Early Modern Dissertations in French Libraries: a Digital Approach

January 11, 2024 - 16 h 00

Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR)
59 rue Néricault Destouches
37000 Tours


Most scholars take library catalogues for granted -- if they consult them at all, because 'today you can find everything on the internet anyway'. However, library catalogues are not merely finding aids for books; they also allow us to understand what books are out there, especially if catalogue records are accessible not only for human readers, but for computers as well. However, the simple question 'what books are out there' is of limited interest: it is more helpful to look at a specific topic or genre in a determinate time frame. My project examines 'dissertations', an academic genre taking off in the early modern period, that were published between approx. 1500 and 1800 -- not all of them, but only those which can be found in French libraries. In my talk, I will briefly introduce you to the genre as such and describe some of the challenges that arise when one tries to capture catalogue data about dissertations at scale. I will then sketch some possible applications of the foundational research I conduct in the course of my project. Obviously, a better understanding of this genre is relevant and history for everyone interested in the history of the early modern printed book. Other applications are specific for branches of what we could call 'history of knowledge': history of philosophy, church history and the history of dogmatics, history of jurisprudence, history of medicine, history of science. Others are relevant when looking at academic knowledge production in a broader perspective, e. g. regarding 'prosopography', i. e. the comparative analysis of academic biographies in the early modern period, or questions of academic language: dissertation titles may help us to distinguish concepts which are specific for a given academic discipline from those which formed part of a shared academic vocabulary.



Dr Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter

LE STUDIUM / FIAS Research Fellow

FROM: Freie Universität Berlin - DE
IN RESIDENCE AT: Centre for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance (CESR)  / CNRS, University of Tours - FR




Partners of the event