Tag Archives: Publications

Where is America?

Saturday, February 15th, 2019, for Friday no. 19

Seven years ago now Caroline Winterer asked “Where is America in the Republic of Letters?[1], and the question is still too good not to be asked again. So where is America in my Republic of Letters? Until very recently it seemed to be quite absent. Only from the middle of the 19th century onwards American publications referring to my protagonists began appearing in my data, all in the context of scholarly research. But any contemporary entanglement seemed to be missing. Perhaps this does not come as a surprise so much as the question in how far the Republic of Letters covered America, which parts of it, and when. I am not going to tackle this question here, but I can present you now with some American instances of references to my protagonists before 1800. And the nature of these references may perhaps point to why it is complicated to uncover them today.

New Haven, Connecticut, 1760/1770

“A treatise on regeneration : By Peter Van Mastricht”, Preface, p. [1]-[2].

The first instance I came across was a reworked extract from Peter von Mastricht’s (1630-1706) Theologia theoretico-practica of 1682[2] which was printed in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1769/1770.[3] The anonymous translator and compiler was obviously concerned about theological discussion points current New Haven at the time, or at least he announced his treatise this way. While he had to elaborate upon “who this Doct. Van Mastricht is, and what the particular reasons are, for publishing the following treatise at this time”,[4] he added a substantial appendix to the work to buttress von Mastricht’s arguments with other Dutch and Scottish reformed theologians, with both of which he seems to have been very familiar.

His readers most probably were not as may be seen from his explanation of the denominational attributions in his text: “It should have been observed to the reader, that by the REFORMED, or the reformed church, foreign writers mean all denominations of Protestants, except the Lutherans (with respect to whom they are called reformed) and some heretical sects that have sprung up among them, as the Socinians, Arminians, &c”[5] In this section he took, amongst others, recourse to Johannes Braun in respect to the relation of the human will and divine grace, and devoted more than one entire page to quotes from Braun’s Doctrina Foederum[6]  of 1688.[7] At the end of the treatise there is one passage which might be taken as an indication that the translator/compiler had not acquired his theological knowledge locally in Connecticut: “This publication would have been rendered more compleat by quotations from Turretine and the doings of the famous Synod of Dort, had not the publisher been disappointed about procuring these books.”[8] He seems not to have had such problems with his Braunius, unless he was quoting from his collected excerpts.

Two tentative conclusions might be suggested as hypotheses for further enquiry by this piece of evidence: First, that such theological knowledge was still imported from abroad into North America in the late 1760s/early 1770s, and second, that some of the publications contributing to it may have been available there nevertheless. Drawing any conclusions as to the supposed origin of the translator/compiler is not possible though, as the second piece of evidence will show.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1789

Inglis, “A charge delivered”, p. 4.

In 1789 Charles Inglis (1734-1816), appointed Anglican bishop of Nova Scotia in 1787, concluded his visitation of his new diocese with a treatise printed as “A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Nova Scotia.”[9] Inglis aimed at something quite similar as the translator/compiler of von Mastricht: Giving a group of people – in Inglis’ case the clergy of his diocesis – the proper arguments to solve theological and ecclesiastical problems right at hand. To do so, both utilized a quite similar stock of literature, and that is why – at present – no inference of the anonymous translator/compiler’s place of origin can be drawn from his treatise.

The Anglican bishop used a mixture of the same Calvinist authors garnished with some Presbyterians and other dissenters alongside more orthodox Anglican writers as the stock of his admonitions. A large part of his “charge” consisted of directions for a solid churchman’s library, as “[s]everal of the younger Clergy, having, at different times, expressed a desire to have a list of such Books as would be proper for a Clergyman’s Library; I have set down the following Catalogue, and hope it may be of service.”[10] And in this directions the bishop, too, included Johannes Braun, although not with one of his staple theological works but with his treatise on the vestments of the ancient Jewish temple priests.[11] And he also included Adrien Reland in his list, once directly, and once indirectly.[12]

Inglis, “A charge delivered”, p. 62: Two references to Adrien Reland.

