A new way to reach Enlightenment

9 October 2008

EE_Poster_A1_small__aA new digital initiative from the University of Oxford hosted by the Bodleian Library offers unrivalled access to the correspondence of the greatest thinkers and writers of the long 18th century.

The Electronic Enlightenment (www.e-enlightenment.com) project aims to bring under one umbrella the intricate web of correspondence among 6,000 leading political, cultural and academic figures of the 18th centuries including Addison, Bentham, Boswell, Defoe, Hume, Kant, Locke, Pope, Rousseau, Smith, Swift, Sterne and Voltaire. The project began almost 10 years ago supported through funds made available from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Based on the best critical editions, the resulting database currently provides access to the digital text of 53,000 letters and documents mainly in English, German, French and Italian. Featuring over 230,000 scholarly annotations, EE is updated twice a year with new material, including previously unpublished correspondence and enhanced functionality.

The online resource has a user-friendly interface with advanced cross-search and browse tools. It is also provides an interactive facility which allows the user both to contribute to content and to get involved in online discussions with the aim of building a virtual scholarly community.

Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associate Director, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Electronic Enlightenment promises to become one of the most significant resources for scholars working in the 18th century. The Bodleian Library is delighted to be the new home of such an invaluable online resource.’

Dr Robert McNamee, Director for Research and Development, Electronic Enlightenment, said: ‘This collection gives a real insight into the lives and minds of the founders of the modern world. One of the most exciting aspects of digitizing the content and making it cross-searchable is that we are discovering new connections between writers and recipients. The Electronic Enlightenment project is very much a living resource, and we are continuing to add further texts from leading scholarly and university presses. And we also welcome input from the user community to help us build an even more complete picture of the writers and the era.’

Electronic Enlightenment is a scholarly research project of the Humanities Division, University of Oxford in collaboration with Bodleian Library. More details can be found at www.e-enligtenment.com. Electronic Enlightenment is available by annual subscription to institutions and individuals worldwide through Oxford University Press at www.oxfordonline.com

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