On the Shoulders of Giants


The first digital library I encountered was Gallica , when stumbling about the first digitised early modern book relevant for my work, namely Guillaume Gibieuf’s De libertate Dei et Creaturae Libri duo. That was in 2004 -  some seven years ago. For writing my dissertation, I had to travel to libraries near my university, the Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek Soest or the library of the Gymnasium Arnoldinum in Steinfurt (the place where Clemens Timpler taught for years) in order to find books from 16th and 17th century psychology. The vision of a digital library at your fingertips that is more comprehensive than any early modern library can have been while sitting at your computer has fascinated me ever since. A first prototype of EMTO could be launched in 2005, based on Excel spreadsheets - a tedious job, well done by Kay Zenker. Further invaluable assistance was provided by Tobias Schöttler. But we could not have thought of such a project without building on the research of other people. Three of them deserve special mention, because they show what can be achieved in the field of digital humanities without receiving huge grants or developing multi-partner cooperations:
  • Klaus Graf, the creator of the most comprehensive overview of digital libraries presenting old prints that I know of,
  • Dana Sutton, responsible for the most comprehensive bibliography of neo-latin texts available online
  • Jacob Schmutz, whose Nomenclator offers a wealth of information on lesser known figures of early modern philosophy (and, yes, about Gibieuf as well). And this is only one aspect of Scholasticon, his impressive website dedicated to early modern philosophy of the schools in general.

EMTO is building on this work to create something new: a place not only offering information, but the opportunity to collaborate - to exchange information, discuss ideas and increase our stock of knowledge of early modern philosophy using new technological opportunities. But that is a topic for another post.

Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter