Tag Archives: Germany

Strange Parallels

Title page of the 12th section of the third volume of supplements to the Nova Acta Eruditorum, Leipzig 1739.

Friday n° 50, September 27th, 2019

Historians always hope that those figures they have chosen may be taken as exemplary for a certain kind of person in a certain kind of historical situation. For only then the experiences of those exemplary figures – or the phenomena connected to them – may be generalized and may then be analysed in a typological perspective. If only it were not so hard to establish such claims to exemplariness.

It is thus always nice to come across sources arguing in the same direction as oneself. Even though it may of course be questioned whether any particular source is exemplary and how much trust one may put in its assertions, it feels good to hear a familiar judgement. Now just a few days ago I found such a source while coding references to my protagonists from the Nova Acta Eruditorum into my database.

In search for a certain Lakemacher…

The third tome of supplements to the Nova Acta Eruditorum, printed in 1739, contains a review of the 4th volume of Johann Gottschalk Clausing’s Jus Publicum Romanorum[1] in its sectio duodecima. This review lists many names of authors directly or indirectly connected to the publication – as the Nova Acta Eruditorum reviews in general are not at all afraid of namedropping – among which was, on the one hand, Adriaan Reland, as you see below (my sole reason for looking into this review at all).

Nova Acta Eruditorum, Supplementa, vol. 3, section 12, Leipzig 1739, p. 546.

On the other hand, there were many people which I had to look up since I encountered them for the first time during the course of the project. You would think that this should stop at some point, but no, these discourses were obviously quite flexible, and meanwhile I am sure that there are still more to come. Among these names now directly following upon Reland’s was that of a certain “Jo. Gothofr. Lakemacher[us]”, which somewhat unsurprisingly turned out to designate Johann Gottfried Lakemacher (1695–1736). Lakemacher, this was easy to find out, had been professor at the university of Helmstedt, where he had held the chairs for Greek and Oriental Languages at the philosophical faculty, as the professorial catalogue of Helmstedt university details.

… finding a model type

The Catalogus professorum of Helmstedt university gave no further information, so I looked Lakemacher up in the Deutsche Biographie, where there is an entry on him, and correspondingly in the World Biographical Information System, where he also can be found, this time with two short entries (see here and here). One of these now led me to Heinrich Döring’s (1789–1862) early 19th century dictionary of German theologians[2] where Lakemacher is dealt with in more detail in volume 2 (I–M). At the end of this biographical entry Döring explicitly drew the connection to Reland:

Lakemacher died, not yet 41 years old, on 16 March 1736, after he had just two years before published his excellent reference book on the liturgical antiquities of the Greeks, in Latin, and had chosen Reland’s Antiquitates Hebraeorum sacrae as his model in arranging the materials. Regarding the scope of his scholarship and the length of his life Lakemacher was very similar to this aforementioned Dutch philologist, who died in 1718 in his 42nd year. [3]

19th century divisions

This short passage from Döring is interesting in two respects. First, and that’s what I started with, it shows that Reland could, at least in Döring’s view, be taken as a model for a certain type of scholar, in this case the linguistically gifted, highly talented, and prematurely dying ones.  And second it proves that Döring, who was a very prolific writer of biographies (see his ADB entry), did know about Reland, who has no entry of his own in the “Gelehrte Theologen Deutschlands”.  Which seems perfectly understandable now following the above-quoted lines from his entry on Lakemacher: in Döring’s eyes, Reland as a “Dutch philologist” was neither a German nor a theologian, so he fell out of the scope of the book.

This is both an early example of 19th century nationalist classification, which repartitioned (and parochialized!) the landscape of intellectual history, and of 19th century disciplinary boundary-making, which did the same along other lines. Not that these demarcations were stable and went down unquestioned: in the end, Reland also got an entry in the German national biography (see here) the author of which classified him both as a German – at least implicitly, as his being Dutch was just passed over quietly – and a theologian. (More on this entry is to be found in this older post of mine.)

Back to Lakemacher

But how about contemporary connections between Lakemacher and Reland, who were temporally, geographically and intellectually quite close to each other, as it seems? Direct connections seem improbable in so far as Reland had died, also at the age of 41, in Utrecht on 5 February 1718, when Lakemacher was only 22 years of age and still studying at the university of Halle. In his Antiquitates Graecorum sacrae of 1734[4] however Lakemacher explicitly detailed the structural similarity mentioned by Döring:

In arranging the matters I have resorted to the same method which Adriaan Reland followed in his Antiquitates Hebraeorum sacris, for this seemed the most appropriate to me.[5]

Johann Gottfried Lakemacher, Antiquitates Graecorum Sacrae, praefatio, p. 8–9.

