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History of Old English Studies

Studying the history of academic disciplines in the Humanities has become a discipline in and of itself (‘history of the Humanities’). I have a great interest in how the academic discipline of Old English Studies developed and professionalized and, in particular, the contributions of Dutch scholars like Francis Junius, Jan van Vliet and Pieter Jacob Cosijn. I have (co-)led a number of research projects on Cosijn’s correspondence (see the menu on the left) and have published on this correspondence as well. I am currently developing a  grant proposal to study the development of Old English Studies in the nineteenth-century Netherlands.

An open-access digital edition of 46 letters, in Dutch, German, English and Old English, between G. J. P. J. Bolland and P. J. Cosijn. The annotated edition (c.34,000 words) is accompanied digital facsimiles of the letters and an introduction+indices (c.9,000 words). This edition was approved by a scientific committee and is subject to peer review. Currently, the introduction is already available and, following a technical procedure, the edition of the letters will also be fully open access in February 2019.

ABäG2018.CoverIn an age before the Cloud and social media, scholars relied on letter-writing for collaboration, peer feedback and the building and sustaining of academic networks. Furthermore, since bringing publications to print was a slow and laborious process, letters were considered a quick and efficient way to share one’s insights, data and discoveries with colleagues. As such, scholarly correspondence is an important source for the history of philological scholarship. Indeed, as Ton van Kalmthout explains in the first contribution to this special issue, the value of such epistolary evidence is threefold: letters are a medium for knowledge transfer, they allow the reconstruction of the social and institutional contexts in which knowledge was gathered and disseminated and, as private documents, they give an insight into the personalities and ambitions of the scholars involved. Further contributions to this special issue demonstrate these unique qualities of correspondence.

This article calls attention to documents relating to the early academic life of G. J. P. J. Bolland (1854–1922). During the late 1870s and early 1880s, Bolland was enthralled by the study of Old Germanic languages and Old English in particular. His endeavours soon caught the eye of Pieter Jacob Cosijn (1854–1922), Professor of Germanic Philology and Anglo-Saxon at Leiden University, who helped the Groningen-born student to further his studies. During his stays in London and Jena, Bolland communicated with prominent scholars, including Henry Sweet, Richard Morris and Eduard Sievers. Bolland’s annotated books, hand-written notes and scholarly correspondence provide a unique insight into academic life and student-professor relationships during the late nineteenth century. In addition, Bolland produced an Old English love poem and a Beowulf summary that are published here for the first time.

 

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