That Inglis included Reland in his list is remarkable for two reasons: First, because it supports the notion that Reland’s 1714 work “Palaestina Illustrata” was the longer the 18th century lasted the more firmly labelled as a theological tract (which it not directly was), and second because of what Inglis himself had written down as his criteria for selecting the works on his list: “Perhaps it is needless to observe that I could have easily enlarged the number of Books under each head; those only are selected which appear to be most useful, and are easily procured; and I confine myself to such as treat of Theology, or that have an immediate connection with it.”[13]

Conclusions & hypotheses…

Not only was Reland’s work bundled up with Theology, it was also labelled as “easily procured” even in the context of Nova Scotia, as was Braun’s Vestitus Sacerdotum Hebraeorum. Inglis did not precisely state how these works would have been procured by his clergymen, and it would be tempting to try to check if they really did, if there are inventories of late 18th/early 19th century Nova Scotia Anglican clergymen available somewhere to do so. In any case the firm theological fixation of the works in question coupled them with the respective discourses, and when the issues in context of which they had been discussed faded from the debates of New England, I suppose that references to the works and via these to their authors will have followed suit. Which opens up a new theatre of investigations nevertheless.

[1] Caroline Winterer: Where is America in the Republic of Letters?, in: Modern Intellectual History 9, 2012, pp. 597–623; doi:10.1017/S1479244312000212.

[2]  Peter von Mastricht: Theoretico-Practica theologia: Qua, per Capita Theologica, pars dogmatica, elenchtica et practica, perpetua symbibasei conjugantur. Praecedunt in usum operis paraleipomena, seu Sceleton de optima concionandi method, Amsterdam: Boom & widow 1682.

[3] Anon: A treatise on regeneration : By Peter Van Mastricht, D.D. Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Francfort, Duisburgh, and Utrecht. Extracted from his system of divinity, called Theologia theoretico-practica; and faithfully translated into English; with an appendix, containing extracts from many celebrated divines of the Reformed Church, upon the same subject, New Haven: Thomas & Samuel Green 1769/1770.

[4] Ibid., p. [1].

[5] Ibid., p. 94. Emphases in the original.

[6] Johannes Braun: Doctrina foederum, sive Systema theologiae didacticæ & elencticæ, Amsterdam: Petrus van Someren, Groningen: Carel Pieman 1688.

[7] Anon: A treatise on regeneration 1770, p. 91-92.

[8] Ibid., p. 94.

[9] Charles Inglis: A charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Nova Scotia at the primary visitation holden in the town of Halifax, in the month of June 1788. By the Right Reverend Charles, Bishop of Nova Scotia, Halifax: Anthony Henry 1789.

[10] Ibid., p. 59.

[11] Ibid., p. 76; Johannes Braun: Bigdê kohanîm id est, Vestitus sacerdotum Hebræorum, sive Commentarius amplissimus in Exodi cap. XXVIII, ac XXIX. & Levit. cap. XVI. (2 vols.), Leiden: Doude/Elzevier 1680.

[12] Inglis: A charge delivered to the clergy 1789, p. 62; Thomas Lewis: Origines Hebrææ: the antiquities of the Hebrew republick : In four books. I. The origin of the Hebrews; their civil government; the constitution of the sanbedrim; forms of trial in courts of justice, &c. II. The ecclesiastical government; the consecration of the high-priests, priests, and levites. The revenue of the priesthood the sects among the Hebrews, pharisees, sadducees, essenes, &c. III. Places of worship. The use of high-places; a survey of the tabernacle, and the proseucha’s of the Hebrews. A description of the first temple from the scriptures, and of the second from the rabbinical writings. The sacred utensils. The institution of synagogues, &c. IV. The religion of the hebrews. Their sacrifices; and their libations. The burning of the red heifer, and ceremonies of purification. Their sacraments, publick fasts and festivals, &c. Design’d as an explanation of every branch of the levitical law, and of all the ceremonies and usages of the Hebrews, both civil and sacred. By Tho. Lewis, M.A (3 vols.), London: Samuel Illidge/John Hooke 1724-1725; Adrien Reland: Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata (2 vols.), Utrecht: Willem Broedelet 1714.

[13] Inglis: A charge delivered to the clergy 1789, p. 59.

Where journals lead, I shall follow…?

