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Not Selling so Well: The Books of Thomas Gale

Camden’s Britannia and Anglica Normannica with manuscript additions by Thomas and Roger Gale in Thomas II Osborne’s sales catalogue for the spring of 1760

Friday n° 39, July 11th, 2019

Thomas Gale sired Roger Gale, and unto him passed on his books as he deceased, and Roger put them to good use, and all was well. Roger Gale sired Roger Henry Gale, and unto him passed on his books as he deceased, and Roger Henry put them on the market, and all was not so well anymore.

And that’s where today’s story begins. As I have already indicated in another post, Roger Gale (1672–1744) relied rather heavily on the library and notes he inherited from his father Thomas Gale, except from those volumes which Thomas Gale himself donated to Oxford and Cambridge. Roger Gale could use them very well, as they suited his own interests in Antiquarianism, which he pursued besides his political career as MP and Commissioner of the Excise and his duties as an estate proprietor in Scruton, Yorkshire. I did not know until now what became of these books when Roger Gale himself died in 1744 and passed his estate on to his son Roger Henry Gale (1710–1768), who did not share in the learned interests of his father.

Books on Sale

But ploughing diligently through heaps of auction catalogues I think I may now have assembled enough clues to bring a bit of light into the matter. For in his catalogue for the first half of 1760 the London bookseller Thomas II Osborne (c.1704–1767) advertised quite some books which were explicitly described as being heavily annotated by the hands of Thomas and/or Roger Gale:[1]

  • p. 12: “338 Herodotus, Gr. & Lat. cum multis addition. MSS. in margin. a T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1608”
  • p. 27: “735 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”
  • p. 27: “736 [Camdeni] Anglica Normannica, &c. cum multis addition. MSS. a Roger Gale, 1l 1s Francof. 1602”
  • p. 27: “732 Matthaei Westmonast. Flores Histor. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Viri Erud. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 42: “1272 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Rom. 1587”
  • p. 51: “1570 Budaei & al. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. inferfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 3l 3s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • p. 51: “1593 Idem [= Gesneri Bibliotheca Universalis Tiguri 1545], 2 vol. interfol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Tho. Gale, 1l 1s”
  • p. 52: “1621 Suidae Lexicon, Gr. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Gale, 2l 2s Basil. apud. Froben. 1544”
  • p. 186: “6374 Rawlinson’s English Topographer,[2] 2 vol. with MSS. Additions [by] Mr. [Roger, TW] Gale, interleaved, 1l 1s”

As these had not been part of Osborne’s catalogues before,[3] the sale must have taken place sometime around the second half of 1759, before the first catalogue for 1760 went to the press, but after the second catalogue for 1759 saw print.[4] Now Osborne was notorious for on the one hand running the largest second-hand book store in London, with a regular stock of some 14.000 titles, but also for not being able to judge any of the volumes on his shelves for their content. He nevertheless has been described as having a good intuition when it came to valuing his stock.[5] This lead him to label the nine volumes quoted above, all of which I take to be coming from the library of the late Roger Gale, 17 £ 11 shilling in total, quite a heavy sum in 1760.

Books still on Sale…

Perhaps too heavy a sum for his customers, for in 1761 he still had six of these volumes on his list:[6]

  • S. 23: “586 Herodotus, Gr. & Lat. cum multis addition. Mss. in margine, a T. Gale, 1l 11s 6d ib. [=Frankfurt] 1608”
  • S. 28: “741 Budaei & ak. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. interfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 3l 3s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 28: “765 Idem [=Gesneri Bibliotheca Universalis], 2 vol. interfol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Tho. Gale, 1l 1s [Zürich 1545]”
  • S. 29: “794 Suidae Lexicon, Gr. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Gale, 2l 2s Basil. apud Froben. 1544”
  • S. 31: “888 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607
  • S. 58: “1797 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 5l 5s Rom. 1587”

And, surprisingly, Osborne now listed yet another title with manuscript annotations by Gale.[7]

  • S. 26: “675 Idem [=Platonis Opera omnia], Graece, cum var. Observat. Mss. in margine T. Gale, 2l 2s ib. [=Basel] 1534”

Moreover, the three titles which had been sold from the original list were those featuring annotations by Roger Gale, which may indicate that Thomas Gale’s notes did not spark so much interest amongst contemporary scholars as had been expected:

  • p. 27: “736 [Camdeni] Anglica Normannica, &c. cum multis addition. MSS. a Roger Gale, 1l 1s Francof. 1602”
  • p. 27: “732 Matthaei Westmonast. Flores Histor. cum multis addition. MSS. in margine a Viri Erud. Gale, 1l 11s 6d Francof. 1601”
  • p. 186: “6374 Rawlinson’s English Topographer, 2 vol. with MSS. Additions [by] Mr. [Roger, TW] Gale, interleaved, 1l 1s”

