonists in these instances as good as possible, and also all publications cited therein which gave me lists like these here.

December issue of the Journal des Savants, 1782, Reference to Eusèbe Renaudot and co-citations

To fully explore these datasets will take me some time still, but I do already have some preliminary findings to share.

First: Comparability

There is an obvious imbalance between the two journals regarding coverage of my protagonists. The Journal des Savants returned 117 issues with matches, while the Philosophical Transactions returned 8. Yet this is obviously caused by their asymmetric schedules: While the Journal des Savants appeared weekly from the start and monthly later on, the Philosophical Transactions appeared once a year, or once every two years. So to make for a better comparison, the Philosophical Transactions issues cover 12 years between 1744 and 1771, while the Journal des Savants issues cover 54 years between 1702 und 1789. And while the Journal des Savants data set includes about 4,5 times as much issue material over time, these individual issues are richer in both references and co-citations than the Philosophical Transactions issues are, although the exact factor still has to be determined. Overall, the Journal des Savants was definitely much more interested in the results of my protagonists over time than the Philosophical Transactions ever were. Not that much of a surprise, one might say, given that both journals were active in different areas of knowledge production and that the Philosophical Transactions were much more interested in natural philosophy than in what we would today call humanities’ research (as I already discussed some time ago). So please keep this in mind for the following visualisations.

Second: Visualisations!

The combined datasets in full extensions: The complete network of references from 1702 until 1789. Directly visible: Three of my protagonists, Thomas Gale (bottom left quadrant), Adrien Reland (bottom right quadrant), and Eusèbe Renaudot (middle of top half) do have their quite separate circles of references with a shared overlap in the middle.
The full extension of the Journal des Savants dataset: The complete reference network from 1702 until 1789. Directly visible is a much weaker position of Thomas Gale (top right quadrant), and an enhanced position of Eusèbe Renaudot (bottom left quadrant).
Full extension of the Philosophical Transactions dataset. Directly visible is that it is much smaller, contains less references to authors (therefore smaller red circles), and that there is no connection between a shared reference network of Thomas Gale and Adrien Reland on the left and a much smaller Eusèbe Renaudot network on the right hand.

Moving pictures!

A diachronic visualisation of the combined datasets in (something like) moving ten-year-averages for the time in which they overlap, 1740 until 1779.
The Journal des Savants dataset in simple ten-year-averages from 1702 until 1789. The most interesting thing is that this dataset allows you to directly see the falling apart of a once shared reference network from the 1760s onwards. As this is precisely what I want to track and show in this project, I take this result for a preliminary proof of concept: It actually seems to work, if only within a certain framework as I already had supposed (cf. the combined dataset video where this does not become apparent).
And, last but not least, the ten-year-average visualisation of the Philosophical Transactions dataset also, which directly allows to see the huge differences between both journals regarding my protagonists.

To preliminary conclude

This rather fast overview over my first two completed data sets conveys two messages, I think: First of all that a rather more thorough exploration in terms of statistics and metrics is necessary to put my preliminary findings on a firmer basis, and second, that – and these are my preliminary findings for today – my system and framework actually does seem to work. While this is great, it poses a lot of new questions as to the framing: Can both data sets be acutally merged together as I did in the combined visualisations? Or are they so different that such combinations are of no use? And if they are, where do these differences come from? Different perspectives on science? National and/or confessional framings, as might be indicated by the very different weights of the English and Anglican Cleric Thomas Gale and of the French and Catholic Cleric Eusèbe Renaudot in both sets? Or something in between, or something third? 

What’s a pupil worth?

Saturday, for Friday No.10, December 15th, 2018 (Holidays are coming and everything is getting complicated to schedule…)

I do not have touched upon one facet of scholar’s posthumous reputation yet, although it is commonly believed to possibly have a powerful influence upon it. And that ist he impact a scholar’s pupils can have on his or her memory.

The pupil hypothesis

The hypothesis behind this is quite simple. If you study with someone, who provides you the starting point for your own learning and perhaps even your career, you might be especially likely to keep that person not only in fond memory privately butalso to refer him or her professionally by quotation, citation or other forms of reference. This would then contribute to the overall reference frequency of the teacher. And you might even pass his or her theories, ideas, writings or whatever to your own pupils as a kind of intellectual legacy. At least this is what is commonly thought to be happening in the formation of intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines.

