Early Modern Time & Networks

A Humanities + Design research workshop. Stanford University, August 2012.

Early Modern Time & Networks is a humanities + design collaboration to create tools for humanities research defined by humanities research questions and involving humanities scholars in the design and development process. For the design research and computer science participants we hope to demystify humanities research. For the humanities scholars we hope to demystify the engineering of computational data visualization tools.

The two-week intensive workshop builds upon previous Mapping the Republic of Letters collaborations between the SHC Research Lab, DensityDesign Research Lab, and Sebastien Heymann (Gephi). Together we have been exploring the exchange of ideas and the interactions of individuals through the visualization and contextualization of heterogeneous, multi-dimensional data sets derived from narrative sources.

We have been developing a web-based interactive visual display for investigating temporal-spatial-relational dynamics in human networks. During the workshop we will put this prototype tool to the test with five case studies, each one bringing unique source materials and specific research questions.

The workshop will meet at Stanford University's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) on the 4th floor of Wallenberg Hall and at the Stanford Humanities Center.

Case Studies

Mapping Galileo

Mapping Galileo
Hannah Marcus

Galileo Galilei is one of the best-known and most mythical figures in European history. Although his letters and writings are collected and published, they have not, until now, been digitized. Over the past year, Stanford undergraduate Kyle Lee-Crossett has been translating the metadata of Galileo’s letters into a digital form that we hope to interrogate this summer with the help of visualization software. We will also be looking at Galileo’s letters in relation to his movements within Italy and more generally the evolution of his network during distinct phases of his life: the early years in Pisa; as a mathematics professor in Padua with important contacts in the Venetian Republic; as a celebrated court astronomer and philosopher to the Grand Duke of Tuscany and member of the Lincean Academy, moving between Florence and Rome; and finally as a man tried and condemned for heresy. I will create a database that captures his movements over his life. Galileo has been extremely well studied; however, we will see what mapping his correspondence adds to understanding Galileo.

For the Galileo case study, I anticipate that time rather than vast geographical distance will be the most important factor in network analysis. Our initial visualizations (using Tableau) of the Galileo data have indicated that Galileo’s correspondence is extremely Italo-centric, at least until 1633 (we have not yet made a database of these later years though we hope to get there in the coming months). I think that this focus on Italy will prompt us to question the ways in which his correspondence is focused on people rather than places. There has been extensive research showing Galileo’s expertise as a courtier. It will be interesting to consider Galileo as a “networker” inhabiting multiple worlds – university, academy, court, and church as well as the seventeenth-century republic of letters. I will question how thinking about Galileo as a courtier, that is, someone inhabiting a particular place at a court, might differ from activating a correspondence network.

How does Galileo’s patronage network differ from those of other men of the early modern period who activated a more geographically distant network? I am also interested in shedding light on the role of intermediaries in Galileo’s network. I will question whether Galileo was directly a courtier and the ways in which his persona was mediated through letters. I wonder, and may need to think deeply about, whether it is important to include letters written by other people on behalf of Galileo—this will be a correspondence issue that the Republic of Letters project has not yet dealt with.

One of the least understood aspects of Galileo is identifying and assessing his relationships with the marginal figures in his network. With whom did Galileo exchange letters? Were these correspondents primarily people with whom he had a close personal relationship? Were they his students? Employers? Patrons? Jesuits? Clergy members? Are there people with whom Galileo was only occasionally in touch but with whom he stayed in touch when he physically moved from Pisa to Padua to Florence to Rome over the course of his career? Did moving radically change Galileo’s network? Did he have a base network that he maintained throughout his life or did he create a new network every time he moved?

I will be working with Kyle Lee-Crossett and Paula Findlen to continue to add to the Galileo database, including using my expertise in early modern Italy to add new details to the database such as religion and primary occupation in order to enrich the utility of this database. Fortunately the ongoing interest in Galileo provides us with many online tools such as The Galileo Project, the Museo Galileo website, and Richard Westfall’s database of early modern scientists, based on the original Dictionary of Scientific Biography. I will be exploring what kinds of information will best enhance the database and the visualizations that emerge from it.

