Tag Archives: Thomas Gale

A Genuine and Curious Library

Snippet from the title page of the auction catalogue of Samuel Gale’s Library, London 1754

Saturday, June 8th, 2019, for Friday n° 34

How to find something – again

After having paused for a short vacation, I returned just to rediscover among my notes something I had already found three years ago but not noted for its significance. And because of that I obviously completely forgot about it, only to pick it up again now as I was busy updating my list of 18th century English auction catalogues (as I already have discussed here). It is, surprise, surprise, an auction catalogue also. And a rather small one at that, listing only 445 books to be auctioned off in three night’s sales, from Monday, 11th of February 1754, until Wednesday the 13th

A special kind of catalogue

But it’s not just any old catalogue because the provenance of the library in question is known, and it belong to no one else than Samuel Gale (1682-1754), second son of Thomas Gale, one of my protagonists.[1] And it is special in that the copy from the Bodleian library (available in digitized form both via Eighteenth Century Collections Online and via GoogleBooks – I’ve checked both, they are taken from the same original) does also list the sales prices for many of these items on additional leaves, so it is possible to determine which books sold, and for which prices. Unfortunately, the author of these notes did not calculate the total of the sale’s worth, but as he listed each item by pound, shillings, and pence this is quite easy to do. Of the 445 books listed in the printed catalogue, 397 are accorded prices, which add up to a total of 168 pounds and 13 shillings (approximately 1120 reichstaler, or 1870 Dutch gilders), showing the collection to be small but quite valuable.

I must confess I don’t know exactly why the 48 volumes without prices don’t have them. They come in four blocks: volumes 147-158 of the second night’s sale, and volumes 1-7, 61-80, and 134-142 of the third night’s sale. Maybe they were dealt with separately on another account, were set aside for special customers, or were dropped from the auction for some reasons. In themselves the titles listed in these blocks do not differ significantly from the rest of the catalogue in their composition, so the question remains open – which is a pity, because it affects to a small part what interests me most about this document: what it can say about the circulation of the works of my protagonists, and thus about one aspect of them being remembered structurally – or forgotten.

My protagonists in this library

So which clues to this does this library give? Here’s the list of titles related to my protagonists it contained in the order they are listed in the catalogue:

  • p. 8: “45 Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon, 5 vol. 1722 [T. Hearne]”
  • p. 9: “83 Relandi Antiq. Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum – Rerum Anglicarum, Lib. 5. Auct. G. Neubrigensis Antv. 1567 – Rau Ara Ubiorum – Traj. ad. Rhen. 1738”
  • p. 9: “95 Antonini Iter Britannicarum Comment. T. Gale 1709”
  • p. 11: “148 Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veteres T. Gale, 3 vol. Oxon. 1684”
  • p. 11: “7 Leland de Scriptoribus, 2 vol. in 1. – Florus Anglicus – Reland de Nummis Samaritan – De Cultu ac Usu Luminum Antiquorum”
  • p. 12: “27 Relandus de Religione Mohammedica Traj. ad. Rh. – de Spoliis Templi – ib. 1716”
  • p. 12: “59 Opuscula Mythologica, Physica & Ethica, Gr. & Lat. Amst. 1688”

Samuel Gale owned at least some works written by my protagonists; yet not of all four of them. He did own a number of works by his father Thomas Gale, even if not as many as might have been expected: four in total. Yet only two of these had been published in his lifetime, while the other two had been published posthumously – one, the commentary on the itinerary of Antoninus, by his Samuel Gale’s elder brother Robert Gale, and the other, the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun, by the prolific Antiquarian scholar Thomas Hearne on the instigation and with the continuous support of Robert Gale.

While Samuel Gale owned no works by either Johannes Braun or Eusèbe Renaudot, he did however own three books containing titles by Adriaan Reland. The interesting thing about these three books is now that all of these consisted of several titles bound together. Twice Reland appears bound together with titles of other authors, although there is no evident connection between the titles making up the respective books, and once two Reland titles have been bound together: the first edition of De religione mahomedica (Utrecht 1705) and the treatise on the spoils looted from the temple of Jerusalem as displayed on the triumphal arch of Titus in Rome (Utrecht 1716). Apart from them stemming from the same author, there is not much of a connection between these two titles also.

I am not sure what the nature of these Reland titles being bundled up together with other materials means in the context of this special library, but I am tempted to suppose that it perhaps meant that these were materials actually used by Samuel Gale. This does however not manifest in the prices they fetched, which were rather a bit on the low side compared to the rest of the catalogue:

  • p. 9: “83 Relandi Antiq. Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum – Rerum Anglicarum, Lib. 5. Auct. G. Neubrigensis Antv. 1567 – Rau Ara Ubiorum – Traj. ad. Rhen. 1738“: sold for three shillings, six pence.
  • p. 11: “7 Leland de Scriptoribus, 2 vol. in 1. – Florus Anglicus – Reland de Nummis Samaritan – De Cultu ac Usu Luminum Antiquorum”: no price noted, one of the 48 titles the sale condition of is unclear.
  • p. 12: “27 Relandus de Religione Mohammedica Traj. ad. Rh. – de Spoliis Templi – ib. 1716”: sold for four shillings.

Compared to the items connected to Thomas Gale, this however seems not to be something special to Reland’s works, as they sold in exactly the same price range.

  • p. 8: “45 Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon, 5 vol. 1722 [T. Hearne]”: sold for four shillings.
  • p. 9: “95 Antonini Iter Britannicarum Comment. T. Gale 1709”: sold for three shillings.
  • p. 11: “148 Rerum Anglicarum Scriptores Veteres T. Gale, 3 vol. Oxon. 1684”: no price noted, one of the 48 titles the sale condition of is unclear.
  • p. 12: “59 Opuscula Mythologica, Physica & Ethica, Gr. & Lat. Amst. 1688”: sold for three shillings.

Preliminary conclusions

Now what does this tell me about the circulation of my protagonists, and thus about them being structurally remembered or forgotten? At first, it points to them being in circulation: At least five of the seven volumes were sold and found new owners. They also were obviously not very rare, as the prices they sold for were quite moderate. While this is not very astounding looking at the works of Thomas Gale in a British context, it is a bit more surprising when looking at Adriaan Reland, testifying to the impact of his works on the book market. Interestingly Samuel Gale owned none of the books of Johannes Braun which dealt with the same topics as those of Reland’s works he had – Jewish antiquity – which perhaps may be a case in point to conclude that Braun’s circulation was much more limited. Even more interesting is the complete absence of Renaudot’s works as they would have fitted in quite well with Gale’s overall interests as displayed by the catalogue. This fits in with Renaudot obviously being not much current on the British market in the first half of the 18th century, but why that would be so I have no clear idea at the moment. So I’ll need more catalogues still: to be continued…


[1] Langford, Abraham: A catalogue of the genuine and curious library of that learned antiquary Samuel Gale, Esq; … consisting chiefly of books of antiquities and English history. … which will be sold by auction, by Mr. Langford, … on Monday the 11th of this instant February 1754, … [London]: n.p., [1754].

How Books circulate

Thomas Gale’s non-Britain printed titles in an English auction catalogue

Friday n° 32, May 24th, 2019

As good as new

The early modern learned book was, for most of its lifetime, a second-hand book. There are a number of reasons for this: Editions, especially first editions (and many of these books never made it into a second edition) were usually done in small print runs, so that there not so many exemplars per title around from the start. The public or institutional library landscape was underdeveloped, and even if an institutional library existed in reach of a given scholar, this did not mean that access was without problems. Often libraries would not loan, and something like today’s interlibrary loan systems was not even invented. And with the concept of scientific progress not as radically conceptualized as today, scholarly results kept their validity for a longer time, and with them the books which they were laid down in. So if a given title achieved a certain notoriety, and the generic 18th century scholar wanted to use it, the best option was to buy. And as there likely were no new copies around anymore, especially if some years had already passed since it had been printed, the best option to buy was to buy second-hand. This is important in discussing processes of fading from the memory of the scientific community because one might easily argue that as long as that community bought your books, it didn’t forget you. So to constantly be in the trade, that is, appearing on the lists of the auction catalogues, would equal being in circulation and constant demand, and thus rather not structurally forgotten.

The Used Book Market

There was a lively trade in used scholarly books which facilitated this kind of book circulation, which in turn was stabilized by the economic circumstances in which 18th century scholarship existed. Given the fact that social welfare systems and pension funds were underdeveloped, too, a well-stocked library represented a considerable stock of capital which could be liquidated if need be. In cases of death, poverty, exile, or persecution by authorities, scholarly libraries were sold off, voluntarily or involuntarily, in irregular intervals.

This usually happened in form of large-scale book auctions, which, depending on the size of the library involved, could take weeks and months until completed. For the purpose of these auctions catalogues of the items on sale were printed and distributed far and wide to attract potential customers which – as the overall density of scholars was low for most places in Europe – might also be scattered widely. Boring as they are to the reader, consisting of nothing than lists of titles, dates, sometimes prizes and small descriptions in case a volume sported some extras such as illustrations or manuscript annotations, these catalogues contain valuable information about which kind of information was available at a given time at a given place in early modern Europe.

Library auction catalogues have survived in great quantities but are only slowly beginning to be made available for research purposes, so the question always is how to build a instructive sample for a given research question. One possibility which I am making use of is to go via Eighteenth Century Collections Online (link) because these digitized materials are full-text searchable.

Used Books, Forgetting…

Now what do British auction catalogues reveal about the reference patterns connected to my four protagonists? There are a number of hypotheses which may be tested by such a sample.

Hypothesis I

First, the British market for used scholarly books vastly expanded coupled with the economic and politic rise of the country during the 18th century, and that meant that to meet demand literature had to be imported on a large scale from the continent. Already in 1702 sales catalogues advertised books “lately brought from France and Holland” stemming from prestigious former owners such as Johan de Wit (1662-1701) and Constantijn Huygens (1628-1697).[1] This might lead to a large proportion of continentally printed books in these catalogues, which would favour my three non-British protagonists Braun, Reland, and Renaudot.

Hypothesis II

But, second, of course there were British scholars also whose works were printed in Oxford, Cambridge, and London; so this might lead to a greater number of locally produced works, favouring the non-continental scholar amongst the four, Thomas Gale.   