This may just testify to the currency of Reland’s Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum, which seems to have been widely used as a textbook for undergraduates and saw four editions between 1708 and 1741,[6] besides numerous adaptions. In the preface to Lakemacher’s first publication, the 1718 Elementa linguae arabicae, his teacher, the Helmstedt professor for Oriental languages Hermann von der Hardt (1660–1746), did not compare his pupil to Reland, although he explicitly wrote that such an accomplishment as the book should directly qualify Lakemacher for a professorial post.[7]

Structural similarities?

So maybe the similiarities are indeed structural, and point to a certain type of young scholar who in the late 17th and early 18th century might attain academic honours early and then die a sudden death. The difference between Reland and Lakemacher, from my point of view, lies in Lakemacher becoming forgotten much sooner, and much more effectively than Reland. The reasons why this would be so are not yet entirely clear to me, although I assume that part of the solution might be that Helmstedt was not Utrecht, and another part in that Lakemacher as the later scholar might have come to be seen as epigonic. But the other parts I still have to figure out.

[1] Johann Gottschalk Clausing (ed.): Jus Publicum Romanorum: Id Est Fasciculus […] Arcanorum Status Reipublicæ Romanæ […] Adornante Jo. Godeschalc. Clausingio, Consil. Lippiaco Et J. U. D.: Recensens Varios, Tum Paganorum, Judaeorum, Tum Etiam Christianorum Religionem Describentes, Praeclaos, Et Quidem. Raros Autores. Ut I. Juliani Aurelii, scriptoris rarissimi, libros tres de cognominibus Deorum Gentilium. II. Livii Historiam, de origine & turpitudine Bacchanaliorum. III. Neandri Historiam Bacchanaliorum. IV. Poggii Florentini, descriptionem fortunæ, & ruinæ Urbis Romæ. V. Dreseri, de Festis diebus Librum. VI. M. Fritschii discursum, de Judæorum post montes Caspios latente Messia. VII. Dn. de Goebeln. ex Diplomat. de Cancellariis Imperii, erutam eruditissimam Differtationem. Quorum Omnium, Penitiorem Notitiam, B. L. Proxima Post Praefationem Pagina Indepturus, Insuper Indice Rerum, Verborum Et Auctorum Dotatus Ornatusque, Lemgo: Meyer 1737.

[2] Heinrich Döring: Die gelehrten Theologen Deutschlands im achtzehnten und neunzehnten Jahrhundert: nach ihrem Leben und Wirken dargestellt von Heinrich Doering, 4 vols., Neustadt a. d. Orla: J. K. G. Wagner, 1831–1835.

[3] Heinrich Döring: Johann Gottfried Lakemacher, in: —: Die gelehrten Theologen Deutschlands im achtzehnten und neunzehnten Jahrhundert, vol. 2 (I–M), Neustadt a. d. Orla: J. K. G. Wagner 1832, pp. 223–225.

[4] Johann Gottfried Lakemacher: Antiquitates Graecorum sacrae, Helmstedt: Weygand 1734:

[5] Ibid., p. [8]–[9]: “In rebus disponendis rationem servavi eam, quam in antiquitatibus Hebraeorum sacris secutus est Hadr. Relandus. nam [sic] ea visa mihi est aptissima.”

[6] Adriaan Reland: Antiquitates sacrae veterum Hebraeorum, Utrecht: Broedelet 1708; 2nd ed. Utrecht: Broedelet 1712; 3rd ed. Utrecht: Broedelet 1717, 4th ed. Utrecht: Broedelet 1741.

[7] Hermann von der Hardt: [Preface], in: Johann Gottfried Lakemacher: Elementa linguae arabicae in quibus omnia ad solidam huius linguae cognitionem necessaria paradigmata exihibentur accedunt textus aliquot arabici et iustae analyseos exemplum, Helmstedt: Hamm 1718, pp. [1] – [6]; here p. [2].

Peak Reland

References to my protagonists in the Nova Acta Eruditorum, 1732-1776

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 peak in Reland references in the Nova Acta Eruditorum between 1737 and 1754, compared to the references to the other three protagonists.