 As with all hypotheses this one also should be tested before being assumed too easily. Toput it to the test is unfortunately a bit tricky. The problem with it is that it has been drawn from the showcase examples. For those cases in which we areable to see such a pattern at work clearly are the successful ones, those that really did establish intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines and framed them as certain person’s legacies. They are present, powerful, and seem to indicate the value of the hypothesis because it is able to explain them. The question now should be, are these cases representing the standard against which all others should be measured, or are they exceptional? If they are exceptional, the patterns that formed them are likely to be exceptional, too. They should, therefore, only with care be applied to other cases as long as this possibility cannot be ruled out.

How to test this?

If I now want to test this hypothesis with my four protagonists which clearly do not represent successful showcases of establishing intellectual legacies, this raises a number of follow-up questions. The first and perhaps crucial of these is simply: Who is a pupil? Obviously not every student who ever heard a lecture by one of them should qualify for that. And also not every younger scholar who ever exchanged letters with one of them should do so. But if the source material is scarce anyway, how am I to determine the closer kind of relationship which would qualify as a teacher-pupil-relationship?

The second and third questions are not very much more easily solved either. For having identified someone as qualifying for a pupil in the sense of the hypothesis, I would have to determine his (in my cases there are no hers, unfortunately) overall impact; and then to single out from this impact his references to his teacher to be able to determine how much this particular individual contributed to the reference pattern.

I do not have very conclusive evidence to present yet (for two select cases see below) but from what I have seen so far I strongly suspect that for the average scholar, the impact of pupils is highly overrated by the standard hypothesis. It really does not seem to matter so much. But before I go into speculation about why that might be so, first let me present two very contrary examples which are completely non-representative but which may give you an idea what I am after here.

First: a forgotten scholar’s unknown pupil

In 1713 the Journal des Savants (issue 34/1713, August 21th) reviewed a scholarly commentary of some Hebrew texts, the Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum[1] by Johann Conrad Hottinger (1688?–1727?). The young author was characterized in this piece intwo ways: First, as he was himself kind enough to tell in the title of thereviewed book, he was a member of the Zürich Hottinger family of reputedscholars for all matters theological and oriental. It even detailed the precisenature of this connection: He was a nephew of Heinrich Hottinger (1647–1692) by being a son of Heinrich’s brother Conrad, most likely Johann Conrad Hottinger (1655–1730). This would make “our” Johann Conrad Hottinger the second of the name, and stemming from something like a sideline, as his father was none of the celebrated scholars of the name but a physician and numismat of lesser fame. That his uncle rather than his father was named as the reference point for the family connection on the title page of Johann Conrad the younger’s printed work would make perfect sense then. Second, and not directly forthcoming from the title of the work, Adrien Reland was referred to by the reviewer as “the young author’s teacher”.

Journal des Savants, 34/1713, August 21th, p. 450. 

It is always a bit risky to trust your sources too much but in this case there is no other evidence I yet know of contradicting this, so I trust the anonymous reviewer to have done his homework and to have known what he wrote. That a complimentary letter from Reland to the author was added to the work makes it an interpretation highly probable. So what I have here is a prime case fulfilling the hypothesis, at least on the face of it. There is a teacher-pupil-relationship in which the pupil uses the name and fame of his teacher to proliferate his writings, and by referring back to his teacher in return circulates his name. The problem is that this in all likelihood did not benefit Reland much, as the young Hottinger seems never to have made himself much of a name. It is quite hard to find any reliable information about him; even the larger catalogues have problems disambiguing him and his father. And even if one of his publications surely had the potential to be influential interms of circulating references to his “maitre”, the Journal “Altes und Neues aus der gelehrten Welt”, it seems to have been rather short-lived and not to have spread very far. So as a first preliminary conclusion from this case the hypothesis would have to be specified in that you may only expect substantial returns in terms of reference frequency from your pupils if they are either at least modestly successful themselves – so as to have an audience – or if they are very many (to compensate for little individual success).

Second: a famous pupil of two forgotten scholars?