Francesco Algarotti's Published Correspondence

Francesco Algarotti's Published Correspondence
Paula Findlen and Cheryl Smeall

Venetian polymath Francesco Algarotti (1712-1764) was a prolific writer. During his lifetime, he published a myriad of works on a multitude of topics. A number of his works were reissued, reprinted, and revised over the course of the eighteenth century. Four Italian-language editions of his collected works (Opere) were published during the eighteenth century: Opere varie del conte Francesco Algarotti ciamberlano di S.M. il Re di Prussia... (Venice: Giambatista Pasquali, 1757), 2 volumes; Opere varie del conte Francesco Algarotti ciamberlano di S.M. il Re di Prussia... (Livorno: Marco Coltellini, 1764-1765), 8 volumes; Opere del conte Algarotti cavaliere dell'ordine del merito... (Cremona: Lorenzo Manin, 1778-1782), 10 volumes; and Opere di Francesco Algarotti (Venice: Carlo Palese, 1791-1794), 17 volumes. While the two later editions were published after his death, Algarotti was actively involved in the editorial process for the 1757 and 1764-1765 editions.

Like many of his counterparts in the Republic of Letters, Algarotti produced a great deal of correspondence. Each of the above-mentioned editions of Algarotti’s Opere contains letters he exchanged with his associates. We catalogued these letters in four separate databases, one for each edition of his collected works. For each letter, we entered the author’s name, that of the recipient, the date on which the letter was written, the place from which it was written, and the place to which it was sent (where known). We also developed a system for denoting the nature of each letter. Each letter is coded DL, PL, LV, LV(i), LV(a), LV(a)(i), or PL. DL denotes a Dedicatory Letter; that is, a letter that appeared at the beginning of a treatise dedicating it to someone. PL denotes a Prefatory Letter. These letters also appeared at the beginning of written works, by way of an introduction; however, the work is not dedicated to the addressee of the letter outright. LV are letters that are grouped together by the editors of the different editions of the Opere under the title of Lettere Varie; LV(i) denotes Lettere Varie that are “inedite,” LV(a) are Lettere Varie with anonymous recipients, and LV(a)(i) are Lettere Varie inedite with anonymous recipients. Finally, TL are Thematic Letters. These letters served the function of an essay on a given topic, and are grouped together according to theme by the editors.

We are interested in what the contents of these databases can tell us about the editorial decisions taken by the editors of the various editions of the Opere. We are also interested in what larger significance can be gleaned from these decisions about the world that Algarotti moved in, both from his own perspective (as reflected by the 1757 and 1764-1765 editions) and from that of editors of the editions published after his death.

The choices the editors of the different editions of the Opere made about which letters to include or exclude can provide insight into the perceived importance, as well as the renown, of Algarotti’s correspondents as individuals at the time of publication. What was the country of origin of the correspondents chosen for inclusion? What was their gender? Comparing which of his correspondents were thought worthy of inclusion with those included (and excluded) in other editions would provide clues as to how the renown of Algarotti’s associates changed over time, and what role country of origin and gender might have played in this. Given that Algarotti’s reputation was closely tied to that of his associates, such a comparison can also tell us something about the fluctuation in Algarotti’s perceived importance over the course of the eighteenth century, as well as about part of what this importance was tied to.

The various categories we have assigned to each letter (DL, PL, LV, LV(i), LV(a), LV(a)(i), and PL) can also give us clues as to what Algarotti’s relationship was with the people to whom/by whom these letters were written, as well as to how the editors wished to portray these relationships. What overlap exists between correspondents whose letters have been assigned these categories? What are the editors trying to tell the reader about Algarotti’s relationships with his correspondents by choosing to print the types of letters they did? How do the contents of these categories change from one edition to another?
In short, by comparing which letters were contained in which edition(s) of the Opere, and which letters fell into which category in each edition, we are hoping to learn more about the decisions that the editors of each edition of the Opere made and why they made them.

