The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg and Book Reviews in Philosophical Transactions, 1665-1677
Book reviewing was a prominent feature of early modern learned journals, and a flagship such as Philosophical Transactions was no exception: its founder and first editor, Henry Oldenburg, published well above 300 book reviews on its pages in the formative period 1665-1677. This material, however, has been overshadowed by the exceptional richness of the rest of its content, and has received less scholarly attention over the years. The aim of my talk will be to remedy this oversight by looking at how Oldenburg’s other activities, and, especially, his letter-writing, influenced his book reviewing for the journal. I shall begin by showing how Oldenburg reviewed books for his correspondents, friends, and patrons (e.g. Boyle), and for the purposes of the Royal Society, all this quite apart from his book reviewing for the journal. Then I shall move on to outlining the main characteristics of the journal’s book reviews while comparing them with his more private book reviewing. Finally, I shall point to cases where the content and, indeed, the very existence of the journal reviews were dependent on a range of factors quite different from Oldenburg’s editorial strategy and the straightforward ‘read-and-write’ process usually employed in his book reviewing for the journal. Thus I shall argue that at least a part of his book reviewing for Philosophical Transactions cannot be properly understood without tracing its roots in his correspondence and other sources.
Though enjoying some renown as a friend of Joseph Scaliger and Isaac Casaubon, Henri IV’s ambassador to the United Provinces, Paul Choart de Buzenval (1551-1607) has since the 1960s rarely received individual attention. Yet Choart was a prolific correspondent, with contacts spread across Europe, from Venice over Germany to England. As more of his letters and dispatches become available (or more easily accessible), a full inventory is nevertheless still lacking. This working paper aims, first, to assess how Buzenval’s network grew as his career evolved during the final decades of the French Wars of Religion and their immediate aftermath. Secondly, it takes stock of Buzenval’s role as an early modern emissary abroad: we shall see how, over and above his diplomatic agency for Henri de Navarre/Henri IV, Buzenval also emerged as a cultural intermediary and patron. Thus, from relatively modest beginnings, Buzenval became a notable player in a network that intersected with the period’s political as well as intellectual and merchant communities.
The Rise of Scientific Culture and the Return of Old British Barbarism: The Two Cultures Debate in Early Modern England
Late humanists who thought of themselves as citizens of a Republic of Letters regularly corresponded with scholars who, in one way or another, did not originally belong to the larger world of Western Christian society. Joseph Scaliger, Isaac Casaubon, Johann Buxtorf, Martin Crusius and many others exchanged letters with Christian Arabs, converted or practicing Jews and orthodox Greeks. By examining these exchanges and the ways in which they were, or were not, made public, I will raise some questions about the imaginary boundaries of the scholars’ imagined Republic, as well as about the definitions and protocols of scholarly conduct, as these were formulated and debated in the decades around 1600.
This paper discusses the confessional constraints on certain forms of biblical scholarship in the middle of the seventeenth century by looking at the correspondence − some of it published, some unpublished – of a few of its main practitioners. My focus will be on Patrick Young (1584-1652), whose work on an edition of the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament) was hindered considerably by the exigencies of ecclesiastical politics across Europe. As well as Young and his British colleagues and patrons, such as James Ussher and John Selden, I shall consider his principal European counterparts: in the Protestant context, Louis Cappel; in the Roman Catholic, Lucas Holstenius; and in the Gallican, Jean Morin.
I shall aim to show that inter-confessional epistolary exchange – while there was plenty of it – did little to drive the central intellectual and ideological developments in this field of philological research. The constraints of religious absolutism were rarely lifted from scholars at the centre of the so-called ‘republic of letters’; and at the same time, those on its margins were able to make some of the most important contributions.
Cultures of Communication in an Age of Crisis: The Many Layered Network of Samuel Hartlib
Florence C. Hsia
Communication, Community, Corpus: Epistolary Print Cultures and the Society of Jesus
Scattered across the face of the early modern globe in hundreds of colleges, residences, and missions, members of the Society of Jesus participated in a complex and continually evolving epistolary economy prescribed by the order’s foundational texts for the ‘union of hearts’. Whether marked soli for a superior or prepared as a circular for the Society as a whole, penned in haste or systematically compiled, read aloud at the refectory table or shown to visitors, copied by hand or sent to the press, Jesuit letters served a wide variety of purposes both affective and administrative, spiritual and mundane. Printed correspondence was a key component of early modern Jesuit epistolary culture, ranging from hundreds of individual letters and letterbooks to series such as the Annuae litterae (1583-1658), the Relations from New France (1632-1673), the Neue Welt-Bott (1726-1758) and the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses (1703-1776). Through close analysis of the epistolary effects generated by Jesuit letters in print, this paper considers how long-term and large-scale projects for publishing Jesuit correspondence constructed distinctive communities of letter-writers and letter-readers across time and space.