Hypotheses III

Third, it seems likely that there was an incubation phase between a book being bought as it came from press and binder and between this book being re-sold at the auction of the library, namely the time in which the library’s owner used his books himself. Then my protagonist’s books would only hit the second-hand market with a delay of several years, favouring those works printed earlier. On the other hand, sudden death was an ever-present risk at the time, so that it might well be the case that owners died soon after buying a particular book, setting it free again.

Hypothesis IV

Fourth, geographical proximity between the Netherlands and Britain might facilitate the import of Dutch books, which might result in giving Reland and Braun a comparative advantage on the British market compared to Eusèbe Renaudot from France.

… and: testing!

To put these assumptions to the test I am currently bolstering up those data I already gathered three years ago on Reland’s and Braun’s books in auction catalogues in ECCO with those for Gale and Renaudot also. This is a time-consuming process even with the advantage of conducting full-text searches, but I can give at least some preliminary sketches for the situation in the first decades of the 18th century. What you see here is the statistical breakdown of 21 auction catalogues listing works by my protagonists, from the first one I have found so far (appearing in 1720) until the year 1740. That the number of catalogues matches the years is coincidental, as I for some years I did not yet find any matching results, and two or three for others. While this is in no way a statistically representative sample it nevertheless shows some interesting trends.

The works of Braun, Gale, Reland, and Renaudot in 21 British auction catalogues between 1720 and 1740

H I: Rather not…

First, the import of books from the continent obviously really favoured one of my continental protagonists, and this was Adriaan Reland, whose books got the second most listings of all four: 39 in total.

H II: …also not really.

But, second, local origin seems to have beaten it, because Thomas Gale scored first place with 54 listings of his works in total in these 21 catalogues. Or the reason for this might, at least partly, be that Gale’s books were on average older than Reland’s, as Gale had started publishing in the mid-1670s when Reland was just born.

H III: Not very likely…

But, third, time seems not to have been the all-important factor, otherwise Gale and Braun as the elder scholars who began publishing earlier would be scoring higher than Reland and Renaudot who both published much later. And although Renaudot is, with only seven listings of works by him in these 21 catalogues, the scholar least referred in terms of this sample, the publication date of his works is likely not the issue here, because six of these seven listings go to the same work, his 1718 Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine de deux voyageurs mahométans,[2] or even its 1733 English translation.

H IV: …and not decisive, too.

Fourth, geographical proximity also seems not to be the decisive factor. Although Renaudot’s works are listed only a couple of times, the catalogues do frequently list other French and Latin titles printed in France. In fact, two of Thomas Gale’s works which circulated on the British second hand market had been printed abroad, in Paris[3] and Amsterdam[4]. And between the two scholars whose works originated from Dutch presses, Braun and Reland, the difference is virtually as large as that between Reland and Renaudot – where Renaudot scored seven listings, Braun scored eight.

To be continued! (In two weeks, though)

So if none of the four hypotheses I wanted to test by this first small sample has real explanatory power, what has? And does this mean that Renaudot and Braun were comparatively much more forgotten than Gale and Reland, at least within the reference frame of the British used book trade? Well, this will become clearer in two weeks’ time, I hope – I do have some days off next week, so there will be no Research weekly on May 31st. Gives me more time to complete the sample, so let’s see what this will show, then.


[1] Catalogue of books, in Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French. Collected chiefly from the libraries of John de Wit, Constantin Huygens, and Frederick Spanheim. With divers curious editions of ancient and modern authors, and most of the classics printed by Aldus, Rob. Stephans, Christ. Plantin, Old Elzevir, and Gryphius. Lately brought from France and Holland. With a curious parcel of prints. To be sold by auction, in Exeter-Exchange, at the west-end, up stairs. On Wednesday the 25th of February, 1701/2. Catalogues are sold for 6d. apiece by Mr. Hensman in Westminster-Hall, Edw. Castle next Scotland-Yard-Gate near Whitehal, P. Varenn at Seneca’s-Head near Somerset-house, Mr. Wotton at the 3 Daggers near the Temple-Gate, J. Knapton at the Crown in Pauls-Church-Yard, Rich. Parker under the Piazza’s of the Royal-Exchange, H. Clemens in Oxford, and Edm. Jefferies in Cambridge. The books may be view’d five days before the sale begins. [London ],  [1702].

[2] Eusèbe Renaudot (ed.): Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine de deux voyageurs mahométans, qui y allèrent dans le neuvième siècle [Texte imprimé], traduites d’arabe (par l’abbé Eusèbe Renaudot), avec des remarques sur les principaux endroits de ces relations, Paris : Coignard 1718.

[3] Thomas Gale: Historiæ Poeticæ Scriptores Antiqui : Apollodorus Atheniensis. Ptolemæus Hephæst. F. Conon Grammaticus. Parthenius Nicaensis. Antoninus Liberalis ; Græcè & Latinè ; Acceßêre breves Notæ & Indices necessarij, Paris: Muguet 1675.  

[4] Thomas Gale: Opuscula mythologica, physica et ethica graece et latine ; Seriem eorum sistit pagina praefationem proxime sequens, Amsterdam : Wetstein 1688.

Three Generations of Book Sales

Snippet from the auction catalogue of Henrik Albert Schultens (1794)

Friday n° 31, May 16th, 2019

In last week’s post I addressed the inaugural lectures delivered by three generations of the Schultens family, Albert Schultens (1686-1750), Jan Jacob Schultens (1716-1778), and Henrik Schultens Albert (1749-1793). As interesting as their family practices in delivering academic speeches, if not more, is another part of their paper legacy although it makes for even more tedious reading, and that is their auction catalogues.

As was common practice, after the death of a scholar the library of the deceased usually went on sale at least partly. Those books the heirs could not put to their own uses were sold, the sale’s proceedings most often being used to support the widows. If the family had a scholarly tradition, the books could also be partly or in full passed on to the next generation(s) who might have an interest in or use for them. In the Schulten’s case, there are auction catalogues available for the libraries of all three family members mentioned above[1] which presents a rare case of completeness in an 18th century context. Moreover there is a fourth additional catalogue,[2] as the library of Albert Hendrik Schultens was bought en bloc by Johann Henrik van der Palm () at the original auction and resold after Palm’s death, making the four catalogues cover almost one century, from 1750 to 1841. So let’s have a look at how they compare to each other and how they fit in with my overall interest in how scholars got forgotten. Only Palm’s catalogue will be left out today, as Palm was not a Schulten’s family member (but this does of course not mean it will not be considered later on!).

Book sales in figures

A cautionary note beforehand: The books listed in an auction catalogue under a scholar’s name may not be taken to have belonged to or have constituted the full library of the deceased at face value. For on the one hand the auctioneer might slip leftovers from his other auctions into the catalogue unmentioned, hoping to finally sell them off, especially if the scholar’s name was likely to attract many customers to an auction, so that there might be more in it than the original library contents. On the other hand, the heirs or the deceased might already have given away books to persons or institutions before the auction, or selected them for their own keeping, which would prevent them from appear in the catalogue, so that there might be less in it than the original library contents. While it is not possible to trace ownership of a particular book to a particular scholar this way directly and definitely, it gives a good indication of the likely overall composition of his library and offers some reason to claim or postulate that he had a copy of a listed title, which then should – if possible – be backed up by other evidence or reasoning.

But now to the catalogues. First of all, let’s have a sober and boring comparison of their main characteristics – how many titles do they feature, and how are these distributed among formats?

Albert Schultens 1750 Jan Jacob Schultens 1780 Henrik Albert Schultens 1794
Folio 413 Folio 1.130 [M: 8] Folio 287
Quarto 865 Quarto 3.859 [M: 37] Quarto 1.012
Octavo 862 Octavo 7.022 [M: 72] Octavo & smaller 1.719
Duodecimo 196    
Unspecified 8    
  Manuscripts [117] Manuscripts 62
Total 2.344 Total 12.011 Total 3.080

Overall, these are quite comparable figures. That the auction catalogue of Albert Schultens contains the smallest number of titles is easily explained by only a part of Schultens’s library being auctioned off. His son, Jan Jacob Schultens, would have inherited the rest, which also partly explains why the total figures in his catalogue are so high compared to the others. Closer scrutiny of Jan Jacob Schultens’s library’s auction catalogue would help to estimate a rough figure of the overall size of Albert Schultens’s library, but this I have not done yet. Henrik Albert Schultens does seem to have owned fewer books as his father and grandfather, but still had a well-stocked library at his disposal. His auction catalogue also does reveal that there had been a substantial carryover between his father’s books and those in his library, so that the 12.000 items of Jan Jacob Schultens’s library still underestimate the total size of his collection. And while I’m talking of underestimating, please don’t equate the number of catalogue items with the actual number of books on the shelves, which was much higher. A title might come in several volumes which would all be offered as one item to buyers, especially if it was a journal, in which case a single title might stand in for dozens of annual volumes. Those people owned many books, and they had to. Public and institutional library systems were quite underdeveloped compared to today, and interlibrary loans and online available digitized copies where not there yet.

Family library traditions

This also explains why the passing on of books between generations was important for scholars. When your private library constituted the main resource of literature you would be able to put to use in your research, the passing on of books constituted a direct transfer of scholarly capabilities, especially in cases of original research notes, manuscripts, and annotated volumes. There is one thing to be kept in mind, though, when thinking of such transfers, and that is their timing. It would be wrong to assume that these transfers would only take place in form of bequests, because this would have been a solution quite impractical for the purposes of furthering family member’s careers. A son could hardly only start his own career at his father’s death because of waiting to inherit the paternal library. As soon as a scholar’s children would start out scholarly careers, they would need their own libraries, and would ideally built them up and collect books over the whole course of their lives. Especially when family members worked in the same scientific fields – as all three Schultens’s did, being Philologists concerned with ‘Oriental languages’ and theology – this would lead to parallel developments in the individual collections, which would end up in a lot of doublings and functional redundancies after an actual inheritance if the decedent just passed on everything. So it made good sense to sell off what was not needed anymore and only keep what would really enhance your scientific resource base once death bereaved you of a relative. And that is precisely what the Schultens’s did over three generations upon closer inspections of the auction catalogues they left behind.

