The Junius Institute Digitization Initiative

The Junius Institute is pleased to announce its ability to digitize rare books. There are many far-sighted goals for this local digitization initiative. This initiative advances scholarship and critical study of the sources through the public use of early modern works via high quality digital images. Rare book digitization is a key strategic decision for research institutions, archives, and libraries as they grapple with preservation of rare sources and presentation of the same. Digitization allows both. Digitization also transforms a catalog database from a record to a venue. It is an opportunity to present rare book holdings seamlessly in the local library catalog, increasing access and deepening usability, even allowing institutions the ability to efficiently track usage and interest in rare sources. Thirdly, our ability to digitize rare books is a local initiative with global implications for students and scholars everywhere. Given the rise of tablet and mobile computing in developed and developing countries, the presentation of primary sources in a form that is easily accessible for a wide array of devices can form the basis of global institutional collaboration, expediting the goal of fostering a true exchange of learning. These points are not wishful thinking, we have already received requests and suggestions regarding the Post-Reformation Digital Library from universities, institutions, and academies around the world regarding the particular curricular needs of their students and faculty.

Isaac Junius, Antapologia (1640)

There is also the reality that there are treasures of early modern theology and philosophy tucked away in smaller institutions and private collections. A digitization initiative can be scaled to other institutions, archives, and private collections as a way to build a consortium of truly invaluable sources. One example that we are proud to present is a piece by Isaac Junius simply entitled the Antapologia, or thoughts on the 16 heads of the Remonstrants. Through the generosity of a private owner, we are able to make it available to you. According to Worldcat this piece is housed primarily in Europe and, as far as we are aware, is unavailable in digital form for free. We encourage you to take a moment and browse our version of it here. And yes you may download it in .pdf form.

At the core of the digitization project is an automated digital photography device developed over the past 24 months by an interdisciplinary team I had the privilege of spearheading (several specialists in engineering design, robotics, automation, and computer programming). In particular this device expedites the digitization of rare books while respecting the fragility of their age in a new and innovative way. You can see some of its initial results here. The presentation format is another testimony to David Sytsma’s programming wizardry and is the Junius Institute’s adaptation of a publicly available book viewer. Together we hope we have created a process and result that meets the needs of teachers, scholars, and students in a relatively cost-effective way.

Unprecedented access to primary sources through print media once changed the face of education and shaped all of society in early modern Europe. Now we live in an age where unprecedented access to primary sources through digital media is changing the face of education and all of society in ways only dreamed of a decade ago. We invite you to consider a few things. We are looking for individual and institutional partners who are interested in advancing initiatives of this nature. You might think that is way beyond your means or your contact list, but in my experience scholars and students are a creative and innovative bunch of people. You can be a part of this initiative in a variety of ways: (1) You can sign-up to receive our updates and e-mails. (2) You could fully or partially sponsor the digitization of a particular rare book. (3) You can be the link to put us in contact with individuals or institutions that have a similar vision and desire to advance scholarship through digital means.

We look forward to providing you updates on initiatives of this sort as well as displaying the results in the days ahead.

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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Digital History at SCSC 2013

SCSC2013Prog_Page_01The program for the 2013 meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society Conference in Puerto Rico (October 24-27) has been posted, and it is encouraging to see a variety of panels focusing on digital research methods and topics. Here’s a quick overview:

Friday, October 25, 3:30-5:00pm

114. Early Modern Italy and Pedagogical Practice: From Lay Conservatories to Digital Humanities (Flamingo B)
Organizer: Meredith K. Ray
Chair: Mark Judjevic

  • Educating Rich and Poor Girls in Counter-Reformation Florence
    Jennifer Haraguchi, Brigham Young University
  • Machiavelli and Castiglione: In Service to a Senior Humanities Seminar
    Veena Carlson, Dominican University

120. Digital Maps (1): Mapping the History of Printing and Text Circulation (Tropical A)
Organizer: Colin F. Wilder
Chair: Niall Atkinson

  • “And All the Good Journeymen”: Visualizing the Early Printing Trade
    Greg Prickman, University of Iowa
  • Printing and Text-Transmission Networks in Early Modern Germany
    Colin Wilder, University of South Carolina
  • A cultural Industry on the Digital Highway
    Paul Dijstelberge, University of Amsterdam

Saturday, October 26, 8:30-10:00am

142. Digital Maps (2): Spatial Humanities / New Uses of Digital Mapping (Tropical A)
Organizer: Colin F. Wilder
Chair: Paul Dijstelberge

  • Mapping the Soundscape of Pre-Modern Florence
    Peter Leonard & Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago
  • Envisioning a Historiography: Geospatial and Thematic Connections between Local Social Histories of
    Early Modern Europe
    John Theibault, Richard Stockton College
  • Digital Maps (2): Spatial Humanities / New Uses of Digital Mapping
    Paul Dijstelberge, University of Amsterdam
  • Waves of Empire: Mapping Renaissance Sovereignty at Sea
    Jason Cohen, Berea College

Saturday, October 26, 10:30am-Noon

164. Digital Methods (1): Digitization, Editing and Text Curation (Tropical A)
Organizer: Colin F. Wilder
Chair: John Theibault

  • A comparison of computer-assisted collation techniques
    Gabriel Egan, De Montfort University
  • Standardization and Authenticity: Classroom Use of Archival and Digital Versions of Early Modern
    English Manuscripts
    Marie Baxter, Albion College
  • A Digital Edition of the Business Correspondence of the Venetian printer Giovanni Bartolomeo da
    Gabiano (ca. 1520-1530): Some Technical and Scholarly Considerations
    Giovanni Colavizza, Universitá Ca’Foscari Venezia

Saturday, October 26, 1:30-3:00pm

186. Digital Methods (2): Text Curation, Text Analysis and Network Analysis (Tropical A)
Organizer and Chair: Colin F. Wilder

  • Little Gidding: An Early Modern Digital Humanities Collaboratory
    Whitney Trettien, Duke University
  • Martyrs, Exiles and Dissemblers: The Networking of Protestants during the Marian Persecution (1553-1558)
    Martin Skoeries, University of Leipzig
  • Topic-Modeling the Correspondence of Hugo Grotius
    Matthew Simmermon-Gomes, University of Aberdeen

Saturday, October 26, 3:30-5:00pm
208. Roundtable: Early Modern Digital Humanities (Tropical A)
Organizer and Chair: Colin F. Wilder


  • Matthew Simmermon-Gomes, University of Aberdeen
  • Whitney Trettien, Duke University
  • John Theibault, Stockton College
  • Greg Prickman, University of Iowa
  • Paul Dijstelberge, University of Amsterdam
  • Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago

Tropical A certainly looks like the place to be. You can download a PDF of the program here. This will be the first conference I’ve missed in a number of years, and it just happens to be one that is chock-full of sessions related to digital research! This is an encouraging trend, and no doubt one that will continue in the years ahead.

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. []

Digital Research Is Not Optional


Church History

“We believe that the newer technology, understood broadly, is no longer optional. The scholar who neglects current technological advances in the manipulation and accessing of sources puts himself or herself in the position of the student who refuses to adopt the methodological advances of the Enlightenment; they become, by definition, precritical. The areas in which students can safely ignore the new methods and source mediums are becoming fewer, and even those scholars working in areas as yet untouched by this technology can still benefit from an exposure to the conceptual elegance of unimpeded research, and exhaustive, near-perfect bibliographies.”

–James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller, Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 74.