In his History of the Royal Society (1667), Thomas Sprat devoted several pages to discussing the temperate, balanced, impersonal, detatched and gentlemanly modes of discursive interaction to which the Royal Society’s Fellows were committed. Curiously, although historians have long read Sprat’s History as an − often artful – exercise in propanda for the fledgling institution, they have been content to take his assertions about the Fellows’ polite ‘manner of discourse’ at face value. This paper will reconsider discursive norms in and around the early Royal Society, assessing a range of manuscript correspondences to challenge both Sprat’s propagandistic pieties and the uses to which they have been put within the social history of science. While Sprat’s description more or less holds good for an organ like the Philosophical Transactions, the reality of the Fellows’ day-to-day intellectual interactions emerges as ruder, wittier, more playful and more unguarded than Sprat could allow.
Clandestine Inter-Library Loans: Johann Heinrich Hottinger (1620-1667) and his Troubles with the Koran
By the end of his short life, the reformed Church historian and orientalist Johann Heinrich Hottinger had established an impressive network of a great number of correspondents all over Europe. His archive in Zurich, the Thesaurus Hottingerianus, preserves thousands of letters sent to or by him. As such the archive is a most remarkable witness of early modern epistolary culture. Among the many stories these documents can tell, the anecdote about Hottinger’s long and tedious quest for a proper copy of the Koran with which he could emend his own faulty manuscript, is one of the most fascinating. It can give us an impression of the enormous difficulties this pioneer of Arabic studies had to face in order to get hold of the most fundamental of all Arabic texts. It can also give us an impression of Hottinger’s dependency on his epistolary network to get hold of Arabic sources and from the goodwill of certain scholars, who were even ready to break library rules to support their colleague in his studies.
I propose to consider an important but relatively elusive aspect of the practical day-to-day functioning of the communities of knowledge of the early modern world, focusing particularly on France, the Low Countries, and Italy in the second half of the seventeenth century.
Friendship groups are important in two principal ways. Most obviously, they played a role in the transmission of communications that might not be immediately apparent through the study of individual correspondences. Thus scholar A might ask a question of scholar B in the context of a letter to their mutual friend C; and the reply might be transmitted in a letter from scholar D to another mutual friend, E. The links between these individuals could be quite different from the various « virtual communities » to which they might separately belong, while they would constantly provide mutual support for their various enterprises.
Secondly, consideration of such groups can illuminate the wider working of European communities of knowledge. The manifold « virtual communities » created through epistolary networks were not discrete, but interlocked in complex and often unpredictable ways. If they can be imagined in the form of an immensely complex Venn diagram, the points of intersection and overlap between the various circles are often constituted, in practice, by such groups of scholarly friends.
I shall conclude with a brief consideration of ways of engaging with such groups so as to complement more conventional published correspondences.
Bayle collected material for his Dictionnaire historique et critique throughout his life, but, when he came to write the published version, he required many more historical details and references to rare scholarly works. He thus had recourse to a number of close friends and to a small circle of correspondents who may be described as ‘secretaries of the Republic of Letters’; these ‘secretaries’ turned to many other correspondents qualified in the various fields of historical research represented in Bayle’s Dictionary. This complex network thus developed into a ‘constellation’ or ‘lieu intellectuel’ which corresponds to Bayle’s representation of the Republic of Letters and the Dictionary represents Bayle’s contribution to the ‘social construction’ of historical truth.
Epistolary Networks and the Manufacturing of International Reformed Opinion in the Mid-Seventeenth Century
In the religious politics of the early modern period the testimonials of foreign Reformed divines and churches were constantly invoked as a means of justifying competing positions, and this created a situation where Reformed divines across Europe could find themselves lobbied intensively to comment on contemporary events. Pre-existing epistolary networks constituted a particularly tempting resource for those wishing to mobilize a properly-informed, collective continental Reformed position. These were very much imagined and manipulated ‘communities of knowledge’, but ones which drew their strength from the broader assumption that a Reformed international religious community must exist. In this paper I will be focusing on the mid-seventeenth century, when attempts to generate collective expressions of Reformed opinion can be observed in the Saumur controversy, and particularly in concerted attempts to persuade continental divines to comment authoritatively on the increasingly-contested British religious reforms of the 1640s. It will be suggested that the attempted orchestration of an international Reformed network was generally a failure, not least because fully international networks of knowledge were too difficult to control in this way.