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[1] 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

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,[2] 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.


[2] 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.

Charts and Dictionaries

My protagonists as they appear in 93 encyclopaedic works covering the 18th and 19th centuries

Sunday, 4th of August, 2019, for Friday n° 42

PS: There will be no post for Friday the 9th and 16th of August as I will be on vacation. I’ll be back with new stuff on August 23rd. Have a good time!

80.8 %

Over the last week I have been busy finalizing my sample of encyclopaedic works in which I tracked the appearances my four protagonists made over the course of almost two centuries, from 1715 until 1898, when the earliest[1] and latest works[2] from that list got printed. It now consists of 115 titles, 98 of which are bio-bibliographical dictionaries, and 17 are general encyclopaedias (such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, for instance).[3] My aim in compiling this set of dictionaries was to get a grip on the representation of scholars in general and especially my protagonists in biographical dictionaries, which – alongside other kinds of encyclopaedic titles – constituted a hughely popular medium for the communication and circulation of information in the 18th, but even more so in the 19th century. To be able to do so I have included specialized biographical dictionaries focusing on scholars and men of letters as well as general biographical dictionaries promising to include the famous men (and sometimes women) of all ages and nations. I did include re-editions, but no reprints, that is, I left out textually unchanged re-editions, because I am interesting in changes rather than continuities; but I admit that this might be a questionable decision (but you just have to cut it somewhere). There are works in five languages in my sample – Dutch, English, French, German, and Latin – to cover the main areas my inquiries so far have revolved around, although English and French works, quite to my suprise, really seem to have dominated the field. Only six titles are in Latin, five from the 18th century and one from 1819 (but that was a dictionary of Latin-writing poets, so the subject matter dictated the language of the book, I guess). That all the rest are in the vernacular testifies to the genre catering to an at least semi-popular audience from early on, at least from the middle of the 18th century. All the more interesting is that 93 out of these 115 titles I surveyed feature at least one of my protagonists, which amounts to 80.8 % of the sample, and was a lot more than I initially expected.

Some Charts for more Details

The work-in-progress charts I have given in my earlier posts on this subject (see here, here, and here) have not been rendered unusable by those I am now able to draw from the full set, which is a good thing because I don’t have to litter those blog posts with disclaimers now but most of all because this indicates that I really have captured a broader trend now, and that adding more dictionaries would perhaps add some details here or there but would not change the general message of the sample. So in breaking the somewhat unwieldy general graph for all my protagonists over the whole sample combined (as seen above) down into some more selective charts I can now throw these general trends into sharper relief than before. Alright, then, let’s have some colorful diagrams. [One disclaimer ahead: Since there are only six Latin dictionaries in the sample, I did not draw separate charts for them.]

Four National Diagrams

I have been hesitating a bit if this heading would be the right way to put it. But the longer I think of it the more I am convinced that it actually is. For what I did do in putting together the four graphs you will now see below was first of all assembling them into language groups irrespective of national delineations, which meant that French-language dictionaries from today’s Belgium or the Netherlands ended up in the French sample, and British and US dictionaries in the English sample, and – at least theoretically – dictionaries from all over central Europe in the German sample. It turned out that the last just was not the case, and that the others did not present much of a problem, with the only exception of two French-language Dutch dictionaries which took a very firm Dutch nationalist stance. In each of these graphs, therefore, the general trend is one that is points to that sharing a language obviously also meant to share certain points of view in 18th and 19th century biographical dictionary making.

German Dictionaries

My protagonists in German-language dictionaries from my sample

Let’s start with the German dictionaries, as they are chronologically the earliest. What’s interesting here is that there are three clearly separated periods visible in the diagram, each with its own peculiar characteristics. First there is a strong start in the early 18th century, and during this time all my protagonists do get quite an equal share of attention. This changes when, after a slump in the 1760s and 1770s, in the closing decades of the 18th and the opening decades of the 19th century Johannes Braun gets out of focus, and Adriaan Reland and Eusèbe Renaudot attract more attention than Thomas Gale. And finally, there is a rise towards the end of the 19th century, this time centering exclusively on Adriaan Reland, and re-introducing Eusèbe Renaudot who like Johannes Braun had disappeared from this sample since the 1810s (only that Braun did not make it back).

