Contents & quality


This digital edition of the Clusius correspondence in eLaborate is not a finished scholarly edition yet and must be seen as a work in progress. It is a collaborative project based on a wide range of sources which for a great part have not been made uniform. The first release (December 2015) includes metadata belonging to all known 1600 letters, scans of some 1170 letters, and transcriptions at different levels of completion of nearly 1000 letters. We also made a start with annotating and translating.


1. Metadata belonging to 1600 letters

1.1 General

In general, we offer two types of information for each letter: The first category of information provides details on the original letter. For this, we have gratefully used, systematized, expanded, and improved upon the information collected by dr. Florike Egmond and the Leiden University Library in 2004 for their facsimile presentation of the original Clusius letters in the Digital Special Collections database. Moreover, since this is an edition-in-progress and a collaborative project, we have also included detailed information about the editing process for each letter.


1.2 Detailed overview

Information about the original letter

  • Every letter received a new, unique letter code.
  • Names of senders/receivers and of places were checked and translated into English. Person names are according to the American standards in VIAF (Virtual International Authority File). Only in case of obvious errors in the VIAF record, names were edited in accordance to the most commonly used version in the letters or literature.
  • Dates have been checked, in particular those in letters from Latin correspondents using the Roman calendar terminology. Dates according to the old style (Julian) calendar after 1582 have not been adjusted, but are marked as such (old style).
  • The language of the letter is indicated.
  • Signatures of both autographs and (in some cases) copies are given.
  • When available, we indicate the providing institution of the digitized image of the letter.


Information about the collaborative editing of the letter

  • Status of the edition with regard to the quality of the metadata, the transcription, and the annotation.
  • Source of the transcription (either published or unpublished).
  • The publication where a transcription (or an alternative) can be found, in the case that it is not uploaded yet.
  • Names of editors who checked the metadata, the transcriptions, or tagged annotations.
  • In some cases we also give the translation of a letter, or where such a translation can be found.
  • Additional (miscellaneous) notes.



Wilhelm IV to Clusius, 1586-09-06 © University Libraries Leiden


2. Images of 1170 letters

This version offers high resolution images of approximately 1170 letters from and to Clusius preserved in the University Library Leiden. In the future, we hope to add the facsimile reproductions of letters in other collections. In some cases we have already indicated the location of digitized letters in other collections, in the field ‘Image courtesy’.


3. Transcriptions of nearly 1000 letters

3.1 General quality

Due to the many different sources of the transcriptions, which also lack a common set of principles, the quality of the edition is not uniform yet. Some transcriptions were taken from transcriptions in manuscript or typescript made by researchers in the 1940s and 1970s (most notably dr. F.W.T. Hunger and drs. A. Berendts, whose research archives are now in the University Library Leiden). Others were taken from published editions with extensive annotation from (usually older) publications.

Overall, the transcriptions are ‘diplomatic’, that is to say, they follow the text of the original letter in great detail, without attempting to improve or modernize the language. However, there are many differences in quality and consistency: some transcribers have expanded the abbreviations, others have not. Some tagged expanded abbreviations with square brackets, others expanded without further notice. Some transcribers have normalized the use of capitals, punctuation or spelling, but most did not. Some have included a transcription of the salutation and/or address leaf, others not. In general, the layout of a letter is usually only reproduced on the level of the paragraphs.

The source (published or unpublished) and quality (raw, good, or ready) of the transcription are always indicated in the metadata of the particular letter.

In the future, all transcriptions should be checked and improved according to the following transcriptions rules. This first release already provides a set of almost 130 Latin letters checked by Jeanine De Landtsheer according to these rules.


3.2 Detailed overview

440 unpublished transcriptions

Handwritten transcription by F.W.T. Hunger

The backbone of this edition is formed by two collections of unpublished transcriptions currently preserved in the Leiden University Library (Hunger and Berendts), with additional unpublished transcriptions from members of the Clusius project. This makes a total of approximately 440 unpublished transcriptions.

  • F.W.T. Hunger: 95 unpublished transcriptions in Latin, French and Italian, made in the 1940s (preserved in Leiden University Library, BPL 2596 Hunger Archive). These are relatively competent transcriptions. Hunger followed his own transcription principles most of the times: diplomatic, without any modernisation of punctuation and spelling (except in the Italian letters). One exception are the abbreviations: these are sometimes expanded (both tagged and silently), and sometimes not.
  • Ans Berendts: 269 unpublished transcriptions in Latin, French, Italian, Dutch and German, made in the late 1970s (preserved in Leiden University Library, Berendts Archive). These are relatively crude transcriptions and should be treated as such. Dependening on the legibility of the handwriting and the language, there are many small mistakes (especially in the Italian and Latin letters). Berendts did not follow any set of transcription rules: in general, her transcription are diplomatic, but usually she did not indicate expanded abbreviations, or normalized capitals, punctuation or spelling.
  • Albert Massiczek: 25 transcriptions and translations of German (Austrian dialect) letters, commissioned by F.W.T. Hunger in 1943 (preserved in Leiden University Library, Hunger Archive): These transcriptions (and translations into modern German) are competent. Massiczek applied his own set of transcription rules which he followed consequently.
  • A set of around 30 transcriptions made by and for members of the Clusius Project between 2005-2011 (Florike Egmond, Michiel van Groessen, Esther van Gelder): These transcriptions are different in quality and principles followed and should be treated as crude transcriptions.
  • A set of around 20 transcriptions made in eLaborate by the Clusius Community 2.0 (between 2011-2015): These transcriptions show differences in quality and the principles followed, and should be treated as crude transcriptions. Except for the ones by Jeanine De Landtsheer, which are very good and set an example,  .


550 transcriptions taken from published editions

We collected some 550 transcriptions from several collections of published lettters (most notably De Ram, 1847; Istvanffi, 1900; De Toni, 1911; F.W.T. Hunger, 1925, 1927-1942; Conti, 1939; Barona 1998; Iusti Lipsi Epistolae, 1987-recent). These transcriptions are usually very good and consistent, although the different editors followed their own set of principles (sometimes explained in their introductions). We did not include their often elaborate annotation. The full title of the published edition is always given in the metadata of the particular letter.


4. Annotations

A large portion of the transcriptions is based on raw research material which often lacked annotation, while the other part was taken from published editions with often elaborate, but highly diverse annotation systems. We therefore decided to exclude the original annotation, and instead to add simple tags. At the moment, two types of annotations are systematically tagged (but not explained): Persons and Names of plants, animals and minerals.


Dried flower in letter from Risoir to Clusius © University Libraries Leid

Several other annotation categories are in use, including book titles, but they have not been systematically tagged. The most elaborate annotations are made by Clusius Community member Jeanine De Landtsheer, particularly in the Latin letters.

In the future, we would like to expand these annotations considerably, especially with regard to the identification of persons and plant names. All person-tags for example, already include a personal identifier number referring to a repository of short biographies of learned people developed by the Huygens ING (BIA). These identification numbers are not shown in this first release yet, but we hope to establish a cross-reference with this repository as it is published online in the course of 2016.


5. Translations

In this first release, only a handful of translations are included in full-text, taken mostly from the research archive of Dr. F.W.T. Hunger (Leiden University Library). Some larger collections of translations in archives and publications are already indicated in the metadata, and could be included in future releases.