The Salons Project

The Salons Project
Melanie Conroy

The Salons Project will map the intellectual and social geography of European salons from the seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. Beginning with Parisian salons in the period from 1700-1940, the project will graph the social networks of leading salonnières, charting the movement of notable intellectuals, writers, politicians, and socialites between salons, as well as the evolution of individual salons as loci for intellectual and literary exchange. Later expansions of social networks will incorporate individuals from as many social and economic milieux as possible in order to draw a complex and accurate portrait of European high society. Further projects will cover Italian, German, and British salons in selected time periods and cities.

The Salons Project will use Gephi and related tools for the analysis of salon networks. We will create a database of notable individuals and their attendance at salons. The data will consist of lists of salon attendees for a given year. The attendees (habitués) will be coded for 1) gender, 2) milieu, 3) political persuasion, 4) social status, 5) profession, and 6) intellectual or artistic affiliation. We will trace the connections that arise within and across salons and cross-reference them against familial and publishing networks. The comparison of these distinct types of networks will show whether the salons did, indeed, function as fundamental public institutions, or whether they were extensions of previously existing networks (e.g. the family, the state, political groupings, professional networks, etc.).

The visualization tools of this database will allow researchers to classify salons according to their composition (e.g. politically and/or artistically heterogeneous salons versus homogenous ones); it will also help researchers measure the intellectual and literary weight of a given salon in a particular year based on the social and literary influence of attendees. These tools will also quickly reveal the movement of notable individuals between salons, information which can be compared with publishing records to track the influence of specific literary and intellectual movements throughout European high society.

The Salons Project will construct its dataset from the mémoires of salonnières, the letters and journals of habitués, biographies of socialites, the columns of the Figaro, and the research of notable historians in French and European history agreeing to participate in the project. Current participants include Melanie Conroy (Stanford), Antoine Lilti (EHESS), Steven Kale (Washington State), and Alice Bernard (Paris I).

An Intellectual Map of Science in the Spanish Empire, 1600-1810

An Intellectual Map of Science in the Spanish Empire, 1600-1810
Marcello Aranda

My project is a prosopographical study of Spanish scientists from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that will use technology to visualize larger trends in the production and circulation of scientific knowledge in the Spanish Empire. The source for my project is the Spanish Scientist Database I have compiled using information from the Diccionario Historico de la ciencia moderna en España. The book covers those involved in Spanish science from the late medieval period up to the 1970’s. The database focuses on scientists from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with its start and end dates being 1600 and 1810. Anyone who was active between those years was included in the database, which yielded a set of 360 individuals. While this is not a large number of records, within each record there are eighteen fields, allowing for the comprehensive analysis of a small number of individuals, or a broader analysis of different factors.

I will be using the dataset for two chapters of my dissertation. In those chapters, I discuss long-term trends and tendencies in the practice of science in the early modern Spanish world. Among the factors that will be analyzed will be changing research preferences in different times and locales, the role of organizational and personal networks in scientific research, and the circulation of scientific knowledge through individuals. During this period there are changes in who engages in particular areas of scientific inquiry. For example, Jesuits dominated the mathematical and geographical sciences in the seventeenth century, but naval officers took that position in the eighteenth century. The database will allow for the analysis of changes in the Spanish scientific network, showing the shifts from a primarily Catholic network oriented around Rome, Madrid, and the overseas Jesuit missions, to one based around academies in Cadiz, Madrid, Paris and London using scientific expeditions to gather data.

These chapters will also provide the background, against which I set other chapters that are specific case histories of Spanish scientific figures such as Carlos de Sigüenza y Gongora, José Zaragoza, Eusebio Kino and Juan Jose Navarro. I believe that juxtaposing these two levels of analysis, the prosopographical and the individual, will enrich my dissertation, and spark new insights into who was engaged in the pursuit and use of scientific knowledge, and how their practices changed between the mid seventeenth and mid eighteenth centuries.