All three periods are most likely attributable to disciplinary rather than nationalist patterns. The first ties in with the German preeminence in the discipline called historia litteraria in the early 18th century, that is, learned biography and history of arts and sciences, as we would call it today. As the main criterion for inclusion into this was learning, not origin, all my protagonists stood a fair chance. The second seems connected to the rise of philology and Oriental studies in German universities, which focused attention on those two of my protagonists who had conducted most of their work in this direction, Reland and Renaudot; and the third is directly attributable (but this is a story for a post of its own) to the rise of Religionswissenschaft, religious studies, and the accompanying dictionaries, from the middle of the 19th century, which lead to an interest in Reland because of his Islamic studies, and to a renewed interest in Renaudot as an editor of sources from the Eastern churches. That German nationalism does not play much of a role in this part of the sample seems caused by the simple fact that none of my protagonists seemed to qualify as German to 19th century observers. In those dictionaries which had a clear focus on the German-ness of those portrayed, none of my protagonists is listed. Which is interesting as Johannes Braun was of German birth, but as he emigrated with his mother at the age of seven in 1635 and permanently settled in the Netherlands, this seems to have disqualified him from being taken into account in biographical works of this kind.

English Dictionaries

My protagonists in English-language dictionaries from my sample

English-language dictionaries are the next to rise, so they come in second. The pattern is visibly distinct from that of the German case, as it shows a steady and steep rise in the first half of the 19th century after a slow take-off in the late 18th century, with only a slight decline in the second half of the 19th century. This is connected to a characteristic of the British dictionary production which becomes pronounced in the 19th century, and that is a predilection for popular works on the one hand – or perhaps I should better say, works accessible to and catering to a broad audience – and a similar predilection for one-volume handbooks even if they frequently ran to 1000+ pages (it seems to have been important that you only needed to buy one volume). Of course there were larger series, too, titles with 10, 20, or 30 volumes, but alongside these there were plenty of their one-volume companions. That they catered to a broader audience meant that they were less oriented to specialists and more to the average educated and at least middle-class Englishman who would and could be interested in buying such a book. This in turn made them put a heavier accent on British nationals, since the average educated middle-class Englishman was supposed to be more interested in those then in reading about foreigners, however famous they might be. This explains the preponderance of Thomas Gale in this sample; and the focus on persons somehow connect with Britain explains why Johannes Braun is almost absent. He had no direct connections to anything British, whereas Adriaan Reland had been in contact with a range of British scholars and had been a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and accordingly his works had been picked up by other British scholars in time. And Eusèbe Renaudot was, although this was a bit more indirect (which might serve to explain the lower figures for him), as a member of two French Royal Academies and thus part of the scholarly elite of the n°1 rival to Britain during most of the 19th century of interest to a British public, too. That Johannes Braun did make his way in, though, was due to the sheer size of the English-language market (which included the US after all), where there were niches for many bio-bibliographical dictionaries, including some more comprehensive in scope or more specialist in approach, which would feature him.

French dictionaries

My protagonists in French-language dictionaries from my sample

Now it’s time for the French dictionaries. The pattern is interestingly similar to the English case, but different enough to tell its own story. After a moderate peak in the late 18th century – the last days of the Ancien Regime – the great rise comes a bit later than for the English-language works and reaches its peak in the 1840s and 1850s before declining more visibly towards the end of the century. As in the English case this seems mainly to be due to the preeminence of a certain form of biographical dictionary on the French market, and that was the completely comprehensive all-encompassing multi-volume series. The prime exponent of these was the Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne of the brothers Michaud, who produced 56 volumes plus another 29 supplementary volumes of this dictionary between 1811 and 1858 in Paris; but there were other rivalling and not much smaller series, too. To me this seems to have been due to the greater marketabiilty in a pan-European context of a French-language against an English-language dictionary. The British and the Americans spoke English, but all of Continental Europe knew French as a second language. This made it lucrative not only to produce handbooks for domestic use but those larger series which would only net interesting returns if enough items sold; but if enough demand was there, they would net these profits over decades. One the one hand the universal scope and the enourmous breadth of these universal biographies made it likely that almost everyone who had ever distinguished himself had a chance of ending up there; but on the other hand the French language and the production in France made a national bias quite likely, and that frequently came to pass.

