About David Sytsma

David Sytsma (Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary) is research curator of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.

Google Books Poised to Swell Collection of 18th Century Dutch Theology

It’s no secret that Google has large plans for book digitization. Three years ago the company was reported to have had the ambitious goal of digitizing the 129+ million books thought to be in existence within the coming decade. Although the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in March 2012 that Google was scaling back book digitization at partner institutions in the United States, the same report noted that “[s]ome of its digitization efforts have shifted to Europe.” If Google has shifted its efforts to European libraries, early modern historians have cause to rejoice. Indeed, at least in the case of Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB; National Library of the Netherlands), which partnered with Google in 2010 to digitize 160,000 public domain books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, book digitization appears to be accelerating.

With most of Google’s partner libraries, it is impossible to know what books are in the process of being digitized. However, the KB catalogue offers a glimpse of books currently tagged for digitization. In order to inform its patrons that a book has been pulled from the shelf, the librarians at KB have added a note: “This book is temporarily unavailable due to digitization.” (“Dit boek is tijdelijk niet beschikbaar vanwege digitalisering.”) A search for this phrase turns up books in the catalogue that either have been recently digitized or will be digitized in the coming months. As of today, there are in the queue over 38,000 titles from the eighteenth century (1700-1799) and 13,000 titles from the nineteenth century (1800-1899).

For users of the Junius Institute’s Post-Reformation Digital Library, this means that in the coming months the collection of available eighteenth-century Dutch theological works is set to rapidly expand. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of theological works from Dutch Reformed authors will become available in a relatively short period of time. Among these are numerous works by pastors associated with the so-called Nadere Reformatie or “Further Reformation,” including multiple editions of Aegidius Francken’s Kern der Christelyke Leere, which served as a textbook at Calvin Theological Seminary in the nineteenth century. Below is a sampling of links to Reformed theologians with titles set aside to be digitized in the KB catalogue. Taken together, this short list alone represents over 500 digitized titles on the horizon.

Leiden Professors:

Utrecht Professors:

Franeker Professors:

Groningen Professors:

Nadere Reformatie Pastors:

Junius Institute Launches PRDL Scholastica

De academia van Vrieslant (Franeker), 1622

Grand Rapids, Mich. (August 30, 2013)—Scholars now have a new tool for the early modern religious and philosophical history in its academic context. From the beginning of the Reformation at the University of Wittenberg to the establishment of the Academy of Geneva, schools were integral to movements of reform as they arose in the sixteenth century and perpetuated themselves into the seventeenth century. PRDL Scholastica, a new project of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary, will facilitate the understanding of this history by allowing the scholar to survey faculties and academic disputations over large stretches of time.

For almost two years, editors of PRDL culled names and dates of appointment for faculty from a variety of sources—online university faculty records, secondary sources on universities, biographical encyclopedias, title pages of primary source disputations, and the personal research of members of the PRDL editorial and advisory boards—resulting in a growing database of over 200 schools and 2,300 faculty appointments.
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Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs)

Dissertations are often a rich source for specialized research. Recent dissertations may provide a useful survey of secondary literature and typically contain an up-to-date bibliography. Sometimes the focus of the dissertation requires sustained attention to a particular text, in which case the author may include a translation of a primary source unavailable elsewhere.

However, dissertations are also among the more neglected sources. In the past there were good reasons for this. One reason was simply a lack of easy access. Dissertations were difficult to obtain until they became available on microfilm. Twenty years ago, due to the impact of University Microfilms International on the availability of microfilm dissertations, Bradley and Muller observed:

We are in the midst of a bibliographical revolution that has as much to do with unpublished as with published materials. Those of us who went through graduate school in the early 1970s used many scholarly books that failed to refer to a single dissertation. But because of the publication program of University Microfilms International, this is becoming less and less true. Good books and good contemporary dissertations will almost always refer to at least a half dozen dissertations.1

Now, as educational institutions make digitized dissertations available in PDF format, many dissertations—recent dissertations in particular—are instantly accessible. Today the scholar has no excuse for ignoring unpublished dissertations.

A variety of services provide access to downloadable PDFs of dissertations. Of course the most complete commercial service is ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, which contains full-text for dissertations published since 1997 as well as many published earlier, but it is only available at subscribing institutions. Many dissertations are also freely available. Some of the best databases for finding electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) include:

A number of libraries contain detailed lists of these repositories. There are helpful lists at Indiana University Bloomington (“Finding Dissertations: a Research Guide”) and the Library of Congress.

Dissertations do not always appear in databases. Sometimes they are available for direct download at library websites. The Hekman Library of Calvin College makes available dissertations from Calvin Theological Seminary. Many European institutions, including Swiss universities, are e-publishing their dissertations. The University of St Andrews has divinity theses available in PDF from as early as 1952. Among these is a 1979 thesis on Franciscus Junius by Douglas Judisch, “A translation and edition of the Sacrorum Parallelorum Liber Primus of Franciscus Junius: a study in sixteenth century hermeneutics.” This three volume work contains a 50-page biography of Junius, an analysis of Junius’s exegetical principles, and a full translation of the preface and first book of Junius’s Sacrorum Parallelorum (1607).

For Further Reading


  1. James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller, Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 79. []