Together these three volumes accounted for 3 £ 13 shilling, while the addition of the annotated Plato was valued at 2 £ 2 shilling, so that Osborne still had Gale-annotated tiles totalling exactly 16 £ in his books. Things eventually got better, though. In 1762 the catalogue noted only three leftovers from the original list (which still amounts to over 40% of it):[8]

  • S. 8: “239 Budaei & al. Dictionarium, Gr. & Lat. interfol. in 4 vol. cum multis addition. MSS. per Gale, 2l 12s 6d ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 19: “646 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in Margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”
  • S. 44: “1380 Vetus Testamentum juxta Septuaginta, Gr. cum multis additionib. MSS. a Tho. Gale, 4l 4s Rom. 1587

Value for Money?

Those titles together totalled only 7 £ 17 shilling now, slightly below 50% of the original list’s value, but that was due to a change in mind concerning the most heavily priced item on the list, the 1587 Septuagint with Gale’s additions. Having for two years not sold it for the originally estimated 5 £ 5 shillings, Osborne cut down the price by 20% and offered it for 4 £ 4 shilling now.

How much of a premium was accorded Gale’s annotations by Osborne can for the first time be seen directly in the 1762 catalogue, too, as it listed after n° 239, Guillaume Budé’s (1480–1540) Greek-Latin dictionary,[9] a comparable item: “240 Idem, absque addition. MSS. 10s 6d Basil. 1563”,[10] which was thought to fetch only about one fifth of that which once belonged to, and was written in by, the dean of York. Gale’s notes thus seem to have served, at least for this particular item, to quintuple its value – a bit over the top, I’d say (but obviously not worth changing, this price stayed the same). An unknown scholar’s annotations for the third copy on the list only served to raise the price by 4 shilling sixpence. A similar, but not as drastic, case is Conrad Gesner’s (1516–1565) Bibliotheca Universalis,[11] which in the 1759 catalogue was 1l 1 shilling with Gale’s additions and 10 shilling sixpence without, or half the price.

Perhaps the price cut for the Septuagint also influenced the estimate put to yet another Gale title to appear on the list in 1762, this time annotated by Roger Gale, bringing the total up to four items totalling 8 £ 2 shilling:[12]

  • S. 199: “7109 Knowledge of Medals, with MSS. Observations and Additions by Roger Gale, 5s 1715”

Patterns of Sale vs. Patterns of Reference

What becomes visible here is an interesting pattern of Osborne’s in putting his annotated Gale volumes on the market, although these conclusions need to be taken as preliminary, as the evidence is a bit shaky; not all of Osborne’s catalogues have survived.[13] But from what I have seen and related above, it looks like as if Osborne had not first of all not put ‘Roger Gale, Esq, lately deceased’ or something the like on the title page of his next catalogue when he purchased the books, but had rather been content with having them encompassed by “And of several other Eminent Genlemen, lately deceased”.[14] As Thomas Gale in 1760, when the sale would begin, was dead for 58 years, and his son Roger also for 16 years already, this seems quite sensible. Their deaths would not have been fresh in the memory of the contemporaries anymore, and thus their names would probably only have drawn a very limited circle of customers. This might also have been caused by the dimensions of the sale, which I don’t know. Only the annotated volumes are easily singled out, as other volumes which might have belonged to father or son Gale are not marked in the catalogue and thus not identifiable.

But even the nine annotated volumes Osborne put on sale between 1760 and 1762 will in all likelihood not have been all that Thomas Gale had annotated and left to his son, or that Roger Gale had annotated with his own hands. Which tempts me to think that only a part of the library had been sold, perhaps to make room, and not everything, for instance no manuscript volumes. And from the adding of new items each time others had been sold, it seems that Osborne had put some of them in store, and only offered them one after the other, although I’m not really sure what the reason for this would have been. From the rather long drawn-out sales processes it does not look like as if he would have spoiled the market in releasing too many at once. For in 1762 the story was not yet at its end.