Johannes Braun, professor of theology in Groningen and himself often busy with the exegesis of scriptural Hebrew, had many pupils of minor fame who later ventured to become predikanten in Dutch churches, an occupation for which a solid theological education was necessary. But there were also others among those who listened to his lectures. One of these, the young Albert Schultens (1686–1750) in 1706 defended a thesis on the utility of Arabic in the study of scripture presided over by Braun. In an age where the defended thesis often was acollaboration between president and respondent, this points to a rather close relationship, as does the theme. And moreover, Schultens afterwards relocated to Utrecht in 1707 to further study Arabic under Reland, living in his house. His first publication, the “Animadversiones philologicae in Jobum” is said to have been written under Reland’s direct guidance, and as Hottinger’s book also contained a letter to the author by Reland as a prelude – as well as a laudatory examination verdict by Johannes Braun and his colleague Paulus Hulsius (1653–1712). Now Schultens embarked on a very solid career, became an appreciated Orientalist and Arabist, and the founder of a dynasty of three generations of renowned Arabists. This, then, would be the ideal pupil for the hypothesis: Building on the knowledge inherited from his or her teachers an own career, becoming esteemed, and also creating a family tradition of proliferation of this intellectual legacy he or she should be perfectly able to carry on the name and fame of the teachers who had been instrumental in laying the foundations to these accomplishments.

Only that Schultens does not seem to have done so, at least not overly zealous. As far as I am able to determine at the moment. So even famous pupil might net you not much return for your own reference patterns in the end, perhaps – one more preliminary conclusion – because they are too much taken up by building their own reputation. 

But if neither minor nor major pupils really add to your reference patterns as the hypothesis supposes, who then does? Well, I don’t know yet, but I’ll going to try to find out.


[1] Johann Conrad Hottinger: Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum: Decem Exercitationibus absolutus. In quo omni, quae ad hanc materiam illustrandam pertinent, tum è Sacris Litteris, tum ipsis Judaeorum veterum monumentis explicantur, variaque alia Sacrarum Antiquitatum themata ex occasione tractantur. Auctore Joh. Conr. Hottingero, Henr. ex Conr. Nep. Helv. Tigurino. Praemittitur celeberimi viri Hadriani Relandi Epistola ad Auctorem. Cum Indicibus necessariis, Leiden: Isaac Severinus 1713.

Second-hand Science

Mears, William, Auction Catalogue (title page snippet) (1723)

Friday n° 8, November 30th, 2018

The early modern academic book is a used book. Of course new books were printed and put onthe market always and everywhere. But long is art, and life is short, and books frequently outlive their owners. In the 18th century this created a market which lived off second-, third-, fourth, x-th hand books which were sold and resold every so often: when their owners died, or when they were in especially dire need for money; when libraries where confiscated or scattered in war, revolution, or as punishment. And on the whole this market was rather larger than that for new books. The early modern printed book was a commodity made to endure and as such had a very long commercial lifecycle.

This is hardly a new insight, and a lot has already been said about used-book markets and practices (see the Book History and Print Culture Network). Now, apart from a few collectors who bought books just for the sake of collecting, most of these changes of hand of early modern academic books took place for reasons of research and teaching.They were bought because they were needed. Even though they were sold second-or-more-hand, these volumes were still costly items, and the average scholar did not buy them without good reason. So I may assume that if a book changed hands there possibly also was an intellectual reason behind this economic transaction.  

The Second-hand thesis

This means that ideas, notions, names and theories can not only travel openly by citationand quotation but also in a more hidden way along with the books they are contained in. In theory this opens new avenues for my quest to research processes of forgetting within science and learning, for the circulation of an author’s books might provide at least an indicator of his after-death impact.

Four first-hand problems

Practically this poses a whole bunch of new challenges to the project:

  • Figuring out how such indirect clues relate to direct ones and how they can be measured against each other. For it seems intuitively plausible that citing or quoting a scholar directly is stronger evidence of this scholar being structurally remembered than having a scholar’s book somewhere deep down in one’s library.
  • Coming to terms with indirect clues which can be directly referred to an individual person as well as indirect clues which are generic by their very nature. The difference is that of, say, the auction catalogue of a late owner’s library, which allows to ascribe the featured books to this owning individual, and the auction catalogue of the annual grand sale of a bookshop or store which gives no indication of the provenance of the volumes listed.
  • Accounting for the difference between books I know from such sources as the above-mentioned auction catalogues to have been offered for sale and books which I happen to know of being actually sold, and factoring this into the measure of ‘indirectness’ of the clue this gives me about the work in question being in circulation. Now this point mightseem to raise an issue a bit hair-splittingly, but it really poses a serious problem. Normally all that is left of such transactions are the auction catalogues some of which have survived – only a tiny fraction of those thereonce were, but that’s the same as with other sources. The problem is that these catalogues do allow me only to establish that at the time the sale was announced these books had been in the possession of the deceased or were in the possession of the offering entrepreneur. They normally do not allow to make any inference whether the books actually were sold at this event. Sometimes the catalogues carry annotations of certain items being underlined, check marked, or added prices which may point to someone at least being interested in buying them, but these are only very rarely conclusive evidence. So the question is, what happened to the leftovers? Were they sold off at a discount, given away, scrapped, recycled, or kept? For it would it certainly make a difference in estimating the value of an author’s name if the books announced under this name all sold highly after being battled over at the auction, or if they were all taken to the paper mill afterwards. (Which is quite unlikely unless indicated very clearly, to be honest, but to illustrate the possible spread let’s just assume it for the sake of argument).