Passing on and discarding

So what did the Schultens’s pass on, and what not? And how does this relate to my four protagonists and the processes in which they got structurally forgotten? Interestingly, both questions can be preliminarily answered by the same approach, and that is, having a look at works by my protagonists in those catalogues. Beginning with Albert Schultens’s library, it is readily apparent that no manuscripts went on sale, neither by him nor by others. Moreover, quite a few works by Adriaan Reland ended up in the sales pile.[3] This might now either indicate that they were of no use for his son Jan Jacob Schultens and thus discarded from the family libraries, or that he owned them already and they were sold as duplicates. Usually this is as far as interpretation of auction catalogues can be taken because nothing much is known about the inheritor, but in this case it is, and as I will explain shortly, this leads me to conclude that here Reland’s works were indeed sold off to avoid duplications. But first of all let’s finish with Albert Schultens. What about works by my other three protagonists? Thomas Gale can be easily dealt with as there are no books by him in Schultens’s auction catalogue; what this means I’ll speculate on later on. There were, however, one book by Eusèbe Renaudot[4] and two books by Johannes Braun.[5] These were the staples, so to say, Renaudot represented by his “Liturgiarum Orientalium collection” and Braun by his “Doctrina foederum” and his “Selecta Sacra”. But as Schultens had been a pupil of Braun at Groningen before moving on to Reland’s direction at Utrecht, one might think that there should be more of Braun’s works on the list. At first appearance, this seems to confirm what I already presumed in an earlier post about Schultens’s closer scholarly relation to Reland than to Braun. But before leaping to conclusions let’s first have a look at the other two Schultens’s libraries.

The library of Jan Jacob Schultens was, at least if judged by the catalogue’s title page, sold in its entirety – with over 12.000 items on the list this seems quite likely. A comparison to the auction catalogue of his father’s books now reveals some interesting details. While a substantial amount of manuscripts was sold, none were by his or his father’s hand. And judging by the number of Reland titles listed I now feel entitled to assume that those five titles sold in the auction of his father’s books were just double – now there were no less than 19 items by Reland himself plus two to which he significantly contributed on the list.[6] This is not only an impressive list in itself but it moreover again points to Jan Jacob Schultens taking over literature most likely acquired originally by his father. Listed as Octavo items n° 1287 and 1288 are two very early treatises published by Reland in 1696, “de Symbolo Mohammedico Non est Deus nisi unus, pro S. S. Trinitate” and “de consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi”. As these were student’s theses – Reland had been only twenty years old at the time and had not yet finished his studies – which would have only been printed in very small runs and only have had experienced limited circulation, they would likely have been hard to get by in Jan Jacob’s time. The best explanation for these treatises ending up between his books thus is that he got them from his father, who himself might have directly got them from the author.

Now looking to my other protagonists the emerging picture is quite similar. There are five works by Johannes Braun listed plus one directly referring to him,[7] and from these five it becomes clear that those which were sold in the auction of Albert Schultens’s library – “Doctrina foederum” and “Selecta Sacra” – had duplicates in Jan Jacob Schultens’s library already. It still points to the family being much more concerned with Reland than with Braun. Although, to be fair, I have to point out that Braun had published considerably less than Reland had, so that a larger share of his total oeuvre was found in Jan Jacob Schultens’s library nevertheless.

For Thomas Gale, Jan Jacob’s auction catalogue marks the only point in which he appears in the Schultens’s bibliographical records considered here. Four of his works are to be found dispersed over four categories,[8] but offer no indication whether they had been procured by Albert Schultens or by his son. And Eusèbe Renaudot comes in last of the four, with two works on the list,[9] revealing the “Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio” copy of Albert Schultens to have been a duplicate also.

Manuscripts and family

Now turning to the last of the three professors Schultens, Henrik Albert Schultens, and the auction catalogue of his library from the year 1794, in which it does not become entirely clear if it really encompassed all of his books. It does not give any other indication, so I’ll assume it to be the case until corrected by better evidence. The catalogue is digitized in two versions, one heavily annotated (digitally available by the KB The Hague) and one without any manual entries (by Harvard University via Hathi Trust). Both however share the same printed text. This text now testifies to a number of interesting things, given the fact that at least 12.000 volumes of Schultens’s books had been sold only fourteen years earlier.

The first of this is the still quite high number of Reland volumes, including – among others – the two early treatises, which by this time were almost a century old.[10] In total, his library still contained 15 titles by Adriaan Reland, and five of these are especially interesting because they in turn contained manuscript annotations by his father or grandfather, in some cases even of both.[11]  Moreover Henrik Albert Schultens’s collection contained seven manuscript volumes on Reland’s text by different authors.[12] It contained not a volume by Gale or Renaudot, though, and only one by Braun.[13]

What does this say about family, scholarship, and forgetting?

The Schultens’s family of scholars obviously followed a strategy of keeping a certain strand of books in the possession of the family members for three generations and half a century, regardless of which other books they sold on the way. These were those volumes which were deemed necessary for their own research, which mainly centred on Arabic philology, and this obviously was the case with Reland’s works, and most of all with those into which former generations of the family had inserted notes. Yet Reland was not the only scholar treated this way; the works of Thomas Erpenius () were treated quite the same, perhaps even more heavily annotated. While the professors Schultens owned volumes by Renaudot, Gale, and Braun, they discarded them on their way through the academic system(s) of their time(s), something which they did not do with those of Reland, although their founding father Albert Schultens had been a pupil of both Reland and Braun. In this family, three of my four protagonists were structurally forgotten as the 18th century ended, but one was still cherished and remembered. Now the next task is figuring out why.


[1] 1) Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Continens libros nitidissime compactos in quibus excellunt biblia, patres graeci et latini, commentatores, theologi, philologi, hebraei, orientales, auctores gr. et lat. antiquarii, numismatici, historici, litteratores, aliique miscellanei, livres francois [sic], en nederduitsche boeken. Quos collegit vir clarissimus Albertus Schultens […]. Accedunt Appendices duae […] quos A. v. D. emit ex bibliotheca Thomsiana non solvit, & secundum conditionem venduntur. Quorum Auctio fiet in Officina Luchtmanniana. Ad diem Lunae 19. Octobris & seqq. diebus 1750, Leiden: Luchtmans 1750.

2) Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, sive catalogus librorum quos collegit vir clarissimus Johannes Jacobus Schultensius, Th. Doct., Theologie et linguarum orientalium professor in academia Batava, collegii theologici regens primarius, et interpres manuscriptorum legati Warneriani. Qui publica auctione vendentur per Henricum Mostert, Die Lunae 18. Septembris & seqq. 1780, Leiden: Mostert 1780.

3) Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, A. M. Ling. O.O. et Antt. Jud., in Academia Batava, professor ordinarius; et legati Warneriani interpres. Cujus publica fiet distractio in aedibus Defuncti, ad diem 27. Mensis Octobris & seqq. Anni 1794, Leiden: Honkoop 1794.  

[2] Catalogus librorum ac manuscriptorum bibliothecae Schultensianae, qua, dum in vivis erat, usus est Joh. Henr. van der Palm, Lit. orient., Antiqq. Hebr. et Oratiae sacrae in Acad Lugd. Bat. prof. ordin. etc. Accedit ejusdem viri clarissimi appendix librorum ac manuscriptorum similis argumenti. Quorum omnium publica fiet auctio, Lugduni Batavorum, in aedibus defuncti. Die 20, sqq. m. Aprilis A. MDCCCXLI. Per S. et J. Luchtmans, Academiae Typographos, et D. du Mortier et filium. Libri, in aedibus Defuncti, diebus 16 et 17 Aprilis, ab hora 10 matutinâ ad 3 pomeridianum, cuivis inspiciendi patebunt, Leiden: Luchtmans/du Mortier 1841.

[3] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 22: « 223 H. Relandi Palaestina ex monumentibus veteribus illustrata, Ultr. 1714. 2 tom. 1 vol. », filed under « Philologi, Hebraei aliique Orientales in Quarto » ; p. 47:  « 113 H. Reland de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani in arcu Titiano, Ultr. 1716. 114 — Antiquitates Judaicae edente J. E. Ravio, Herb. 1741. 115 — Dissertationes Miscellaneae, Ultr. 1706. 2 tom. 1 v. 116 — Dissertationes Miscellaneae, ibid 1708. pars 3. », all filed under « Philologi Hebraei aliique Orientales in Octavo”;

[4] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 26: “336 E. Renaudotii Collectio Liturgiarum Orientalium, Paris. 1716. 2 vol. more gallico”, filed under “Philologi, Hebraei aliique Orientales in Quarto”.

[5] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 19: « 131 J. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1688. 132 — Selecta sacra, ibid 1700“, filed under “Biblia, Patres, Comment. aliiq. Theol. in Quarto”.

[6] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: S. 50 [.] “98 H.R. (H.Relandi) Elenchus philologicus, quo praecipus, quae circa textum & versiones S. S. disputari solent, breviter indicantur, L. B. 1755”, filed under “Isagogici, Hermeneutici, Critici, in Octavo”; p. 81: “782 H. Relandi Dissertationes miscellaneae, 3 tom. 2 vol., Traj. 1706”, and p. 82:  “790 Parerga Sacra seu Interpretatio quorundam textuum N. T. (cum praef. Hadr. Relandi), Traj. 1708”, both filed under “Diss. & Obs. Variae ad Phil. & Exeg. Sac., in Octavo”; p. 132: « 1287 Adr. Reland de Symbolo Mohammedico Non est Deus nisi unus, pro S. S. Trinitate, Traj. 1696. 1288 — de consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, ibid 1696“, filed under „Theol. Gent. Mohamm. & Jud. in Quarto » ; p. 205 : “1876 Ad. Relandus de Religione Mohammedica, Ultr. 1735 l.g. 1877 La Religion des Mahometans tire du Latin de M. Reland, a la Haye 1721. 1878 Adr. Reland van den Godsdienst der Mahometaanen/ Utr. 1718 », filed under « Theologiae Mohammedicae fontes, Vindices, Oppugnatores”; p. 269 : « 1788 H. Relandi Palaestina ex Monumentis veteribus illustrata, Ultr. 1714 2 vol. », p. 273 : « 1862 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae, Traj. 1741 », and p. 275: “1901 Joh. Conr. Hottingerus de Decimis Judaeorum cum Hadr. Relandi Epistola ad Auctorem, L. Bat. 1713”, all three filed under “Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Quarto”; p. 281: “3214 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum, Traj. ad Rh. 1708”, p. 283: “3252 Hadr. Relandus de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani cura Hrn. Aug. Schulze, Traj ad Rh. 1775 c.f.”, p. 284: “3279 Adr. Relandus de Nummis Veterum Hebraeorum, Traj. ad Rh. 1709. – Idem de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani, ibid. 1716. 3280 — Lettre au Comte de Kniphuisen », all five filed under « Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Octavo”; p. 312: „3361 Had. Relandi Oratio de Galli cantu Hierosolymis audito, Roter. 1709“, filed under „Vita Christi & Apostolorum, & Hist. Eccles. Recentior » ; p. 396: “4368 P. & Hadr. Relandi Fasti Consulares, Traj. Batav. 1715, l.g.”, filed under: “Antiquarii & Numismatici, in Octavo”; p. 449: “4977 Hadr. Relandi Galatea, Traj. ad. Rh. 1710 – Paraphrases Horatianae elegiaco carmine, Amst. 1715. -Odae quaefam Horatianae in aliud carminis genus conversae, ibid. 1714. – Sam. Munckeri Artis Poëticae Periculum, Goud. 1688. – Rymproeve in allerhaande styl en stoffe/ gedaan door Sam. Muncherus/ ibid. 1688. I. ii.” bound together in one volume, filed under “Poëtae Recentiores”; p. 470: “5342 Borhaneddini Enchiridion Studiosi Ar. & Lat. ed. ab H. Relando, Ultr. 1709. », filed under « Paroemiogr., Mythogr., Embl. Satyr. &c., in Octavo » ;  p. 487 : « 3143 Epicteti Manuale & Sententiae ut & Cebetis Tabula Gr. & Lat. cura Hadr. Relandi, Traj. Bat. 1711 l. b. », filed under « Philosophi Veteres & Recentiores, in Quarto » ; p. 531 : « 3549 Adr. Relandi Oratio pro Lingua Persica, & Cognatis Literis Orientalibus, Traj. 1701. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto » ; p. 553 : « 6265 Hadr. Relandi Analecta Rabbinica, Ultr. 1723. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Octavo”.