When Osborne announced that from now on his catalogues would employ a new system to make better accessible to his customers in 1766, two old acquaintances showed up again:[15]

  • S. 12: “434 [Budaei] Idem [=Constantini & al. Lexicon, Gr. Lat. 2 vol.], interfol. cum addition. MSS. Gale, 4 vol. 2l 2s ib. [=Basel] 1565”
  • S. 15: “548 [Camdeni Britanniae] cum tab. geo. & addit. MSS. in margine a J. [sic, =T.?] Gale, 1l 1s ib. [=London] 1607”

That is, if the second one, the edition of William Camden’s (1551–1623) Britannia,[16] is the same as noted in Osborne’s catalogues for the first time in 1759 as “735 Camdeni Britannia, cum addition. MSS. in margine a Tho. Gale, 1l 1s Lond. 1607”.[17] I must confess that I would rather take the “J.” in the 1766 catalogue as a misprint for “T.” than believe that the Baptist preacher and theologian John Gale (1680–1721) who never displayed any interest in historical geography had annotated a copy of the same edition of Camden’s work as his not-related namesake, the dean of York. Osborne’s catalogues were shoddy work more often than not, aiming at quick profit rather than at scholarly exactitude, and both Drs Gale were mistaken for each other sometimes, the more often the longer both were dead. Unless proven wrong by other sources, I will settle for this item to be that which I already know. Which leaves me with two of the nine Gale-annotated volumes put on sale by Thomas Osborne still being unsold six years later, one of them being the Budé dictionary which I already suspected to have been slightly overrated in accessing its price. Well, at least Osborne had managed to get rid of the Septuagint, although I don’t know how much it fetched in the end.

Remembrance, fading

In 1759 Thomas Osborne did not think either Gale sr. nor jr. suitable as headline figures to promote the sales catalogue for the upcoming year, although he had just bought at least a part of their library. He did nevertheless account their manuscript additions to some of the books he had acquired as increasing their worth considerably, but realising this added value proved to be a quite long drawn-out process in the course of which Osborne at least once had to correct overly optimistic calculations. Taking these book market conjunctures as indicative of the larger conjunctures in the scholarly community, at least for the London of the 1760s I can say that Thomas Gale’s star had sunken, though not yet disappeared. His son’s name obviously guaranteed a faster turnaround of books annotated from his, Roger Gale’s, hand, although at lower overall prices – what may be directly related to the lesser relative distance in time of Roger, who was but 14 years dead in 1760, compared to Thomas, whose death had befallen 58 years ago, to the catalogue’s readers. If this was the case, though, obviously Thomas Gale’s scholarly achievements did not compensate for the chronological distance, or only to a group of people too small to make much of a difference. Which in turn might be taken to say something interesting concerning the balance of different factors in social memories active in processes of getting structurally forgotten, but this is something I’ll still have to think about.   


[1] Osborne, Thomas: A catalogue of the libraries of that learned antiquarian Edmund Sawyer, Esq; (Late one of the Masters of the High Court of Chancery;) And of several other Eminent Genlemen, lately deceased; Containing many Thousand Volumes of the most approved Authors in all Languages, Arts and Science. […] Which will begin to be sold on the first day of January 1760, and continue selling for one year, (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, without any Abatement, and for Ready Money only) at T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn. Where may be had Money for any Library or Parcel of Books, Prints, or Manuscripts. Catalogues may be had of the Booksellers in all the chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. N.B. To be disposed of, some curious Manuscript Sermons of an eminent Divine, lately deceased, which will be warranted Originals, [London], [1759/60]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3316875388.

[2] Most likely this title: Richard Rawlinson: The english topographer: or, an historical account, (as far as can be Collected from Printed Books and Manuscripts) of all the pieces that have been written relating to the antiquities, natural history, or topographical description of any part of England. Alphabetically digested, and illustrated with the Draughts of several very Curious old seals, exactly Engraven from their respective Originals. By an impartial hand, London: printed for T. Jauncy at the Angel without Temple-Bar, 1720. The manuscript additions thus would have to be of Roger Gale’s hand, as Thomas Gale was 18 years dead when the book appeared in print.

[3] Cf. the 1758 catalogue: T. Osborne, J. Shipton. The third part of a catalogue of the large and valuable stock of bound books of T. Osborne and J. Shipton, (the Partnership being amicably Dissolved) Which will be sold by auction, In the Great Room up One Pair of Stairs, at the East End of Exeter-Change, on Monday the 6th of March, and be continued every Evening, exactly at Six O’Clock, till Saturday, March the 25th. The books may be viewed on Wednesday the 1st of March, and every Day after, from Ten to Two O’Clock, till the Day of Sale. Catalogues may be had of the Booksellers of Oxford, Cambridge, and Eton, at T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn, W. Shropshire’s Bookseller in New Bond-Street, and at the Auction-Room. Price Six-Pence. The Fourth Part of this Catalogue, containing a curious Collection of Books, Prints, Drawings, &c. by the most eminent Masters, will positively begin selling on Monday, April 3d, and the following Evenings. [London]: n.p., [1758]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW116632955.