The database has been constructed in stages. The first stage included both identifying and entering basic data on each individual, such as dates and places of birth and death, as well as scientific fields and areas of study. To construct the database, I have been using Bento, a simplified version of Filemaker for Mac OS X. The second stage of the database's development, has incorporated organizational affiliation, known education, other known locations, and precise dates of scientific activity.

Research questions and goals


  • How did Spanish scientific communities and networks change over time?
  • What effect do communities and networks have on the development of different scientific fields?
  • How do itinerant scientists help connect different communities?


  • To construct a geographic map of science in the Spanish Empire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This will be a dynamic visualization showing changing activity in different cities and regions in ten-year increments.
  • To design timelines that would illustrate activity in each of six broad scientific areas of study over a two-century period.
  • To chart the travel of itinerant figures like Zaragoza and Kino and compare their broader social networks to those of a stationary figure like Sigüenza who had an extensive localized network.

Sample Source

The Society of Dilettanti

The Society of Dilettanti
Sarah Murray

The purpose of my project for the Early Modern Time & Networks Workshop is to investigate three separate but related questions:

  1. Did the nature and culture of the Society of Dilettanti change in meaningful ways during the period from 1732-1800?
  2. In what way did the integration of quasi-scientific archaeological architects into the Society impact the activities and group demographics of the Society?
  3. In what way did membership in the Society of Dilettanti impact the careers and social networks of its architect/archaeologist members?

The Society of Dilettanti was founded in London in 1734 in order to provide a forum for British gentlemen who had traveled to Italy during their “Grand Tours” to continue the cultivation of the antiquarian tastes they had developed on the continent. However, the society quickly became known more for bibulous antics than for genteel antiquarianism. Though their trips to the old country were nominally made in pursuit of the acquisition of virtu and intellectual nobility, one exasperated tutor noted that this pursuit was often drowned in a sodden muck of “nauseous Dreggs of Riots, Revels, Idleness, Stupidity, and Nonsense.” Horace Walpole, who was not a member, famously stated that “The nominal qualification [for membership in the Dilettanti] is having been in Italy, and the real one being drunk.”

In fact, entry into the society was originally limited to gentlemen who had adequate social standing and enough financial backing to afford their own independent Grand Tours. Thus, members could only propose new initiates whom they had met personally while in Italy. Although this stricture was flexible enough to allow the integration of those who had been in Italy for professional reasons, the number of artists and architects among the Dilettanti is reported to have been very low in the first decades of the society’s existence.

However, in 1751, perhaps because they were weary of being roundly lambasted for their reputation as foppish sots, the society admitted the architect and draftsman Nicholas Revett (1720-1804) and the architect and painter James “Athenian” Stuart (1713-1788). Stuart was the son of a sailor and Revett was also a commoner, and much has been made of the degree to which the Dilettanti was “slumming” in adding such members to its lofty ranks – they were after all “not in the least vers’d, either in the Latin or Greek languages”. However, recent scholarship has suggested that the initiation of Stuart and Revett was a calculated move on the part of the Dilettanti in order to add a measure of professional antiquarian scholarship to its activities and thus cast off its distasteful mantle as a rakish socializing group. Indeed, the publication of Stuart and Revett’s masterpiece The Antiquities of Athens (1762) ushered in a series of further archaeological publications underwritten by the Dilettanti. It seems that, by the mid-18th century, it was time for the cads to set aside their flagons of Beelzebub, and to begin to get serious.

Or was it? The relationship between Stuart and Revett’s work in Athens and the changing aspirations of the Dilettanti is currently a hypothesis based on anecdotal history and scholarly inference. The purpose of my Time+Networks projects is to test this hypothesis against the mass of data collected so far by the Grand Tour Travelers branch of the Mapping the Republic of Letters project, as well as to take the line of questioning further in new ways, primarily regarding the social reality of professional architects in the 18th century.

