Clarin Education Module Visual Representation: ePistolarium (Eng)

This CLARIN-Education module aims at getting students acquainted with visual analytical methods using the tool ePistolarium developed within the context of the project Circulation of Knowledge and learned practices in the 17th Century Dutch Republic. A Web-based Humanities collaboratory on correspondences. The website (tab Home) provides a general description of the project and an instruction video for using the ePistolarium tool.

The ePistolarium tool has been developed, in the context of a NWO- Middle Infrastructure grant of the Netherlands Organization of Science (NWO) with additional funding of CLARIN Europe and CLARIN Netherlands with the aim to analyse and visualise themes of interest and debates in 17th century networks of Dutch scholars or scientists working in the Dutch Republic in a corpus of approximately 20,000 letters of scholars such as, Constantijn and Christiaan Huygens, Descartes, Grotius, Swammerdam, Barlaeus, Beeckman and Van Nierop. The various analytical and visualization methods are described in detail on the web page: “Methodology” and the web page: “First experiments” provides brief reports of tests with the ePistolarium tool.

Daan Wegener (PhD), historian and philosopher of science and natural sciences teacher developed on commission of the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands three overarching case studies containing sub cases, assignments and research questions to test the tool and to enable comparisons with similar projects analyzing the Republic of Letters.

  • 1. The first case concerns the reception of Aristotle in the Republic of Letters within the context of the mechanical philosophy of Descartes and within the context of the growing interest in mathematical descriptions of nature that both implied a rejection of Aristotelian views. The assignments focus on mappings  of the role of Aristotle in various correspondence networks.
    Download case 1.
  • 2. Aristotle returns in the second case study around the debate between René Descartes and his most important opponent in the Dutch Republic, Gisbertus Voetius. The assignments gets the user acquainted with two facilities of the ePistolarium tool: mappings of people that are mentioned together in the same letters in so-called co-citation networks and visualizations of the geographical distribution of ideas (circulation of knowledge). Moreover, the user can make comparisons with similar projects such as Mapping the Republic of Letters (Stanford University) and Cultures of Knowledge (Oxford University).
    Download case 2.
  • 3. “Geen nieuws van betekenis” (No important News) focuses on the role of news in the Republic of Letters.
    Download case 3.

In this assignment students are taught how to refine their queries in order to answer a research question regarding the news. Furthermore, it addresses the issue of reciprocity in intellectual networks, a recurrent theme in the historiography of correspondences between scholars in the Republic of Letters. Moreover, it demonstrates an experiment with data in the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands in which the reciprocity  in the correspondences.