    Mears 1723, p. 25

  • And, last but surely not least, how can the data to be drawn from the catalogues be integrated into my co-citation approach to the framing of bygone epistemic communities? For normally these catalogues do not just list some thousand books one after the other but structure their content in a manner accessible to the potential buyers, and that is, by formal criteria on the one hand (format, features, and condition) and by contextual criteria on the other hand, so that a rubric would read “Libri Miscellanei & Juridici, Octavo”[1]or “Theologici in quarto” for instance. But should I then add all other books from that rubric as being co-cited with, say, Johannes Braun’s “Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum” of 1680 which might be found in the latter category?[2] This might seem an obvious choice, but unfortunately it is utterly impracticable because of the sheer number of entries I would have to process then. Should I, then, restrict myself to only recording those works appearing on the same page as, for instance, Adrien Reland’s “De religione mahomedica”, 2nd edition 1717[3] (see picture) as I would do for citations/quotations in a text? This might give a compromised picture because such rubrics tend to have an inner order – some reproducing that of the library’s former owner (which would be a good thing), some ordering the volumes alphabetically to facilitate browsing, or ranked by estimated value or anything else. So a consistent method might give me inconsistent results if I cannot process an amount of data large enough to even out such imbalances statistically.

So what to do now?

Already a while ago I tracked references to my protagonists in those auction cataloguesonline available via Eighteenth Century Collections Online. This provided me with a quite special sample because it is very much Britain-centred, but as the United Kingdom imported vast quantities of second-hand academic books from the continent during the 18th century, this is really not so bad at all. Here are the graphs for the frequencies I was able to establish for Adrien Reland and Johannes Braun through 81 catalogues between 1723 and 1796.

Reland’s books in the ECCO sample

Braun’s books in the ECCO sample

 

This surely looks nice, and it interestingly tells a story completely different (from what I know so far) from that told by the pattern of references to my protagonists in scholarly journals. To put it shortly, as the journal references decline, the mentions in auction catalogues rise. But what does that mean? Does it point to their ideas being in circulation through their circulating books even after they went out of fashion in the rather short-lived business of academic journalism? Or does it rather tell that as the authors went out of fashion in the journals, so did their books, being put on the second-hand market in something like a grand sell-out with a little delay?

This depends much on the answers I find to my four problems posed above, so I guess it’s fair to say that until now, this is still an open question. One hint might be that of the 81 relevant catalogues from between 1723-1796 I found, 56 may be counted as commercial, and 25 as owner-based (and 5 of these really are no sales catalogues but presence library catalogues and should only with care be included in the calculations). So what I have here is a very indirect picture – one that still has to be unravelled.


[1] Mears, William (seller): A catalogue of books in Greek, Latin, English, Italian, and French. Being a collection of trade, […] to be sold on Wednesday the 15th of this instant May, 1723, at W. Mear’s shop, the Lamb without Temple Bar; at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, [London]: n.p., [1723], p. 25.

[2] Johannes Braun: Bigdê kohanîm id est, Vestitus sacerdotum Hebræorum, sive Commentarius amplissimus in Exodi cap. XXVIII, ac XXIX. & Levit. cap. XVI., 2 vols., Leiden: Elzevier, Doude 1680.

[3] Adrien Reland: De religione mohammedica libri duo, 2 vols., 2nd enlarged edition, Utrecht: Broedelet 1717.

Does this look like an epistemic community to you?