And this now is what explains the surprising high frequency of Johannes Braun, who largely was absent from the previous two samples. Although Braun had had almost no ties to his native Germany and even less to the British isles, he had lived in French-speaking Lorraine for a while before moving to the Netherlands and had for several years served as the preacher of the French Calvinist church of Nijmegen. He also had published some writings in French. All of this made him appear frequently in French dictionaries, although the question of his nationality was almost always discussed in the respective entries – was he German or Dutch?

That Eusèbe Renaudot figures prominently in the French dictionaries does not come as a surprise; it is rather surprising that he does not figure even more prominently, and that Adriaan Reland outstrips him towards the end of the century. I am not yet sure about the reason for the first, but the seconds seems to be connected to French Orientalism and the colonial conquests of Northern Africa which made anyone writing about Islam and Arabic interesting for political reasons; and although Renaudot had been knowledgeable on both these subjects, he had not written about them and rather edited Coptic liturgies, which were not so much in fashion in 19th century France (what of course cannot be blamed on him in any way).

Dutch Dictionaries

My protagonists in Dutch-language dictionaries from my sample

Last but not least: the Dutch case! Well, to be honest, the number of Dutch language dictionaries is fairly low in the sample compared to English and French; I found only 13 relevant titles (and one of them does not mention any of my protagonists). But these titles are interesting nevertheless as they exemplify every type of dictionary the other cases feature – from one-volume handbooks to large series to general encyclopaedias, from specialist to popular works – and as they, being produced solely for a domestic market, from the beginning had a very strong Dutch focus. This becomes instantly visible from the diagram where Gale and Renaudot are virtually absent and Braun and Reland are the only ones really in circulation. The Dutch had no problem in assimilating Braun. And even the rise in Braun and Reland being discussed in the middle of the 19th century is directly connected with this kind of nationally framed discourse: this period saw the rise of the national biographies of the Netherlands on the one hand and the extended treatment of the religious landscape of Dutch Calvinism as a (at least officially) national creed on the other hand. And in both respects Braun and Reland came to attention.


The conclusion that seems evident to me is two-pronged. First it obviously did matter if a scholar could be fitted into a nationally framed context of reference for him to be included into the dictionaries of a language family, which seem to have been aligned closer and earlier with national leanings than one might be tempted to assume (at least I can say that for me). But second this alone was not enough: To be circulated within such national framings did not suffice to be kept in general circulation, which becomes visible in the case of Johannes Braun who dropt out being referred to in the second half of the 19th century altough he had been kept (somewhat) current by such patterns before. What was necessary to stay around in a broader way was to allow for many different connections and identifications, and that is exemplified by the jack-of-all-trades Adriaan Reland, who had had personal connections to people everywhere and disciplinary and thematical connections to a large scope of subjects and topics and thus could be referred to in many different ways, much more than any of my other protagonists.

[1] Christian Gottlieb Jöcher: Compendiöses Gelehrten-Lexicon, Leipzig: Gleditsch 1715.

[2] Groome, Francis Hindes; Patrick, David (eds.): Chambers’s biographical dictionary; the great of all times and nations, Philadelphia (Mass.): Lipincott 1898.

[3] The full list will be available here soon.

A Not-So-Regular Update: 19th Century Dutch-German Memory Crossings

Friday N°2 plus one (Saturday), October 13th, 2018

First lesson learned

Regularly scheduled updates may become difficult once family matters have to be reckoned with. As I was on the road with the kids yesterday as promised centuries ago, I subsequently deliver my update today. And promise to be punctual from now on. But now let’s move on to the interesting things.

What’s new?

As I am following my trails into the 19th century – treading on unfamiliar terrain here, so moving on cautiously – I have recently stumbled upon two interesting Dutch figures and an even more interesting memory crossings. But let me start from the beginning: Last Wednesday I proposed that references are the building blocks for structural remembrance –  or forgetting. But references do not just pop up and float around; they are made by specific people with a specific purpose each time. Which means that, to put it shortly, structural forgetting comes into being through mass omission: by references not being made, connections not being drawn, names not being dropped. And to be able to discern this, I have to make use of those – fewer – references that are still being made, and to use them like little spotlights in the dark: To draw clues about where to look next.