[7] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 43: “540 J. Braunius in Ep. ad Hebraeos, Amst. 1750”, filed under “Commentatores in Quarto”; p. 46: “605 J. Braunii selecta sacra, Amst. 1700”, filed under “Diss. & Variae Observ. ad Phil. & Exeg. Sac., in Quarto”; p. 64: “413 Dan. Flud a Giffen Epistola as Jo. Braunium de Loco Ezech. VIII. 14., Amst. 1686”, filed under “Commentatores in Octavo”; p. 114: “949 Jo. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1688”, filed under “Integra Systemata Doctrina Theologicae, in Quarto”; p. 374: “1888 Jo. Braunius de Vestitu Sacerdotum Hebraeorum, Amst. 1680 l. b. cum fig.“, filed under „Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Quarto”; p. 586: “3750 Jo. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1691 (cum charta pura & notis MSS.)”, filed under “Libri Omissi, in Quarto”.

[8] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 354: “2278 Antonini Iter Britanniarum, curante Thom. Gale, Lond. 1709. l. b.”, filed under “Chronologi, Geographi, & Historiae Universae Scriptores Recentiores”; p. 407: “4486 Rhetores Graeci Selecti Gr. & Lat. cura Th. Gale, Oxon. 1676, l. b.”, filed under “Oratores Veteres Gr. & Lat., in Octavo”; p. 441: “4811 Historiae Poëticae Scriptores Antiqui Graeci gr. & lat. cura Thom. Gale, Paris. 1575 [sic,=1675] l. b.”, filed under “Poëtae Vet. Graeci, Latini & Orientales, in Octavo”; p. 484: “935 Jamblichus de Mysteriis Gr. & Lat. cura Thom. Gale, Oxon. 1678. l. b.”, filed under “Philosophi Veteres & Recentiores, in Folio”.

[9] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 308 : « 2228 Eus. Renaudotii Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio, Paris, 1716. l. g.“, and p. 309: “2238 Euseb. Renaudotii Historia Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Jacobitarum, Paris. 1713. l. a.”, both filed under “Historia Ecclesiae Orientalis ».

[10] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 54: « 300 A. Reland de Consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, Ultr. 1696. 301 — de Symbolo Mohammedico: Non est Deus nisi Unus, ibid. 1696. », both filed under « Theol. Moh. Jud. rec. fontes, &c. in Quarto ».

[11] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 20: « 153 H. R. (Relandi) Elenchus Philologicus, quo praecipua, quae circa textum & versiones SS. disputari solent, breviter indicantur, L. B. 1755 (cum notis MSS J.J.S) 154 Idem libellus. Accedunt S. R. (Ravii) Positiones Philologicae controversae, in usum Disputationis privatae, Ultr. 1753 » both filed unter « Isagogici, Critici, Hermeneutici in Octavo »; p. 36: 275 H. Relandi Oratio de galli cantu Hierosolymis audito, Roter. 1709, filed under « Commentatores, in Octavo »; p. 41: « 318 H. Relandi Dissertationes Miscellaneae, Ultr. 1706 3 voll. », filed under « Variae Obs. ad. Phil. & Exeg. Sacr., in Octavo » ; p. 54, « 300 A. Reland de Consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, Ultr. 1696. 301 — de Symbolo Mohammedico: Non est Deus nisi Unus, ibid. 1696 » (see note 10); p. 56: « 454 H. Relandus de Mohammedica, Ultr. 1717. (Nonnulla adscripsit J. J. S.) », filed under « Theol. Moh. Jud. rec. fontes, &c. in Quarto” ; p. 70: “579 Borhaneddini Enchiridion studiosi, Arab. & Lat., cura H. Relandi, Traj. 1709 (cum notis Mss A. S.) 580 Idem liber, (cum emendationibus Mss. H. A. S.) Accedis Relandi liber de Spoliis templi Hierosolymitani, ibid. 1716. cum fig. », both filed under « Philosophi veteres & recentiores, in Octavo”; p. 86 :  « 529 Adr. Relandi Oratio pro Lingua Persica, & Cognatis Literis Orientalibus, Traj. 1701. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto»; p. 92: « 758 Hadr. Relandi Analecta Rabbinica, Ultr. 1723. l. b. », field under “Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto »; p. 159:  “836 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum, Ultr. 1741. (cum notis Mss. J. J. S.)”, p. 162: “1487 H. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae, cum notis J. E. Ravii, Herborn. 1743”, , filed under “Antiquarii, in Quarto”; p. 168: “1557 Adr. Relandi Dissertatio de Marmoribus Arabicis Puteolanis, & Nummo Arab. Constantini Pogonati, Amst. 1704. Lettre de M. Reland a M. le Comte de Kniphuisen, sur une piece d’or trouvée dans ses terres, Utr. 1713. avec fig. 1558 — de Inscriptione Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum, Amst. 1702, 2 tomi 1 vol. », both filed under « Numism., Inscript., Marm., &c. in Octavo. »

[12] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 190: « 52 A. Schultens Dictata ad Relandi antiquitates Hebraicas. 53 — Praelectiones ad Selecta quaedam Philologiae S. capita. 54 — Commentarius ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraeas. 2 voll. (Autographum Auctoris)“, filed under „Apographa Cod. M. S. S. Orient ab Eur. Facta » ; p. 191: « 55 C. Ikenii Commentarius ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraeorum, descriptus manu D. Hackmanni. 2 voll. 4°. 56 W. Koolhaas Dictata in C. Ikenii Antiquitates Hebraicas. 4°. 57 D. Millii Dictata in Ikenii Antiquitates Hebraicas. 4°. 58 J. J. Schultensii Dictata ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraicas. Pars II. 4°“, all filed under „Praelection. Academ., aliique nostrat. libri Mss.“

[13] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 37: “216 Jo. Braunii Selecta Sacra, Amst. 1700“, filed under „Variae Obs. ad. Phil. & Exeg. Sacr., in Quarto”.

For Knowledge and Country III: Johannes Braun’s long slow goodbye

References to Johannes Braun, Thomas Gale, Adriaan Reland, and Eusèbe Renaudot in 19th century biographical-historical dictionaries

Saturday, April 13th, 2019, for Friday n° 27

I must revise my own statistics a bit, I am sorry. But that’s what work in progress is like… Upon closer inspection, the figures I gave in For Knowledge and Country I and II don’t really correspond to the dictionaries of the time. Obviously 19th century dictionary authors were a bit generous in citing other dictionaries, sometimes giving the date of the volume they referred to, sometimes of the series, sometimes none at all. In the last case, all editions would have to be checked, which is a tiresome thing to do as some of these went into ten, twelve, sixteen editions one after the other.

Dictionaries & data

So I chose another approach for the gathering of today’s data, which was to look at the first edition and then only for those which were marked as “improved”, “enlarged”, “augmented”, “corrected”, “entirely new” or with other such advertisements. Then, after checking all those dictionaries being referred to in one of my entries, I went on to check the principal dictionaries of the time or those which seemed likely to contain entries to at least one of my protagonists.

This netted me 60 biographical dictionaries for the 102 surveyed years from 1800 to 1900, a slightly enlarged 19th century, 54 of which actually contained entries for at least one of my protagonists. They spread over the respective languages as follows:

  • English: 24 with entries, 5 without
  • French: 16 with entries, 1 without
  • Dutch: 10 with entries, 0 without
  • German: 3 with entries, 0 without
  • Latin: 1 with entries, 0 without
  • Spanish: 0 with entries, 1 without

And this still is no complete list; but I am quite sure that I now do get the basic patterns right, although the individual figures for single years may of course still be subject to change. To prevent this from being an issue for the presentation today, I summed up the references for five-year-brackets, as displayed above.

The 19th century obviously was the encyclopaedic century: tons and tons of encyclopaedias and dictionaries for each possible subject, of which I now only perused the biographical/historical dictionaries, and even of these only a part (adding more is on the to-do-list). Some of these were reprinted year after year, then being reworked in greater or lesser part, and printed and reprinted all over again. Printing encyclopaedias and dictionaries seems to have been a well-working business, or else there would not have been so many of them. They came in all sizes, from series of over 40 volumes issued over twenty years to the one-volume variant advertised as the cheap alternative for everyone. The late 18th century had developed the techniques and technologies needed for setting up reference works, and the 19th century capitalized these.

Dictionaries & developments

But what was the effect of this flood of dictionaries on the circulation of references to my protagonists? Two developments are easy to spot: On the whole, within this special frame of reference circulation was kept up over almost the entire century. And there seem to have been conjunctures: a first cycle from between 1800 and 1840, with its peak in the early 1830s; and a second cycle from the 1840s to the 1890s, with its peak in the 1870s.

