Blog Archives

ECCO Part II: for better or for worse?

ECCO Part II, a new version of Eighteenth Century Collections Online was released earlier this year. It has everything that was in ECCO, plus nearly fifty thousand additional titles and a new interface. One of the great additions for this group for instance is the two volumes of the first edition (1755) of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (in folio). This all sounds great, but it seems that not everything is improved. Read more »

Boswell’s BMI?

Boswell’s entry in the ODNB reads that he "stood about 5 feet 6 inches tall, and his weight at 1776 was recorded as 11 stone 12lbs". He was 36 at the time, and his BMI (Body Mass Index) … Read more »

Benjamin Franklin’s subjunctive/indicative confusion

While I was looking at the use of the subjunctive in letters by Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Priestly for a paper for the conference Patriotism(e) & Prescriptivism(e) in Toronto, this August, I came across the following. In the second edition of his Rudiments of English Grammar Priestley discusses the decline of the subjunctive in favour of the indicative:

This conjunctive form of verbs, though our forefathers paid a pretty strict regard to it, is much neglected by many of our best writers […] So little is this form of verbs attended to, that few writers are quite uniform in their own practice with respect to it. We even, sometimes, find both the forms of a verb in the same sentence, and in the same construction (Priestley 1768: 119-120)

I found precisely this in one of Benjamin Franklin’s letters, where he uses both the indicative and the inflectional subjunctive forms with two verbs which refer to the same subject, combined by a coordinating conjunction.

Mr. Joseph Crellius is gone to Holland and I suppose may call at London before he returns, and settle his Daughter’s Affair [emphasis mine] (letter to William Strahan, 6 December 1750 – American Philosophical Society)

Was Franklin really confused here? Or, as this is the only instance of this I have found, is it a transcription error? The letter is available on the website The Papers of Benjamin Franklin


Professor of Poetry in Oxford

The poet Ruth Padel, who resigned as Professor of Poetry in Oxford after only nine days, was preceded in this chair by Robert Lowth. Lowth was Professor of Poetry in Oxford from 1741 to 1751. The lectures he delivered there were published as De Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum Praelectiones Academiai in 1753, and he was subsequently awarded his doctorate from the University of Oxford a year later.

Christine Erkelens wins prize for best paper

Christine Erkelens, one of this year’s Pre-University students who took a course in the context of the Codifiers project, won the Jan Kijne prize for the best final paper. Her paper, called “Reconstructing Social Networks: Comparing the Wills of Mrs Thrale and her daughter” and supervised by Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, was nominated along with ten other papers on a wide variety of topics within fields taught in this university. The final nomination as the best paper was unanimous. Warmest congratulations from the Codifiers project, Christine!

Top 10 downloaded articles 2008

We are happy to announce that the article "Social network analysis and the eighteenth-century family network: a case study of the Walpole family" by Froukje Henstra ended on the eighth spot in the Top 10 downloaded articles of the Transactions of the Philological Society 2008.

Social networking gets medieval

There was an interesting article on social networks that you can access through

The London Magazine, Or Gentleman’s Intelligencer on the web

When searching for reviews of Joseph Priestley’s Rudiments of English Grammar, I found that the Hathi Trust Digital Library has a collection of fully searchable issues of the London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer of the years 1732-1782. The library is accessible via the Mirlyn Library Catalog from the University of Michigan and does not require a subscription or login to function. Not all issues are available but enough for scholars of eighteenth-century England.

After you have found the title via the "Basic Search" window, follow the link "Online links to individual volumes". Follow the link to the Hathi Trust Digital Library for the full-text versions. Beware that the search function is not perfect and appears to have some imperfections in the OCR, so you may have to search more than once with different keywords to find what you’re looking for. Once you’re on the Hathi Trust website, you can search other public collections. Most contain works from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Corpus Linguistics Summer Institute

For those interested in working with Wordsmith Tools: during his visit in Leiden last month, Mike Scott, aka the father of Wordsmith Tools, announced that this summer, the University of Liverpool offers a course on Corpus Linguistics. For more information, see Mike Scott’s website. The deadline for registration is 1 May.

Picard’s New Pocket Dictionary of English and Dutch (1843)

Recently, I received a request for information from Ms Yuriko Tsunekawa on H. Picard, A new pocket dictionary of the English and Dutch languages, published in 1843. This dictionary played an important big role in the development of the first Japanese English dictionary in Japan, which came out in 1862.

Ms Tsunekawa would particularly like to know more about the importance of the dictionary in the Netherlands at that time, and what other Dutch dictionaries could have served as a possible source for the Japanese dictionary. Other questions she has are whether Picard (1843) was an authorised dictionary, what it’s primary purpose was, whether it was merely a practical dictionary or whether it was also used by academics.

Please post your comments here, which will be much appreciated by Ms Tsunekawa.