Now I had discovered long ago already a curious case of referencing and non-referencing of two of my protagonists: Adrien Reland (1676-1718) and Johannes Braun (Braunius, 1628-1708). While Reland had an entry in the ADB, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Braun had none. Not very interesting, where it not for the fact that there was no reason to include Reland into the ADB while Braun might well have been. For the aim of the General German Biography was to collect the biographies of the most important persons from the German-speaking areas of Europe from the early Middle Ages up until the 19th century when it was written. Now Braun was born in Kaiserslautern in 1628 and lived there until the burning of the city during the Thirty Years’ War, after which the rest of the family moved to the Netherlands. Being of German extraction, he would have made good ADB material. Reland in turn was born in 1676 in De Rijp, north of Leeuwarden in Western Frisia, and had no German family background. So, why include one but not the other? For such selections are the stuff structural forgetting is made of. One referenced, one not; one remembered, one not. Unfortunately that question cannot be answered directly, as the ADB archive is missing since decades and we frankly do not know how those who were portrayed were selected. We do know from a number of examples, however, that the editors could be quite generous in determining the ‘German-speaking area’ from which the biographies were to be drawn. What to do now? Well, when questions cannot be tackled directly, do it in a roundabout way.

Enter the first Dutch scholar

Jacob Cornelis van Slee

I already knew from other inquiries that there was one author who had portrayed some early  modern Dutch scholars for the ADB. Perhaps this would give something like a clue? And indeed it does, and this is where the first of the two 19th century Dutch scholars I announced above enters the stage. Jakob Cornelis van Slee (1841-1929), predikant in Deventer and part-time historian specialising in church history and history of knowledge with a local focus, wrote 205 entries. Most of them are about Dutchmen, and all situated within the history of church and theology – befitting a preacher, one might say. Now Slee accurately saw to it that he did not portray anyone born after 1648, the date of formal Dutch independence from the Holy Roman Empire. Which would provide good reason why he did not include Reland himself; that entry was written by Richard Hoche (1834-1906). But why did Slee not reference Braun, who was born before 1648, spent most of his life in the Netherlands, and was professor for theology at Groningen university? A question that becomes even more interesting as Braun was suspected of unorthodox views, accused of being a Spinozist, and Slee obviously had something of an interest for such people, having written a history of Socinianism in the Netherlands in 1914. And how came Slee’s connection to the ADB about? Well, as material about him is quite sparse, I am going to the sources next week and have a look at what’s left of his materials in the Stadsarchief and the Athenaeumbibliotheek Deventer. The hunt is on!

Exit Slee, enter a German scholar

Now to Richard Gottfried Hoche who wrote the ADB entry on Reland. Biographical information concerning him is even harder to come by, but he was director of a Hamburg gymnasium, then became head of the Hamburg education authority, and published some works about classical philology and Roman mathematics. He wrote 183 entries for the ADB, for the most part about philologists, teachers, and scholars from somewhere between the 16th to the 19th century. He most likely picked Reland because he also was a philologist, and Hoche had no problems in including Dutch philologists, no matter if born after 1648 (see for instance his entry on Jakob Perizonius (1651-1715), a close contact of Reland). Now Braunius was neither a teacher nor a philologist in the strict sense of the word, but he was a scholar with strong philological interests pertaining to biblical Hebrew. So Hoche could have included him in principle, but he did not. I did not yet find out if any materials from Hoche have survived, but this is on the list. And will not be forgotten.

Exit Hoche, enter the second Dutch scholar

Willem Boele Sophius Boeles

If Braun was not mentioned by both Slee and Hoche, perhaps this just to be taken as a sign that he was, already at the time, quite definitely forgotten? Perhaps this is the case. But at least one 19th century Dutch author did lose a few words about him, and that is the second Dutch scholar I promised. It is Willem Boele Sophius Boeles (1832-1902) who was president of the Leeuwarden Court of Law and part-time historian, specialising in church history and history of knowledge with a local focus (sounds familiar? Yes, he and Slee might make for a good comparison couple). He wrote zero articles for the ADB, but among his many publications there is a biographical compendium of the professors of Groningen university – where Boeles himself had studied law – from 1864 which, of course (this time), features Braun as the Groningen professor he was. Boeles later wrote about the history of Franeker university also, and about some individual scholars whose memory he wanted to keep alive. Slee had done the same for the Deventer Athenaeum, and for those individual scholars whose memory he wanted to be upheld. So Boeles will be worth a closer look too, to find out more about why 19th century Dutch scholars as these referred back to their predecessors in the way they did, and why and how Johannes Braun and Adrien Reland became tangled up in this. Work to do!