Persons connected by citations and quotes (2018-11-22)

Friday No. 7, November 23nd, 2018

I have proposed that the structural forgetting I want to track might be represented by declining reference frequency and the emergence of an intermittent reference pattern. To put it simply, I take becoming structurally forgotten to consist of people being referred to less often, until they are only occasionally referred to. So far, so good. But this raises the question of the frames these patterns evolve in. Against which background might citations be counted, and frequencies be measured?

Epistemic communities are the problem, not the answer

A full-scale scan of everything there ever was written to see if somewhere inthere the names and writings of my protagonists are mentioned would not only be practically impossible, it would also be conceptually very loose. A frame around everything equals no frame at all. So I need to come down to some handier frames which provide me with a conceptually sound field against which the prominence of an individual might be meaningfully established – and also the fading into oblivion. And as the overall context which I am inquiring into is one of scholarship, learning, and letters, an obvious solution might be to say, well, these guys are part of epistemic communities, and the other members of these communities are those people who really take an interest in referring back to my protagonists. While this is obviously right, it just shifts the problem to another level – and that is: How to identify such epistemic communities? For even if I would assume that they are coextensive with disciplinary boundaries (and that would be a bold assertion to make, and I would rather not do so) this then presents me with the problem of delineating early 18th century disciplinary boundaries. And all the shifts these boundaries undergo during the next centuries, with new disciplines being formed, old ones disappearing, with every merging, splitting, and reshaping of disciplines and fields.

In such difficulties it’s always good that scientific inference works in two ways. If deduction will not work: try induction! So perhaps I might identify my epistemic communities bottom-up rather than top-down. I tried to set my database up in a way that enables such inferences from the start; the only question now left is: does that work?

Do it the other way round!

My basic assumption (one I am bold enough to make, this time) in doing so is that such epistemic communities can be established by tracking two ways of relating to other people and their thoughts: citation and quotation. Citation shall cover references to persons, while quotation shall cover references to publications. This works with publications as well as with letters, and so the letters may provide me a second perspective and perhaps a corrective to the printed works. Yet the database structure is not completely analogous: For building the letter model Iused a structure patterned to reproduce letter co-citation analysis as Gingras had done[1],so that for each letter, each person and publication referenced are only recorded once.

References via citation and quotation to different protagonists in Maandelyke Uittreksels, 02/1736

For printed publications, these results are stored in individual sub-objects, which gives me the possibility to fine-grain analysis here. In my view this becomes necessary because unlike in letters which seldom cover many different topics in depth longer works – and some of those in my database run to over a thousand pages! – may do so. So that being referenced in the same book must not inevitably mean a thematic connection also. To account for that, I tag every reference and quote not only with date and place, but also with the respective page number.   

It is now possible to use these data not only to get an overview over such connections but also to visualize them. At least from the level that I have now. So what I have done is to visualize connections from persons to persons via 1) citation references in publications; 2) quotation references in publications; 3) authoring and editing of quoted publications (whether in letters or printed works) and contributing to them; 4) citation references in letters; 5) quotation references in letters.

Wanted! Do you recognize this epistemic community?

Persons connected by citations and quotes in letters and publications, 1701-1710

The question now is: Does this look like an epistemic community to you?

It becomes a bit trickier still when the diachronic dimension is taken into account. For the patterns for the years 1701–1710 are looking quite different from the aggregated account of relations over this period – compare the video and the graphic you have just seen.

And if you then compare the 10-year-period with the 300-year-period from the header visualization, there is obviously even more difference.

As such this seems a good outcome because it points to changes in the formation ofthese epistemic communities over time, to reconfigurations and shiftingboundaries – and this was exactly what I inductively wanted to account for. But caution is of course necessary: At the moment there are only quite few data in this set, about 300 publications with references and about 400 letters. In addition to this the set is mostly focused on Adrien Reland, who because of this shows up more prominently than my other three protagonists (see the four pictures below). All these reservations aside, I think this is going to work and will provide me with the frames against which I then may come to better terms with my references. Depending on how an epistemic community should look like…

Epistemic community, 1701-1710: Position and connections of Adrien Reland

Epistemic community, 1701-1710: Position and connections of Johannes Braun

Epistemic community, 1701-1710: Position and connections of Eusèbe Renaudot

Epistemic community, 1701-1710: Position and connections of Thomas Gale

 


[1] Yves Gingras, Mapping the structure of the intellectual field using citation and co-citation analysis of correspondences, in: History of European Ideas 36 (2010), pp. 330–339.