Saturday, December 21st, for Friday No. 11, December 20th, 2018

This is the last one! No, not the end, it’s just the last one for this year, as I’m off for vacation from – what was it – ah, now. But only until January 2nd, so come next year, come new research posts.

This should be a good time to reflect upon the state of the project so far. And to take some time to see what might still be changed for the better. So what I want to present you today is no fully-fledged piece of research but rather some thoughts on the limits of the project as it stands now.

What it’s all about

To sum it all up in a few lines again, my aim was (and is!) to work out the patterns that emerge as remembrance fades and structural forgetting sets in. More precisely, I wanted to show these patterns for the societal subset of what I call the academic metier, and for humanities’ scholars whose memory faded. To do so, I follow four specific scholars – Thomas Gale of Cambridge, Johannes Braun of Groningen, Adrien Reland of Utrecht, and Eusèbe Renaudot of Paris – and track the frequency of references to them across the centuries after their deaths. For when such references dwindle and their pattern changes from one of being frequently referenced to one of only intermittently being referenced, structural forgetting can be actually made visible.

This was my basic assumption at least, and I still think that it is sound in principle. I am using a relational database and network visualization program, NodeGoat, to gather my data and visualize them diachronically, and by now patterns really do start to emerge. The question now is: Which patterns are these?

References and framing categories

I already hinted at the problem of measuring the frequency of references to a dead scholar. Of course citations and quotations can be counted – but within which kind of frame? For early modern scholarly communication, there are basically three categories of materials still available for me: letters; publications (both manuscript and print); and journals. Everything else is either no longer extant or not available in accessible format. Perhaps auction catalogues provide something like a three-point-fifth category – they survive as printed books, so basically they are publications – but that is about it.


Now each of these categories is tricky. Letters only survive in some cases, and in those cases then most often too many survive to make it possible to scan them all for metadata such as “mentions person X”. There are projects like Early Modern Letters Online, ePistolarium, Mapping the Republic of Letters, Electronic Enlightenment and such, but they either do not fit my timeframe or do not provide the information I am looking for. So while it is crucial to keep an eye on letters wherever possible, I cannot do so in a systematic way. Which means that I will only with great care be able to extract intermittent reference patterns from this part of my data set.


Publications do survive in massive numbers, and in massive numbers are electronically available and searchable by now. Countless digitization projects have made available masses of material. Yet the masses produced are always larger still. There is still so much out there which is not digitized, and which I therefore would have to search in a library and go through manually, that I will not be able to establish a suitable framework for my reference patterns this way, too. Even if I reduced my research to a certain discipline, area, or language, it would still be an insurmountable task. And most of it would be very frustrating, too, because the majority of these books – by far! – would not contain any references to my four protagonists (and presumably the more so as I advance in time towards today). So while I will use all means of automatically extracting information from publications that there are to find references to my protagonists where I don’t expect them, I cannot claim to establish something like a representative sample this way.


Which leaves me with journals, as it seems. And journals certainly do have many advantages compared to my other two sources types. First of all, they do survive in sufficiently complete form as to make general inferences possible. We know with great certainty which journals there were, and most of them survive. Second, they have been subject of lots of research by now, so that their relative importance and their outreach can be determined at least fairly well, and their workings and peculiarities are known to a large extent. Third, they are – at least the larger and more important ones – available in good editions, either in print or digitally, and thus searchable (via index or query). So I can draw up a sample of important journals for the fields, times, and places I am looking at, go through these journals, and have a data set which allows me to really infer reference frequencies for the first time. Or, given the only very partially comparable character of these early modern and 19th century learned journals, several data sets most probably. Reference spikes in the journals then would point me to the relevant developments in the reception of my protagonists.


This does work. I found John Swinton this way (Philosophical Transactions are already done up to 1800, which was easier as thought because they only contain very few references of interest to me, fewer even than I thought they might). And, to give a less obvious example, I found the dead predikanten of the 1730s this way who by their obituaries gave occasion to reference Johannes Braun.

Everything alright, then? I frankly don’t know. It somehow doesn’t feel alright. I can only do a certain number of important journals, and I am not completely comfortable in just going where they point me. It feels a bit like being told what to do. And I am not sure if I want my enquiries directed by anonymous journalists three centuries gone. Well, time to think about it.

Have a good time, and see you next year!