EE Scholarly Edition of Correspondence
& the EE Biographical Dictionary

Electronic Enlightenment is a unique, scholarly publication reconnecting the first global social network. The EE Scholarly Edition of Correspondence (EESEC) publishes an interconnected network of letters drawn from a broad range of sources, edited by an international assortment of scholars.

What are the correspondence sources?

EESEC is both an original and a derivative publication: content can be based on existing best-critical-editions or on original “born-digital scholarship” with academics working directly from manuscript archives to produce entirely new critical collections.

Letters are discovered, accessed and edited by academic projects like the Bernardin de Saint-Pierre Project; by individual contributors like Professors Pamela Clemit, Katrin Kohl and Nicholas Cronk; and of course by the Electronic Enlightenment Project itself!

Best-critical-editions are also drawn from a range of sources, including . . .

Cambridge University PressTaylor & Francis
Duke University PressUniversity of California, Berkeley
Felix Meiner VerlagUniversity of Delaware Press
Johns Hopkins University PressUniversity of Georgia Press
Leo S. Olschki EditoreUniversity of Toronto Press
Norstedts FörlagUniversity of Wales Press
Oxford University PressVirginia Historical Society
Pickering & ChattoVoltaire Foundation
Royal Historical Society

Regardless of the source for the base-text, EESEC is not an “electronic bookshelf” of digitally reproduced books, but an edited and re-edited network of interconnected documents. In all cases, what appears in EESEC is a unique bibliographic and scholarly instance (and should be cited as such).

How special is the result?

No other scholarly publication provides as many instances, for this many authors, of “this is the most complete and up-to-date collection available anywhere.”

For example, we’ve added dozens of newly discovered Voltaire letters to the vast collection edited by Theodore Besterman (which is itself a base-text for EESEC). And the standard edition of Adam Smith’s correspondence (OUP, 1987), which provides 385 documents, is expanded by 25% in EESEC with the addition of 68 letters from other printed sources, and another 20 never previously published letters drawn from manuscript sources by Professor Ian Ross.

And what is true for Voltaire and Smith, is also true for Rousseau and Hume and Morellet and Frederick the Great and for hundreds of less-well-known historical correspondents.

As well as the regular gathering together of new and existing letters, the scholarly apparatus associated with the documents is itself under constant review and revision. New content, for example, often provides information impacting on previously published materials: the identity of a previously obscure correspondent, a new view on a topic of conversation, a refinement of dating, social association, geographical details.

Here is a table outlining the number of different locations from which letters have been drawn for some of the more extended collections:

Correspondent Number of letter sources
Cullen, William 6
Ferguson, Adam 6
George III, king of Great Britain and Ireland 6
Strahan, William 7
Blair, Hugh 7
Cadell, Thomas 7
Dundas, Henry, 1st Viscount Melville 8
Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques 8
Montagu, Elizabeth [née Robinson] 9
Pope, Alexander 9
Rousseau, Jean Jacques 10
Smith, Adam 10
Petty, William, 1st marquess of Lansdowne 11
Hume, David 12

What does it mean for the EESEC reader?

The rich variety of people in EESEC, especially as catalogued in our growing EE Biographical Dictionary (EEBiD), represents a real cross-section of early modern society in Europe and the Americas. By treating every correspondent — not only the “great men” — as someone significant, EE reveals the existence of the myriad unknown and ignored figures of the period and raises questions about their place in the structures of their time, challenging the traditional concept of the “Enlightenment” as the preserve of philosophers. Read the ideas and concerns not only of thinkers and scholars, politicians and diplomats, but also butchers and housewives, servants and shopkeepers. With a wealth of personal detail revealed in these personal documents, you can explore as never before the relationships, correspondence networks and movement of ideas, the letters and lives of the early modern world.

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