Another development which I already have written about at length in the last two posts on this subject is less visible from the mere figures, and that is an increasing national bias within the medium. To be a bit more precise, there are actually two tendencies visible in the sources. There are more titles with a non-partisan approach, be it “An universal biographical and historical dictionary[1], “Nouvelle biographie générale[2], or “El Pantéon universal[3], than more specialized ones. There might well be an economic reason behind that: Non-specialized dictionaries might cater to a larger audience and allowed for the inclusion of more material, thus producing larger series which then might produce proportionally larger returns. This was the more the case as for general dictionaries much of the contents were already available as established blocks of facts, even as established text blocks, which only were carried over from one edition to another, while producing a more specialized dictionary might well incur much greater preparation costs, as lesser-known or forgotten persons had to be researched into to be able to include them. In languages with a potentially global appeal, such as French or English, this tendency was even more pronounced. This might be seen as corroborated by the ten Dutch titles in my sample, which are all specialized for a Dutch audience, bearing titles like “Handwoordenboek der vaderlandsche geschiedenis[4] (Pocket dictionary of national history) or “Neêrlands beroemde personen[5] (Celebrities of the Netherlands). But, and that is the second tendency, even the titles advertising as universal in approach in fact catered to quite distinctive audiences, and most often plainly told so in their prefaces, as for instance “Cassell’s Biographic Dictionary“:

“”We have endeavoured in our selection to take care that the representative men of every age and country, in art and science, in thought and action, who have contributed to human knowledge and human progress, who have influenced humanity for good or for bad, shall find a place; and so, descending from the highest standard, we have sought to deal with those below it according to their importance, preferring always those of more modern times, of more civilised people, of more important states, of more contiguous countries, and those most connected with ourselves in blood, in polity, in social or commercial relations – in a word, to make the work especially interesting and instructive to Englishmen and all who speak the English tongue.”[6]

Cassell’s Biographic Dictionary, London/New York c.1867, Preface

Braun says goodbye…

That these two tendencies impacted the reference careers of my protagonists (at least within the universe of dictionaries) can be illustrated by the case of Johannes Braun, who was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in 1628 and died in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 1702. He was the first of my protagonists to be dropped from many of the more universal dictionaries, which might be for reasons of only including persons “most connected with ourselves in blood, in polity, in social or commercial relations”, as Cassell’s dictionary had put it. Adriaan Reland, who had among other things been a member of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, was frequently referred to in English-language dictionaries in exactly this capacity (if the entry provided for enough space), something which was almost never alluded to in French, Dutch, or German works. But a part of the answer why Johannes Braun was dropped might also be his unclear national status, which was a problem for his inclusion in many of the more special dictionary. Both Mathieu Delvenne’s “Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne”[7] as Jacob Willem Regt’s “Neêrlands beroemde personen” excluded him from their pages because he was not born in the Netherlands, whereas the “Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie[8] chose not include him for reasons unknown, but perhaps partly because he left “Germany” at the age of seven and the Holy Roman Empire a few years later, to settle in the Netherlands. Not all specialized Dutch dictionaries excluded him for such formal reasons, though, and that there were quite a few of them between the 1840s and 1860s explains the figures he scored for dictionary references in these years. But once such works were no longer frequently published since the late 1860s, references to Braun became less and less common, with scattered peaks every few decades and silence in between; he was the first of my four to become structurally forgotten within the dictionary framework, even though it took quite a while for him to say goodbye.


[1] John Watkins: An universal biographical and historical dictionary. Containing a faithful account of the lives, actions, and characters, of the most eminent persons of all ages and all countries; also the revolutions of states, and the successions of sovereign princes, ancient and modern. Collected from the best Authorities, By John Watkins, A.M. L.L.D., London: Philipps 1800.

[2] Hoefer, Jean Chrétien Ferdinand (Hg.): Nouvelle biographie générale : depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’á nos jours, avec les renseignements bibliographiques et l’indication des sources à consulter, 46 volumes, Paris : Didot frères 1852-1866.

[3] Yguals de Izco, Wenceslao,   Sebastián Castellanos, Basilio (Hg.): El Panteón Universal : diccionario histórico de vidas interesantes, aventuras amorosas, sucesos trágicos, escenas románticas, lances jocosos, progresos científicos y literarios, acciones heróicas, virtudes populares, crímenes célebres y empresas gloriosas de cuantos hombres y mujeres de todos los paises, desde el principio del mundo hasta nuestros dias, han bajado al sepulcro dejando un nombre immortal, 4 volumes, Madrid : Ayguals de Izco hermanos 1853-1854.

[4] Verwoert, Herman: Handwoordenboek der vaderlandsche geschiedenis, 2 Volumes, Nijmegen: Haspels 1851.

[5] Regt, Jacobus Wilhelmus, Neêrlands beroemde personen, naar hunne geboorteplaatsen in aardrijkskundige orde gerangschikt en beknopt toegelicht, Schoonhoven 1869.

[6] Cassell’s biographical dictionary; containing original memoirs of the most eminent men & women of all ages & countries, London/New York: Cassel, ca. 1867, preface, p. [1]. 

[7] Delvenne, Mathieu: Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne, ou Histoire abrégée, par ordre alphabétique, de la vie publique et privée des Belges et des Hollandais qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs écrits, leurs actions, leurs talens, leurs vertus, ou leurs crimes, extraite d’un grand nombre d’auteurs anciens et modernes, et augmentée de beaucoup d’articles qui ne se trouvent rapportés dans aucune biographie, 2 volumes, Liege: Desoer 1828-1829.  

[8] Historische Commission bei der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.): Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 56 volumes, München/Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot 1875-1912.

What about the Women?

Two Samaritan coins from the collection of Jacob de Wilde, depicted by Maria de Wilde in: Adriaan Reland, Dissertatio altera de Inscriptione Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum, Utrecht: Thomas Appels 1704.

Friday n° 26, April 5th, 2019

I have touched upon many topics in this blog so far, but gender has not been one of them yet. Not because gender does not play a role in here but because it is – alas – very hard to tackle which role precisely given the circumstances of my project.

How to find women?

First of all, it suffers from the near-universal male bias in intellectual history, history of knowledge, and history of science. Although there have been many attempts to break this male gaze and to also focus on the roles of women in academia for the past centuries, these studies are still isolated in so far as they highlight particular individuals – and because none of these plays into the circles of my protagonists, as far as I can see at the moment, I am a bit lost there. All I can do is try to check my data for the more general patterns of including women and their contributions into academic information circulation. But as the history of knowledge and scholarship in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, which is where most of my sources and data come from, most of the time just silently passed over female contributions of all kinds, I only very rarely am able to substantiate the scattered findings in my sources with more specific information which would point me to further lanes of inquiry.

How to deal with those women found?

Second, there are only scattered findings: my protagonists themselves have left only few traces of their female connections, most of them pertaining to their family life. This was not only their fault. Much of it is due to the ways in which the source materials available today were produced, traded, and ultimately kept, which were quite unconducive to transmit materials connected to women. The surviving letters of all of my protagonists were not directly filed into institutional archives at their death – which is where they are kept today -, but rather passed on privately by inheritance and sale before being donated to or bought by the institutions in possession of them now. While inheritance processes would be favourable to conserving materials connected to women for family reasons, generally spoken they are less favourable to preserve materials connected to women outside of domestic affairs. One might well keep letters and documents dealing with one’s female ancestors or relations, but might accord less value to such materials dealing with female artists, or perhaps even with women engaging in scholarly pursuits. The selections involved in selling the papers of a dead scholar would, on the other hand, be less favourable to materials ‘only’ connected to his (as my protagonists are all male) domestic affairs and relations, as they were for long, and sadly still are sometimes today, considered of minor if any importance to scholarly matters. Autograph collectors would prize letters from famous scholars to other famous scholars but in general be less interested in those materials dealing with less prominent figures, which in their eyes normally applied to women. In both processes, inheritance and sale, some source materials which I would really like to have at hand to provide me with information about the gender dimension in my protagonist’s academic world are likely to have been deselected from being passed on, and as both processes happened in the transmission of these materials, sometimes more than once, this has geared the sources available into a perspective which is hard to overcome.

With official documents it is quite the same; the female contacts figure in these most prominently in domestic matters (contexts such as birth, death, marriage, inheritance) if they are in them at all. And not all documents of such interest are still available.

From 1.838 to 74

But all these restrictions and biased perspectives aside, what do I have got concerning women so far? If I take a look at my database, the figures are not very encouraging: Of 1838 persons in there (as of today), only 74 are female, or a meagre 4 %. Of these 12 modern-day female scientists have to be deducted, leaving me with 62 women mentioned in my sources.

From 74 to 30

If I now also deduce all those who only entered as historical figures, that is, wifes, mothers or sisters of scholars from generations preceding my protagonists, I am left with 30 women for which I recorded anything between 1650 and 1750. Compared to 1128 men for which I have anything recorded for that period, the figure dwindles down to 2.6 %.

This imbalance is of course to be lamented from a point of view concentrating on historical justice. It is quite clear that these numbers are likely not to be accurate in terms of intellectual contributions. Those case studies that we have indicate that women could be involved in academic intellectual production in various roles, at almost each stage of the process, and that their contributions are not to be seen as negligible. There surely is a lot of unacknowledged female labour that went into the publications and discussions featuring my protagonists. But my interest in this particular case of research is not so much in discovering or restoring such female contributions, although this would be a fascinating topic in itself. As I am trying to make sense of processes of structural forgetting here, I take these heavily gender-biased data as a fact in its own sense, and a noteworthy one at that.

Because I have not consciously tried to avoid women in my research, the reason that their presence in the database is so low is not due to my bias but to the source material’s bias. The co-citation approach I am pursuing means that I collect references to persons who are not my protagonists based on three criteria:

  1. these persons are referred to on the same page as one of my protagonists and/or one of his publications
  2. these persons have contributed to a publication cited on the same page as one of my protagonists and/or one of his publications
  3. these persons are necessary to construct the relationships between other persons in the database.

From 30 to 3

The bias in the database now originates from the fact that women are, throughout my sources, almost completely blended out from categories 1) and 2). This results in most women who are in database being entered by way of category 3), that is, they are needed – as wifes, mothers, or sisters – to complete family relations between persons from categories 1) and 2). And while I am convinced that such relations played a vital role in the social formation of early modern academia, it is very difficult to reconstruct them without recourse to primal source material (if it exists), as secondary literature has much too often been silent about kinship ties of academics, too. And if they are acknowledged, this is seldom done in the form of giving concrete references to individual women, such as names, birth and death dates and other information which would come in handy for my purposes, but most often in the form of “X, who was married to the daughter of Y, …”.

