Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 November 2012
Where is America in the republic of letters? This question has formed in my mind over the last four years as I have collaborated on a new project based at Stanford University called Mapping the Republic of Letters. The project aims to enrich our understanding of the intellectual networks of major and minor figures in the republic of letters, the international world of learning that spanned the centuries roughly from 1400 to 1800. By creating visual images based on large digitized data sets, we hope to reveal the hidden structures and conditions that nourished the growth of the republic of letters in the early modern era and the causes of its transformation in the nineteenth century. This task has only recently become feasible with the digitization of the correspondences of major intellectuals such as Benjamin Franklin, John Locke, Athanasius Kircher, and Voltaire, and of libraries, cabinets of artifacts, and Grand Tour itineraries.
Thanks to Charles Capper, Michael O'Brien, Mark Peterson, and James Turner for their incisive comments on earlier versions of this essay. I am also grateful to my colleagues on the Mapping the Republic of Letters project at Stanford University for many productive conversations: Giovanna Ceserani, Nicole Coleman, Dan Edelstein, and Paula Findlen. My graduate students Julia Mansfield, Claire Rydell, and Scott Spillman have also worked tremendously hard on the project, and I remain very appreciative of their labors. Thanks to Giorgio Caviglia of DensityDesign Research Lab in Milan, Italy, for producing the maps of Franklin's and Voltaire's correspondence.
1 The term “British America” is problematic since it seems to anticipate the arrival of “Americans”—that is, of the United States—and it promises attention to Canada that I do not give here. The terms “colonial America” and “early America,” however, do not distinguish enough among Britain, France, and Spain's New World empires. So British America it is, for lack of a better term.
2 This is from the website of Cambridge University Press.
4 Brockliss, Laurence W. B., Calvet's Web: Enlightenment and the Republic of Letters in Eighteenth-Century France (New York, 2002), vii–viiiGoogle Scholar.
5 On the use of the term orbis litterarius see Bots, Hans and Waquet, Françoise, La république des lettres (Paris, 1997), 23, 63–90Google Scholar.
7 Adams, John, entry for 16 April 1778, in Butterfield, Lyman H., ed., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, vol. 4, Autobiography Parts Two and Three 1777–1780 (Cambridge, MA, 1962), 62Google Scholar.
8 The last twenty years is 1990–2010. Only English-language titles were sampled. For this research I am indebted to Scott Spillman, PhD candidate, Department of History, Stanford University.
9 The Electronic Enlightenment Project, University of Oxford (www.e-enlightenment.com); the Cultures of Knowledge Project, University of Oxford (www.history.ox.ac.uk/cofk); and the Circulation of Knowledge project in the Netherlands (ckcc.huygens.knaw.nl). For a useful introduction to scholarship on spatial mapping in the republic of letters see Mayhew, Robert, “British Geography's Republic of Letters: Mapping an Imagined Community, 1600–1800,” Journal of the History of Ideas 65 (April 2004), 251–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
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12 The two books are Ostrander, Gilman, Republic of Letters: The American Intellectual Community, 1776–1865 (Madison, 1999)Google Scholar; and Smith, James, ed., The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826, 3 vols. (New York, 1995)Google Scholar. The topic has been treated in shorter formats. See especially the useful essay by Hall, David, “Learned Culture in the Eighteenth Century,” in Amory, Hugh and Hall, David, eds., A History of the Book in America, vol. 1, The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (New York, 2000), 411–33Google Scholar; Landsman, Ned, “A Transatlantic ‘Republic of Letters,’” in idem, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680–1760 (Ithaca, 1997), 31–56Google Scholar; Fiering, Norman, “The Transatlantic Republic of Letters: A Note on the Circulation of Learned Periodicals to Early Eighteenth-Century America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series 33 (Oct. 1976), 642–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The subject has also been treated influentially in books that play with the wording: Warner, Michael, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge, MA, 1990)Google Scholar; and Shields, David, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill, 1997)Google Scholar.
