The project Magnetic Margins investigates how and by whom the most important early modern book publications on magnetism were read and annotated. This database provides a census of major publications in this field of study and maps annotations in the individual copies of these editions.
Rara Magnetica (1269-1599) is the name of Gustav Hellmann’s well known anthology published in 1898. With this collection, he sought to provide access to some of the earliest, yet rare publications in the field of geomagnetism that predated William Gilbert’s landmark publication De Magnete of 1600. The digital project and platform Rara Magnetica translates these efforts into the digital domain, going far beyond digital editions.
The need to publish important but understudied sources is most efficiently achieved by providing curated digital structured and linked data. Rara Magnetica hence – as an ongoing project – is both a repository and an interactive research platform. It publishes scans and transcriptions of (many hitherto unpublished) sources, data visualizations, and databases, all related to the premodern study of magnetism. Moreover, it provides various tools to investigate each of these resources independently and in combination. A major aim in fact is to enhance multimodal analyses that transcend media barriers by allowing to research imagery along with full texts, material sources along with their conceptual content. This is achieved by various but interlinked tools providing different ways of looking at the same sources.
Started in 2009, the database now offers free online access to the records of about 45,000 letters written by or to learned physicians in the German lands between 1500 and 1700. These letters contain a wealth of information not only about medical and natural philosophical issues but also on family matters, political and confessional conflicts, on cities and courts and many other topics. In addition to the basic data (names, date, places), thousands of datasets contain a detailed summary of the letter in question. Recently, an English-language user surface has been added and over the next years English translations of the German summaries will be added.