So if I now again deduce all women which only are referenced in my database via kinship ties from the 30 women left for the century between 1650 and 1750, I am down to three.

From 3 to 2

The three women who are actually being co-cited with my protagonists in my sources upon closer inspection narrow down to two, because one is the formidable and inescapable Madame Dacier (Anne Dacier, née Le Fèvre, 1654-1720). This is not to belittle her considerable achievements but shall only be taken to mean that she was part and parcel of the discourse about the Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes, and it was in that context that she was co-cited together with Thomas Gale and 53 other scholars in the October 1734 issue of the Journal des Savants (see here).[1] This rather heavy case of name-dropping does not serve to indicate any deeper connection between Dacier and Gale but rather testifies to both being part of the same epistemic community, in this case of the Anciens party. As this was a rather large community, shared membership only points to some shared assumptions and thus to a purely topical relation.

With Anne Dacier thus deducted, only two women remain who are mentioned in a closer kind of connection to one of my protagonists. These two ladies are Maria de Wilde (1682-1729) from Amsterdam and Anna Waser (1678-1714) from Zürich. Both are not only mentioned in connection to the same of my protagonists, Adriaan Reland (who seems to become kind of inevitable within this project, too), but also by the same source: The June 1705 issue of the Acta Eruditorum (see here). The references were part of the review of Reland’s second treatise on the coins of the ancient Samaritans, the Dissertatio altera de Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum of 1704 (see here for the whole review).[2] In fact, they were both mentioned together in the closing lines of the review:

“That those [coins] of Reland’s the most excellent maiden, Maria de Wilde, from her father’s[3] collection most elegantly depicted, as Anna Waser, great-great-grandchild of Caspar Waser[4], this posthumously most laudable man, those of Ott;[5] therefore our Reland has finished his little work with two poems in praise of de Wilde’s very excellent artworks, and what more could be remembered in Ott’s letter, will be set aside for another time and leisure.”

Acta Eruditorum 34, 06/1705, pp. 284-285.
Two Samaritan coins from the collection of Johann Rudolf Waser depicted by Anna Waser, in: Adriaan Reland, Dissertatio altera de Inscriptione Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum, Utrecht: Thomas Appels 1704.

A familiar pattern…

The pattern visible here is a familiar one. Both “the most excellent maiden” Maria de Wilde and her obviously as praiseworthy fellow female Anna Waser contributed the engravings for Reland’s dissertation and Ott’s reply to it. Both were daughters of well-connected men in their respective communities: Jacob de Wilde, a collector of arts and antiquities of international renown, and Johann Rudolf Waser, city official and chief warden of Zürich’s Grossmünsterstift. Both excelled in painting and drawing and were given a good education in these crafts, and through their father’s contacts were introduced to scholars who then utilized their services for making their arguments. Although both of them were close contemporaries of Reland – Anna Waser was two years younger, and Maria de Wilde six years – they served as illustrators at a time when Reland had already advanced to a professorial post in Utrecht. This compares well to the biographies of other scholarly active women of the time, the most prominent example surely being Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717). Unlike Merian, Maria de Wilde ceased publishing with her marriage in 1710; while Anna Waser never married and advanced up to the post of court paintress to the count of Solms-Braunfels for three years, 1700-1702, before returning to Zürich where she quit painting around 1708 for unclear reasons.

…and an all-too familiar conclusion

Regardless of their achievements, apart from one scattered reference I have been able to find so far their activities were simply glossed over by contemporary academic publications which were written by men for men. A prime factor for being removed from circulation and thus becoming structurally forgotten obviously was gender. If you were a woman, your chances to be forgotten very soon were 25 times higher than that of a random male scholar of your age bracket.


[1] Journal des Savants 70, 10/1734, p. 699.

[2] Anon., Review of: Adriaan Reland, Dissertatio altera de Inscriptione Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum, Utrecht: Thomas Appels 1704, in: Acta Eruditorum 34, 06/1705, pp. 279-285.

[3] Jacob de Wilde, 1645-1725.

[4] Caspar Waser, 1565-1625.

[5] Johann Baptist Ott, 1661-1744.

For Knowledge and Country II

Richard A. Davenport: A dictionary of biography : comprising the most eminent characters of all ages, nations, and professions, London: Tegg 1831, title page.

Sunday, March 31st, 2019, for Friday n° 25

Two weeks ago I announced here that I would devote a bit more attention to the interplay between the national provenance of biographical dictionaries and their content matter in the 19th century. I do have to start this post with an excuse because I could do only half this task. I only did the early 19th century for starters (52 years to be exact, 1800-1851), and this already got me behind schedule again.

But at least some things have become visible in paying closer attention to biographical dictionaries from this half-century. The first, and hardly surprising, observation to be made is that the content matter, the biographical information as presented within these works, is fairly stable. At least concerning my protagonists these entries are not the fruit of original research but are copied, sometimes verbatim, from 18th century dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Given that these works were aimed at a wider public, this was a completely rational and economic way to proceed. In most cases this means that the size of a particular dictionary was not so much determined by the length of the individual entries but by their number. Only in very condensed works, those which only featured one or two volumes, a biography would be heavily pruned. Much more often it was the selection of biographies, and not the selection of passages within biographies, which made the difference between a four- and a twenty-volume dictionary. That in turn means that any conscious framing of the complete edition would again rest on the selection of the biographies to be included rather than on rewriting the biographical materials themselves.

There are exceptions from this general rule, of course. In Alexander Chalmers’ “The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish”, published in London between 1812 and 1817, Chalmers not only selected a larger share of English and Irish biographies as common in general biographical dictionaries to keep his promise from the title but also added to them in length. At least this might be concluded from the sample of my protagonists he featured: While the dictionary included Thomas Gale, Adriaan Reland, and Eusèbe Renaudot, it devoted four pages to Gale and two pages each to Reland and Renaudot.[1] On average their respective entries do all have roughly the same length within the same dictionary. But Chalmer’s work ran to 32 volumes in the end, so there was no need to be economic in terms of print space.  

The next thing that struck me was that so many of these dictionaries were of British origin. Of the 21 dictionaries surveyed for this post, 12 were written in English, compared to four in French, three in Dutch, one in German and one in Latin. This might well just be a bias in the sample that was caused by me following the references in those dictionaries and publications I had already collected for the last post, but it may also just point to the fact that in the early 19th century Great Britain presumably would have had more people willing and able to buy such a book, or series of books, than continental Europe which first had to cope with the impact of the Napoleonic Wars and then with its lagging behind in industrializing. But although the selections of biographies presented by dictionaries of the sample so far looked at here do not seem to have been much impacted by this provenance. At least Thomas Gale does not pop up with a frequency which seems over-exaggerated in proportion to half the dictionaries being English ones.

My protagonists as referred to in biographical dictionaries and encyclopaedic works, 1800-1851

So what does this tell me? First of all that there seem to have been long-time cycles on the book market, and what is captured by this graphic would be the cycle between roughly 1790 and 1840, with a peak in the 1830ies. The second half of the century would bring the national biographical dictionaries undertaken as state projects, and show a somewhat similar pattern reaching its apogee around the 1880ies. In the 18th century there are quite similar patterns, at least judging from my current state of research.

And, second, that national framings became more closely entangled with the framings – and selections thus prompted – of the content matter these dictionaries presented to their readers. The year I started with, 1800 (yes, that is the last year of the 18th century in proper reckoning), quite symbolically contributed two titles to the list: Francis Godolphin Waldron’s “The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits” on the British and Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts’s “Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle” on the French side of the channel, both clearly framed to accommodate a ‘national’ selection of biographies. Fittingly, Waldron of my protagonists featured only Thomas Gale,[2] while Des Essarts in turn showcased only Eusèbe Renaudot.[3] This tendency in turn directly influenced the chances of certain types of scholars to be referred to, and thus being structurally remembered, through works of this kind.

A case in point is Johannes Braun, who only belatedly begins to make an appearance in these dictionaries at all, compared to the other three. This might well be at last partly due to problems in filing him adequately within a national reference system: Born in Kaiserslautern in 1628, he fled from the city with his mother in 1635 during the Thirty Years War, became preacher of the French Reformed Church in Nijmegen for quite a while, and finally got the post of professor of Theology and Hebrew at Groningen University in 1680; he wrote in French and Latin. Was he now to be considered German, French, or Dutch? A bit of everything, or nothing at all? In Mathieu Delvenne’s 1829 “Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne”, Braun was not included (while Reland was[4]).

This was due to the fact that Delvenne, although he nowhere stated it explicitly, only acknowledged persons in his dictionary who had been born on soil which now was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And this in turn was due to his explicit intention, as stated in his preface, to instill a love for this their fatherland into Belgians, particularly young students, by presenting them examples from their glorious past.[5] Delvenne’s attempt at nation-building obviously came a bit too late, as in 1830 the Kingdom of the Netherlands broke apart into nowadays Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg, but it captures quite well the overall spirit of these collections. Even those which called themselves “General” or “Universal” still privileged a certain nationally framed point of view, with the sometimes implicit, but more often quite explicit, aim to create patriotic sentiments and promote national honour and glory.


[1] See Chalmers, Alexander: The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time, vol. 15, London: J. Nichols 1814, pp. 221-224 (Thomas Gale); vol. 26, London: J. Nichols 1816, pp. 131-133 (Adriaan Reland) and pp. 140-141 (Eusèbe Renaudot).   

[2] Francis Godolphin Waldron: The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits, of eminent and distinguished persons, from original pictures and drawings, Vol. 3, London: Harding 1800, pp. 18-20.

[3] Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts: Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle, Paris: Des Essarts 1801, Vol. 5, pp. 372-374.

[4] Mathieu Delvenne: Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne, ou Histoire abrégée, par ordre alphabétique, de la vie publique et privée des Belges et des Hollandais qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs écrits, leurs actions, leurs talens, leurs vertus, ou leurs crimes, extraite d’un grand nombe d’auteurs anciens et modernes, et augmentée de beaucoup d’articles qui ne se trouvent rapportés dans aucune biographie, Vol. 2, Liege: Desoer 1829, pp. 290-291.