13 Thanks to Michael O'Brien for his shrewd thoughts on this matter; email communication to the author, 5 November 2010.
14 See especially Amory and Hall, Colonial Book; Augst, Thomas and Carpenter, Kenneth, eds., Institutions of Reading: The Social Life of Libraries in the United States (Amherst, 2007)Google Scholar; Sher, Richard, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America (Chicago, 2006)Google Scholar.
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16 Hugh Amory, “Reinventing the Colonial Book,” in Amory and Hall, Colonial Books, 43.
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25 Davis, Intellectual Life, 1: 371.
26 See especially Charles Carroll of Carrollton to Charles Carroll of Annapolis, 10 April 1760, in Hoffman, Ronald, ed., Dear Papa, Dear Charley: The Peregrinations of a Revolutionary Aristocrat . . ., 3 vols. (Chapel Hill, 2001), 1: 151–3Google Scholar.
28 Bridenbaugh, Carl, Cities in the Wilderness: The First Century of Urban Life in America, 1625–1742 (New York, 1938), 303Google Scholar. Contrast this with Spanish America, where by 1740 Mexico City had a population of 112,000 and Lima 52,000; see Elliott, John H., Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492–1830 (New Haven, 2006), 262, 204Google Scholar.
29 O'Shaughnessy, Empire Divided, 19–27.
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34 Benjamin Franklin to Noah Webster, 26 Dec. 1789, available at http://franklinpapers.org/franklin.
35 Woodward, Walter, Prospero's America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606–1676 (Chapel Hill, 2010), 65Google Scholar.
36 On the estimate of five thousand, I am grateful for the email communication from Walter Woodward, 18 Aug. 2010, who also advises that a number of letters may not have survived. For locations of correspondents see Woodward, Prospero, 3, 54, 65.
37 Bots and Waquet, La republique des lettres, 147.
39 Woodward, Prospero, 262, 263, 254.
40 Woodward, Prospero, 69.
41 Thanks to the Sébastien Heymann at Gephi (http://gephi.org/) for producing these visualizations for this project.
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51 Safier, Measuring the New World, 252.
52 MacCormack, Sabine, On the Wings of Time: Rome, the Incas, Spain, and Peru (Princeton, 2007)Google Scholar.
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56 Harris, Steven, “Confession-Building, Long-Distance Networks and the Organization of Jesuit Science,” Early Science and Medicine 1 (Oct. 1996), 287–318CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Harris, Steven, “Mapping Jesuit Science: The Role of Travel in the Geography of Knowledge,” in O'Malley, Johnet al., eds., The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773 (Toronto, 1999), 212–40Google Scholar. I am indebted to my colleague Paula Findlen for opportunities to view maps of Kircher's correspondence network.
57 Codignola, Luca, “The Holy See and the Conversion of the Indians in French and British North America, 1486–1750,” in Kupperman, Karen, ed., America in European Consciousness, 1493–1750 (Chapel Hill, 1995) 195–242, 213Google Scholar.
59 I arrived at the Catholic population figure by adding the number of Catholics (20,000) in Maryland in 1765 to the number on the eve of Revolution in Philadelphia (1,200)—both figures in Walch, Timothy, ed., Early American Catholicism, 1634–1820: Selected Historical Essays (New York, 1988)Google Scholar, unpaginated introduction (3–4). For American population totals in roughly 1775 see Evarts Greene, Harrington, Virginia, et al., American Population before the Federal Census of 1790 (New York, 1932; repr. 1981), 6–7Google Scholar.
60 Dolan, Jay, The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present (Garden City, NY, 1985), 81Google Scholar.
61 Ibid., 82. The first permanent Jesuit institution of higher learning in the United States was Georgetown Academy (later a college), founded in 1789. See Mahoney, Kathleen, Catholic Higher Education in Protestant America: The Jesuits and Harvard in the Age of the University (Baltimore, 2003), 11Google Scholar.
62 Codignola, “Holy See,” 213, quotation at 196.
67 Mungello, David E., The Great Encounter of China and the West (New York, 1999), 37Google Scholar.
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