Among the very fine presentations I enjoyed at Material Cultures 2010 in Edinburgh this summer was a demonstration of The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, 1769-1794 database. As the project’s subtitle, “Mapping the Trade of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel” indicates, this tool uses the business records of the Société Typographique de Neuchâtel (STN), a Swiss publishing house to map the output and flow of the works it published and disseminated across Enlightenment Europe. When the project is completed (target summer 2011), it will be made freely available, affording a significant resource to those working in literature, history, Enlightenment Studies, print culture, and bibliography. As the project description notes, previous scholars have studied these archives, but prior projects have tended to focus on segments of the available material; this project and its database “charts the totality of the STN’s trade with all of Europe.”
The project director Professor Simon Burrows (University of Leeds) and his colleague Dr. Mark Curran who has been based in Switzerland to extract and prepare the input of data also demonstrated the database at SHARP 2010 in Helsinki, where I had the opportunity to speak at length with them. I soon saw not only immense value in the project for students and scholars whose work involved this period, but the database’s structure offers an ideal model for creating other digital databases of publishers’ business records and archives.
EMOB will be keeping abreast of this project’s progress, but one can also follow their work directly at the French Book Trade project’s blog.