[5] Delvenne, Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, Vol. 1, Liege: Desoer 1829, p. [ii] : “Il [le rédacteur, i.e. Delvennes] se trouvera assez récompensé dans ses longs efforts, si son livre contribue à inspirer aux Belges, et surtout à la jeunesse studieuse qui peuple nos écoles, l’amour d’un pays qui a tant de droits à notre reconnaissance. Il a cru qu’il ne pouvait mieux employer ses loisirs qu’à la composition d’un ouvrage vraiment national.”

For Family, Knowledge, and Country

Philip Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every, 23 May [1725?] (Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473-474)

Friday N° 24, March 22nd, 2019

I have been writing about the entanglements between lexicographical biographic memoralization and national ideas in my last post and had originally announced going further in this direction only in next week’s post. As I was in Oxford for archival research at the Bodleian library to consult correspondences I had not awaited to find anything in there fitting this thread of investigation of my sources. But sometimes one’s in for a bit of a surprise, and so I might try to connect some of my findings in these letters to the theme of national framings of knowledge.

Last week I already observed that British dictionaries and encyclopaedias where going for the national label early in the 19th century. This of course provokes the question whether this was a new development, coming out of the blue, or something which might be connected to longer-running developments. 

The introductory clipping from Philip Sydenham’s (c.1676-1739) letter to Thomas Hearne (1678-1735) points in the latter direction. In his letter, Sydenham complements Hearne to his edition of the itinerary of John Leland (c.1506-552);[1] the full passage runs:

“I hope y[ou]r publick Services for ye Honor & good of this Nation will receive publick approbation. this will be one m[anu]s[cript] to preserve & recover our old Noble Constitution many very valuable M[anu]s[cript]s deserv ye publick reading & encouragment & I hope y[ou] will proceed. ye more ancient ye more brave & Noble.”[2]

Sydenham thus entangled the antiquarian pursuits of Hearne’s, who was an avid editor of medieval manuscripts besides being librarian to the Bodleian library, with the national “Honor” in two ways, on the one hand by the scholarly value of his results and their potential of contributing to a better “publick” understanding of the nation’s past, and on the other hand by linking this more directly to the conditions for being a nation, to “our old Noble Constitution” to be retrieved this way. While this way of searching the origin and the primordial good laws of a community in the past was entirely in keeping with early modern conceptions of how time and historical research operated, the appeal to “publick approbation […] reading & encouragment” is somewhat more unusual and already seems to point to later developments in constructing national identities on a larger scale.

But Sydenham had more to offer still. In the next paragraph, he directly linked Hearne’s other professional activities, that as a librarian, both to the advancement of learning in general – as was a fairly common topos – and – a less common inflection –, to national honour also:

“I am glad [that] y[ou]r Library (=the Bodleian) is daily improving. it is so much for ye Honor of ye Nation, & interest of Learning.[3]

The three intersecting topoi of interest here, from the perspective of my project, are 1) ‘Fighting Oblivion’, 2) ‘Advancement of Learning’, and 3) ‘National Glory’. To see how this affects my protagonists, of whom there has been no mention yet in this post, I’ll have to take you to another of Hearne’s editions, the development of which was indeed coupled to the Leland volumes Sydenham already praised.

In 1716, Roger Gale (1672-1744), eldest son of Thomas Gale, approached Thomas Hearne in the same way as Sydenham would do nine years later, by complementing him on his just published Leland edition. The real aim of the letter was something else, though. Gale wanted to secure Hearne’s editorship for a manuscript in his possession, the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun (or Ffordun, c.1320-c.1386), which already had been partly edited by his father.[4] Hearne willingly accepted Gale’s offer of providing him with the manuscript and every assistance necessary for the edition and publication of the chronicle.[5] Both entered a long-drawn out process of working on the edition in which Roger Gale was constantly checking on Hearne to ensure the progress of the work, to provide him with colligations from other manuscripts, and helping him to gain enough subscribers for publication, he himself taking 20 copies.[6] When in 1722 the Fordun edition finally went to the press,[7] the Gale family was highly pleased with the result.

First, it represented a success in the endeavours of both Roger and his younger brother Samuel Gale, who both had been founding members of the Society of Antiquaries in 1718, in fighting oblivion. To do so represented a recurrent thread in their discussions of all fields of research they were actively engaged in, and print seemed a convenient way of doing it. When on February 25th, 1723, Samuel Gale held a speech before the Society of Lincoln, he spoke about the benefits of engraving:

“Give me Leave, Gentlemen, to Congratulate ye latter age on this Noble Invention, this Beneficial Discovery, and which alone seems to surpass all the great Things the Ancients ever did. Since eben the mouldring Fragments of theire proudest Structures, ye Temples of ye Gods, ye Statues of ye Heroes, ye Hippodromes ye Amphitheatres the Triumphal Arches, Aquaeducts, Military Ways, Baths, Colums, Medals, and Inscriptions, which yet, feebly beare up against ye power of corroding Time: even these Remaines I say of Athens, Corinth, and of Rome can be, and are now, only by this diffusive Art, triumphantly rescu’d from that total Havock, ye everlasting oblivion: Which a few more revolving years must inevitably bring on, and that of the Poet, then be too sadly verified: etiam periere Ruinae.”[8]

In 1726, Roger Gale took recourse to almost the same words in a letter to John Clerk to explain the purpose of the Society of Antiquaries, only with less rhetorical flourish:

“Besides the ½ guinea payd upon admission, one shilling is deposited every month by each member, and this money has been hitherto expended in buying a few books, but more in drawing and engraving, whereby a great many old seals, ruins, and other monuments of antiquity have been preserved from oblivion, and the danger of being intirely lost in a little time.”[9]

 Second, it was connected to the advancement of learning, which Samuel Gale not only connected to printing, but also to the scholars who had been paragons of learning. At the end of his speech, he made the connection quite explicit and directed it not only to the memory of the past, but also to the future.

“These [engravers] are They who by an uncommon Genius have almost outdone Nature, and have given Life & Spirit to Good Men after Death, Who is there yet Beholds ye Aspects of the Great & Learned, and Burns not with secret Æmulation to imitate their High Example.”[10]

And this connection might have been the driving force behind Roger Gale playing the driving force behind putting the manuscript inherited and already partly edited by his father to the press through Thomas Hearne although it costed him time, labour, and money. Samuel Gale put this into words in his letter congratulating Hearne on finishing the Fordun edition, thanking him because:

“Ye Hon[o]r You have done my Father, in mentioning him so often in It, is a great Satisfaction to Me in particular […].”[11]

And thus the history of knowledge, scholarly biographies, and – following Philip Sydenham – national honour which could be derived from both seem to have become entangled in Britain already in the early 18th century. The question is only to what end?


[1] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Joannis Lelandi antiquarii de rebus Britannicis collectanea ; Ex autographis descripsit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, 6 vol., Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1715.

[2] Philipp Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every 23 May [1725?], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473. Orthography as in the original, ligatures in [].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London 24 July 1716, Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 14a, f. 311–312.

[5] Thomas Hearne to Roger Gale, [Oxford 1716 – Concept, no dates], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 15a, f. 313–314.

[6] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 20 February 1722, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 35a, f. 355–357.

[7] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon genuinum, una cum ejusdem supplemento ac continuatione. E codicibus Mss. eruit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1722.

[8] Samuel Gale, Oratio Habita coram Societate Lincolniensi vicesimo quarto Die Februarii Anno C. 1723, Bodleian Library, MS Eng Misc E 147, f. 61, r.

[9] Roger Gale to John Clerk, [no place] 26 April 1726, Bodleian Library, MS Top Gen d 74, pp. 178–186; p. 184.  

[10] Ibid, f. 65, v.

[11] Samuel Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 26 May 1722, Bodleian Library MS Rawls letters 6, f. 376–377.

For Knowledge and Country

Title plate of Jean-Pierre Niceron’s “Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres” (1729-1742)

Saturday, March 16th, 2019, for Friday no. 23

Late again

This time the delay in posting this text is only partially my fault. I can blame some of it on the Biographisch portaal van Nederland, from which I wanted to draw some information but which just was not available for the last days. So I decided to do without these data for a first go, which I think will also do. I do have got enough material to present some first conclusions.

When knowledge went national

Or, as the headline for this paragraph should perhaps better have been, when did knowledge go national? Because it seems to have been fragmented and compartmentalized into ‘national’ units which, to be frank, only make sense on a technical, not on a content level. Framing knowledge in national terms may serve to portion a bit of it to make it manageable, to get it between the covers of a book – or several books of a series, as was much more frequently the case – more easily. But when did such a framing start to impact how knowledge was ordered? As this is of course a question too huge to be answered in a few paragraphs, I’ll focus on a special branch of knowledge and of knowledge stores today, and that is what in the 18th century was called Historia Litteraria. This was the study of the history of knowledge, most often with an arts and humanities focus, but not restricted to it. It was laid down in dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and it was usually biographical in nature, because heavily person-centred. Over time, this genre thinned out and became more and more specialized, while many of its more general contents were merged into the national biographical dictionaries which became popular in the 19th century. During these processes, somewhen between the 18th and the 19th century national categories became the dominant frames for laying out knowledge stores in this field, for both the specialized and the generalized forms of it. And this, at least this is my hypothesis for these materials, impacted if and how dead scholars where referenced, and so the references to my protagonists also.

How it began

But to return to the question from the preceeding paragraph: When did this happen? The obvious answer ‘it is complicated’ seems not to be very helpful here, so it may be best to first of all look at examples which may show when it did not have happened yet to be able to posit a terminus post quem. For those of these works written in German, the first half of the 18th century still was free from being dominated by the national gaze. The omnivorous Universal-Lexicon initally edited by Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1763) referred to all my four protagonists between the years 1733 and 1742,[1] and the more specialist dictionary of scholars by Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (1694-1758), the Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, did likewise in 1750/51.[2] Both applied national classifications, but neither consistently nor very prominent; the focus was on the scholarly achievements of those portrayed as learned rather than on their share of the learning their nation was supposed to have achieved.