[4] This is however a bit difficult to determine exactly, as only one catalogue each from 1758 and 1759 has been accessible to me so far.

[5]Brack, O. M. 2008 “Osborne, Thomas (bap. 1704?, d. 1767), bookseller.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 9 Jul. 2019. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-20885.

[6] Osborne, Thomas. A catalogue for the year 1761, of the libraries of the Hon. Augustus George Egerland, The Learned and Eminent Physician Dr. George Hepburn, of King’s Lynn in Norfolk; Dr. Edward Hody, Physician to St. George’s Hospital; and many other Gentlemen, lately deceased; containing many Thousand Volumes of the most Scarce and Valuable Books, in all Languages. Great Numbers on Large Paper, bound in Morocco and Russia Leather, and other rich Bindings. […] Which will begin to be sold this day (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for Ready Money only) and will continue daily selling ’till the First of January 1762. At T. Osborne’s in Gray’s-Inn. Catalogues may be had at all the Chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. Where may be had Money for any Library or Parcel of Books, Prints or Manuscripts, [London] [1761. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3325362744.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Osborne, Thomas. The first volume of a catalogue of the libraries of the Rev. Mr. Dongworth, of Durham, Dr. Green, of Spalding, Henry Anderson, Esq; of the Temple, And many other Gentlemen, lately deceascd; Consisting of Near One Hundred Thousand Volumes, Of the most Scarce and Valuable Books,) Prints, Books of Prints, and Manuscripts, In all Languages, Arts and Sciences: Great Numbers on large Paper, most elegantly bound in the richest Bindings. Which will begin to be sold this Day (the lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for Ready Money only) and, for the Conveniency of Gentlemen abroad, will continue daily selling ’till the First of January 1763. At T. Osborne’s, in Gray’s Inn. Catalogues may be had at all the Chief Cities and noted Towns in Europe, and at the Place of Sale. Where may be had Money for any Library or parcel of Books, Prints or Manuscripts. The most valuable Manuscript Sermons of the late Reverend Mr. Dongworth are to be disposed of. [London]: n.p., [1762]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale Document Number: CW3316649518

[9] Guillaume Budé et al.: Lexikon Hellēnorōmaikon, Hoc est, Dictionarivm Graecolatinum : supra omnes editiones postremo Nvnc Hoc Anno Ex Variis Et multis praestantioribus linguae Græcæ authoribus, commentarijs, thesauris & accesionibus, non duntaxat allegationum, sed etiam plurimarum uocum simplicium auctario locupletatum, illustratum & emendatum, Basel: Henricpetri 1565.

[10] Ibid, p. 8.

[11] Conrad Gesner: Bibliotheca vniversalis, siue catalogus omnium scriptorum locupletissimus, in tribus linguis, Latina, Graeca et Hebraica: extantium et non extantium, ueterum et recentiorum in hunc usque diem, doctorum et indoctorum, publicatorum et in bibliothecis latentium, Zürich: Froschauer 1545.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Brack 2008.

[14] Osborne [1759/1760], title.

[15] Osborne, Thomas. A catalogue of a farther part of the stock of T. Osborne, Bookseller, in Gray’s-Inn. Vol. IIId, for the year 1766. (The lowest Prices printed in the Catalogue, for ready Money only.) Which will be selling every day (Sundays excepted) to the First of January 1767. Containing the largest most curious and valuable Collection of Books, in all Languages, Manuscripts, Prints, Books of Prints and Drawings, that have been exposed to Sale for many years […] Many of the Books are on the larger Paper, being the Libraries of the following Gentlemen, and many others deceased, Viz. Dr. James Sherrard, and his brother the Consul at Smyrna. The Hon. Adm. Lestock […]. Wm. Eyre, Esq; Serjeant at Law. The Hon. Gen. Murray. Mr. Alderman Dickenson, Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means. The Rev. Mr. Bryan, Editor of Plutarch, at the Recommendation of Dr. Hare, Bishop of Chichester. Dr. Monk of Walthamstow. Samuel Berkley, Esq; one of the Benchers of the Hon. Society of Gray’s-Inn. As likewise, the Rev. Mr. Noble, Afternoon Preacher to the said Society. […] The Catalogue is made in a New Method, so that any Person, at any Time, may find out any Book, &c., they may want. […] Vol. 3. [London], [1766]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online, Gale Document Number: CW3306652960.

[16] William Camden: Britannia Sive Florentissimorum Regnorum Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, Et Insularum adiacentium ex intima antiquitate Chorographica descriptio, London: Bishop & Norton 1607.

[17] Osborne [1759], p. 27.

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.

Letters…

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…

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.

Journals…

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.

Journals?

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!