First, I would like to determine whether membership in the Dilettanti looks significantly different after the integration of Stuart and Revett in 1751 on a variety of axes, primarily social status, occupation/expertise, and co-membership in other more-or-less respectable societies. Was this truly a “watershed moment” in the history of the Dilettanti, followed by progressively more open membership and the addition of many professionals (e.g. members of the Royal Society)? Or were Stuart and Revett two exceptional admits whose importance has been inflated insofar as changing the demeanor and makeup of the Dilettanti is concerned?

In addition to testing this hypothesis about diachronic change in the makeup of the Dilettanti, I would like to look at the way in which membership in the Dilettanti affected the lives of architects that joined it. Stuart and Revett were engaged in an actively British type of architectural study, using a quasi-scientific approach and generating spare, precise illustrations that were purposefully opposed to contemporary French drawings that portrayed life among the ruins of Greece as a fanciful bucolic idyll. In their methods they were heavily indebted to Robert Wood (1717-1771) who had drawn the ruins of Palmyra and Baalbek, and whom they met in Rome in 1749. Their work, in turn, had a great affect on their contemporaries, and was drawn upon for the architectural designs of many new buildings in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries.

To what degree did Stuart and Revett’s membership in the Dilettanti contribute to their success? If the Dilettanti did indeed open its membership more to architects during the second half of the 18th century, did this have an effect on the way in which architects related to one another and to their work? Did architects who were members of the Dilettanti follow different career paths or visit different cities on their Grand Tours than architects who were not members? I would like to use Time+Networks to investigate the social relationships of British architects during the second half of the 18th century and to consider the interplay between membership in the Dilettanti and professional networking.

The data I propose to use to answer the questions outlined above is the Grand Tour Travelers data that we have been curating at Mapping the Republic of Letters since the fall of 2008. This data is based on the book A Dictionary of British and Irish Travelers in Italy 1701-1800, by John Ingamells. The book contains several thousand entries, organized alphabetically by traveler (see sample page). Each entry lists basic biographical data about the traveler, their social status, their membership in societies, their marital status, etc., and then lists what we know about their travels abroad. Using this data, it should be relatively straightforward to come up with information about the basic year-by-year composition of the Dilettanti. I am also hopeful that previous work by the MRofL team linking various architects to one another might be useful in determining the relationships among them and how these may have changed through time. Finally, I am working to compile a list of publications made by the Dilettanti during its lifetime in the 18th century in order to integrate the frequency of archaeological publications into what I see as a kind of “metric of seriousness” by which to evaluate the Dilettanti’s activities through time.

Sample Source


Monday 13 August

Why Humanities + Design? · Nicole Coleman
Why Design + Humanities? · Paolo Ciuccarelli

Tuesday 14 August

Discussion of Case Studies and Research Method · Marcelo Aranda, Sarah Murray, Hannah Marcus, Melanie Conroy
ORBIS as Research Product · Elijah Meeks

Wednesday 15 August

Design Research Theory and Method · Giorgio Caviglia
Visualizing Social Networks · Giorgio Uboldi

Thursday 16 August

An Insider's View of Oxford's EMLO Union Catalogue · Iva Lelkova
Linked Data Principles and Application Examples in the Humanities · Glauco Mantegari

Friday 17 August

Digital Humanities, or Seven Decades of the New New Thing · Glenn Worthey

Monday 20 August

Introduction of Early Modern Time & Networks as Tool · Giorgio Caviglia and Giorgio Uboldi

Tuesday 21August

Mapping Controversies · Donato Ricci

Wednesday 22 August

CKCC Epistolarium: A Partner Project · Charles van den Heuvel and Ronald Dekker

Thursday 23 August

Aesthetic Reflection and the Digital Turn · Nicolas Thély

Friday 24 August

Building the Bassi-Veratti Archival Guide · Mike Olson and Sarah Sussman