This is interesting in so far as it was no longer completely usual. The large series of Jean-Pierre Niceron (1685-1738), the Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, contemporary with the Universal-Lexicon and a bit earlier than Jöcher, mentioned only Reland and Renaudot, skipping Gale and Braun.[3] A cautionary approach is warranted here: One of the criteria for being included in such a dictionary of course always was scholarly excellence and/or fame, and they might have just been dropped for being of too little interest. For Niceron did reference non-French scholars, as for instance Reland. But – in keeping with the special attention Niceron programmatically devoted to illustrious scholars of the French nation – it may also be seen as telling that, in contrast to the Universal-Lexicon and Jöcher were both were quite on a par, in Niceron’s volumes Renaudot’s entries total 18 pages while Reland’s total 10. Such weightings and omissions – or selections – one might also meet with elsewhere, and according to different criteria. In David van Hoogstraten’s (1658-1724) and Matthaeus Brouërius van Nidek’s (1677-1743) Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek Braun and Reland received about the same share of attention, half a page each, whereas Gale was mentioned only in seven lines, and Renaudot was dropped altogether.[4] In this case, the selection might have been facilitated by the fact that the only Catholic was left out, and the Anglican Gale received less attention than the Calvinists Braun and Reland. Be that as it may, the main editor of the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek, Brouërius van Nidek – Hoogstraten had died in 1724 already, and the first volume went to print in 1725 – had edited another encyclopaedic work with a very clear national focus before, the Tooneel der Vereenigde Nederlanden (Theatre of the United Netherlands), the author of which, François Halma (1653-1722), also had died before seeing his work in print. And to make the full round, when Thomas Gale was referred to in an encyclopaedic work for the next time (since the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek), it was in volume three of Andrew Kippis’ (1725-1795) Biographia Britannica: Or The Lives Of The Most eminent Persons Who have flourished in Great Britain And Ireland, so that it was out of the question to refer to any other of my protagonists within this work.[5]

How it went on

References to my protagonists in encyclopaedias and dictionaries, 18th to 21st centuries

So although these were just a few spotlights on the situation in the first half of the 18th century, it seems that a national paradigm in constructing the history of learning was one way to do it but not the predominant. The question then must be, when did this change, and to which effect?

In respect to my protagonists, I am currently drawing up a list of such encyclopaedic references to them, and although it is not complete yet, the overall statistics you see to the left provide an indication when and how knowledge – at least of these people – became nationally framed.

Afirst phase of interest in my protagonists which lasted until the 1750s – which was, as also indicated by other materials, the phase after which when they entered a state of being structurally forgotten.  Then the references become sparse, until a renewed phase of interest begins which covers the 1830s to 1880s, and which is different for each of them. And this is, I would like to argue, due to the national framework having now become the predominant pattern of reference to scholars. Thomas Gale marks the first one to be referenced again in this way, in publications such as George Godfrey Cunningham’s (no dates, sorry) Lives of eminent and illustrious Englishmen (Glasgow, 1834-1842) and John Francis Waller’s The imperial dictionary of universal biography (London, 1857-1863) – although the last, to be fair, at least advertised itself as “a series of original memoirs of distinguished men, of all ages and all nations”. Yet the British focus was clear. Next come Johannes Braun and Adriaan Reland, in works like, Hendrick Collot d’Ésuery van Heinenoord’s (1773-1845) Holland’s Roem in Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Holland’s Glory in Arts and Sciences, Den Haag/Amsterdam 1825-1844) and Herman Verwoert’s (1801-1865) Handwoordenboek der vaderlandsche geschiedenis  (Nijmegen 1851), and of course the huge dictionary of national biography, the Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden (Amsterdam 1858-1874). References to Reland are still being made in the 1880s, which is due to him also being referenced in the German dictionary of national biography, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (Berlin, 1875-1912), as I already pointed out in an earlier blogpost.

And, last but not least, Eusèbe Renaudot is being re-referenced from the 1860s onwards, but – and that makes his case perhaps the most interesting in here, but this is a topic I cannot say very much about right now (scheduled for in two weeks!) – he is referred to mostly in works without a direct French national connotation, such as Louis-Gabriel Michaud’s (1773-1858) Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne which appeared, in different editions, through almost all of the 19th century. What does this say about the connections made between scholarship and nation in 19th century France (if it does say anything about it)?


[1] Anon.: Braun (Joann.), in: Johann Heinrich Zedlers Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 4, Halle & Leipzig 1733, col. 1130-1131; Anon: Gale (Thomas), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 10, Halle & Leipzig 1735, col. 98; Anon.: Reland (Hadrian), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 31, Halle & Leipzig 1742, col. 420-422; Renaudot (Eusebius), ein Gottesgelehrter, in: Ibid., col. 581-584.

[2] Braun (Johannes), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 1, Leipzig 1750, col. 1344-1345; Gale (Thomas) in:  Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 2, Leipzig 1750, col. 830-831; Reland (Adrian), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 3, Leipzig 1751, col.2002-2004; Renaudot (Eusebius), in: Ibid., col. 2012-2013.

[3] Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Reland, Adrien, in: —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, Vol. 1, Paris 1729, pp. 335-342, and vol. 10, Paris 1730, pp. 62-63 ; Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Renaudot, Eusèbe, in : —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, vol. 11, Paris 1732, pp. 25-41, and vol. 20, Paris 1732, pp. 35.

[4] Anon: Braun (Johannes), in: David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 2, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1725, pp. 378-379 ; Anon : Gale (Thomas), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 5, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1729, p. 11 ; Anon : Reland (Adriaan), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 9, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1732, p. 54.

[5] Kippis, Andrew: Biographia Britannica, Vol. 3, London 1750, p. 2075-2077.

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).  

Institutions vs. Forgetting

Friday No. 12, January 4th, 2019 (a real Friday post once again)

Individuals…

So far I have mostly tried to frame structural forgetting in terms of individual persons, of their acts or omissions. This corresponds with my deeply held conviction that individual persons are at the core of history, and tracing them therefore the first task set to any historical inquiry. But, unfortunately, individuals do not only act as individuals but have a tendency to coalesce into groups or collectives. Institutions might be thought of as structured collectives of individuals following that line of thought, as social (sub)systems might also. I always found Norbert Elias’s concept of figurations very helpful to come to terms with such supra-individual entities.[1]

…and Institutions

Now both institutions and social (sub)systems provide me with frames within which I conduct my research on structural forgetting, whether I like it or not – it is about forgetting scholars in the Humanities. Large parts of 18th to 20th century Western and Central European academia with all its peculiar institutions thus come into view and have to be accounted for, because they formed the environment the individuals I look at lived and acted in.

Social (sub)systems are characterized by specific memory practices.[2] One might even argue that they are constituted by memory practices, as they make stabilizing fleeting figurations of individuals into structured supra-individual entities possible over longer spaces of time. The same holds for institutions, on a smaller scale maybe. So both should be quite antithetical to forgetting as it might damage their very foundations. Which then prompts the question:

“If you are part of an institution, does this prevent you from being structurally forgotten?”

There are two possible ways to approach this question, the theoretical and the empirical. Let me give both a short try here (for the answers in both ways are much in the open still, at least for me).

1 – Theoretically…

The most basic observation regarding institutional memory practices is simply that they can never be exhaustive: No institution can structurally remember everything about itself. Memory practices therefore always include elements of forgetting by sorting out and discarding what is no longer relevant to the upkeep of the institution in question. An institution’s memory practices normally do not only entail information circulation but also storage and retrieval. What is deemed relevant is circulated; what is not (at the moment) deemed relevant is stored away where it can (probably) be retrieved again if need be, is no longer circulated, and, in consequence, is structurally forgotten. The larger and older an institution is, the more likely it is for any individual that took part in it to be sorted out and to be removed from circulation by being stored away. But the larger an institution is, the more capacities it may have to circulate those kinds of information it still sees as somehow relevant. The theoretical way to answer the question thus seems to be a definitive yes and no: Yes, you may be structurally forgotten even as a former part of an institution; and: No, if referring back to you is of importance to the institution, you might not be forgotten so easily. That said, structural forgetting and/or remembrance may even serve as an indicator of an individual’s importance to a given institution. But there is a hen-and-egg-problem coming along with this as well: Is an individual of importance because it was (and is) remembered, or was (and is) it remembered because it was important? And vice versa for forgetting. Seems like a typical example of scientific “Well, it’s not that easy to generalize…”

2 – Empirically…

Now do my four cases provide any illumination if sorted into this framework, as an empirical take on the question?

For Adrien Reland and Johannes Braun the answer seems to be deceptively simple. Both were professors at universities – Reland at Harderwijk and Utrecht, and Braun at Groningen. Harderwijk University does not exist anymore, which leaves Utrecht and Groningen to look at. At Utrecht there has some effort been made to keep Reland in the memory of the institution, but this is a development of the 19th century and subject to ups and downs (at the moment, it’s more on the upside). At Groningen Braun is mentioned but rates a poor second, not even a likeness of him survives. Both might be held to be, at least for most periods up until now, structurally forgotten by the institutions they once belonged to. This is nothing extraordinary, as most professors are. The typical university has had just way too many of them and remembers only some chosen few. The really intriguing questions now are: Why and how came these patterns observable today into being? What was the hen, and what the egg? 

So what about institutions with fewer members – which at least statistically raises the chances for any given individual to be remembered rather than forgotten – and individuals who once played key roles in these institutions?

This brings Eusèbe Renaudot and Thomas Gale into focus. Both served rather prestigious scientific institutions in important positions. Renaudot was a member of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres, founded in 1663, and was instrumental in the restructuring of the Academie early in the 18th century. Gale in turn was one of the early members of the English Royal Society, founded in 1660, and served as its secretary from 1679 to 1681 and from 1685 to 1693.

Now both institutions still exist – although one might argue that the Academie des Inscriptions has undergone more transformations during its history than the Royal Society – and both acknowledge their former members, Renaudot and Gale, publicly, yet not very prominently.  From the point of view of both institutions I would label both Gale and Renaudot structurally forgotten: The information is there, but it is out of circulation, stored away, and not easily retrieved.

At the moment I can’t say when these patterns emerged, much less how and why – this needs further enquiry. But what I can say is that in all four cases the institutions did not shield my protagonists from being structurally forgotten in the end. What remains to be studied is whether they had serious impacts on the processes of becoming structurally forgotten at all, and if, how and why. Still a bit of work to do, but the year is young.

 

[1] Elias, Norbert (2009): Was ist Soziologie?, 11th ed., Weinheim/Munich 2009, pp. 10–11.

[2] Sebald, Gerd; Weyand, Jan (2011): Zur Formierung sozialer Gedächtnisse. On the Formation of Social Memory. In: Zeitschrift für Soziologie 40 (3), pp. 174–189; see pp. 179–181.

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!