In statu Exulii: The Networks of the Amsterdam Printer Hans Fabel (1616-after 1650) and the Impact of the Thirty Years’ War
This paper draws on heretofore unexplored manuscript and printed sources in order to explore the intellectual profile of a community of central-European exiles — authors, publishers, patrons, and customers — which crystallized around the enterprise of the Amsterdam printer Hans Fabel (1616-after 1650). Between September 1646 and March 1650, Fabel issued at least forty-five books overwhelmingly chymical, prophetic, pacifistic, chiliastic, theosophical, and anticlerical in their orientation, by authors including Abraham von Franckenberg, Jacob Böhme, Paul Felgenhauer, Georg Hartlib, and Tobias Schneuber. Printed in German (and occasionally in Latin), Fabel’s books were distributed mainly by post throughout Europe, and even reached readers in North America.
Fabel’s enterprise was entirely reliant on epistolary contact. It was essential for acquiring manuscripts, correcting texts, attracting investors, and selling printed books. Evidence from contemporary correspondence sheds invaluable light on the practical nature, conception, goals, and function of Fabel’s ephemeral enterprise, as well as on the trade in heterodox German books during this period more broadly. This evidence makes clear that Fabel’s publishing project can be largely understood as a reaction to the Thirty Years’ War. His own youthful experiences of conflict decisively influenced the direction of his printing career. The manuscripts submitted to him for publication can be read as spiritualized reactions against the war and its perceived injustices. Furthermore, Fabel’s major customers and investors consisted almost entirely of central European exiles displaced by the conflict. The fact that this investment waned and Fabel abandoned his Amsterdam business shortly after the Peace of Westphalia was concluded in October 1648 further underlines the crucial significance of the war to the nature and trajectory of the enterprise.
This paper will explore what access English scholars had to information about China and nearby territories in the Restoration through the medium of the letter. The paper will have two primary focuses: first, the knowledge of the far east communicted to the Royal Society through letters written to them by traders, chaplains, and even Jesuits; and secondly, the Chinese knowledge of Bodley’s librarian in the period, Thomas Hyde, and the correspondence he struck up with a visiting Chinaman in the mid 1680s, Shen Fuzong.
Paul R. Quarrie
What Types of Information can Letters Provide for the Book Historian and Bibliographer?
This paper comprises an investigation of how different international groups of scholarly correspondents exchange information about new (and old) books in their letters. Particular attention will be paid to comparing and contrasting the attitudes shown by different groups of scholars and scientists in their letters. Individual letters and their ‘bookish’ content will be analysed and commented upon.
Learning to Write Algonquian Letters: Conversion, Communication, and Translation in the Seventeenth-Century Jesuit and Protestant Atlantic World
Atlantic networks of Protestant and Jesuit letters fuelled a flurry of missionary linguistic activity in North America in the 1660s and 70s. Carefully edited and then published annually in Paris, the Jesuit Relations record the frustration and despair that second generation Jesuits experienced due to the difficulties of learning New World languages. By contrast, less formally institutionalized Protestant letters register initial shock at the ‘savage’ quality of indigenous words but then subsume this experience of linguistic alienation within a millenarian framework. In this paper, I demonstrate connections between these Atlantic networks of epistolary exchange and early modern debates about the representational power of words. Espousing the idea that Algonquian could be redeemed along with the souls of its speakers, missionaries transformed the New World into language laboratories. Within these settings, I argue, theological aspirations for Algonquian translation came into conflict with the practical and material reality of learning and proselytizing in languages such as Massachusett and Micmac. Distinct cultures of conversion evolved through attempts to implement doctrine into practice. Protestants imported a printer to facilitate the production of Indian Bibles, Primers, Logics, and conversion treatises, while French Jesuits relied exclusively on the scribal circulation of dictionaries, prayer books, and hymnals, a practice that was more laborious but ultimately more successful.
Filippo de Vivo
Epistolary Politics: Exchanging Information between Venice and England in the Early Seventeenth Century
To understand the activity and uses of letter writing in early modern Europe we need to cross three historiographical approaches: the material analysis of the media, the intellectual interpretation of the relationship established through letters, and the political reading of the information contained in letters. In a commercial and political capital such as early modern Venice, letters played a crucial function inside power games at all social and educational levels alongside other means for the exchange of information. At crucial political junctures, such as the Republic’s clash with Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs immediately preceding the outbreak of the Thirty Years War, letter writing could serve opposite ends in the hands of governments on both sides of the fence, of powerful individuals in key positions of power, and of ambitious professionals at the service of private correspondents. Scholars in the European republic of letters interacted with these local networks in suprising but continuous ways. By studying these exchanges, with particular reference to correspondents based in Venice and in England, this paper explores the extent to which epistolary exchange could serve both the sharing of ideas and the clash of power.