A research project of the Humanities Division of the University of Oxford, the Electronic Enlightenment invites you to “explore the original web of correspondence: read letters between the founders of the modern world and their friends and families, bankers and booksellers, patrons and publishers.” While EE clearly defines itself as a digital project, “a ‘living‘ interlinked collection of letters and correspondents” (FAQ), its foundation is made of paper; that is, the primary source of its content (at this point) have been the print editions of academic presses.
From “Principles of the Edition:”
To date, most of the content of EE has been provided by printed editions of correspondences from academic presses worldwide; nevertheless, it should not be viewed simply as an aggregation of these editions. Rather it is a database of individual letters and correspondents that can be searched or browsed as a complete collection.
From the “Introduction:”
EE has as its foundation major printed editions of correspondence centred on the “long 18th century”. From the correspondence itself, the supporting critical apparatus and additional research carried out by EE, we have developed a set of information categories, from dates and names to textual variants — indeed, any piece of information that contributes to our understanding of the documents. The data captured within these information categories enriches EE as a digital academic resource, by creating an intricate network of connections between the documents.
EE provides access to over 53,000 letters and documents from several centuries (the earliest letter is from 1619), correspondent bi0graphies, and explanatory notes (depending on the source edition, these might be editorial, textual, linguistic, or general notes). The searching capabilities appear extensive; users can search for letters by content (words or phrases), author name, place of origin, date (including day, month, and year), recipient, and the city or country where it was received.
Moving beyond its bookish roots, EE openly invites user collaboration. Users can supply missing information about biographies, dating of documents, locating correspondents, and translations. Readers can submit new letters for electronic publication. Scholars can even develop their own born-digital projects. From “Contributor Services:”
EE will provide a creative space for scholars to develop new born-digital critical editions of correspondences online. It will offer a central area where progress reports can be posted or linked, discussion lists for collaborators and testers maintained, and project results published. When prepared, these editions can be integrated seamlessly into the full collection of EE.
EE offers born-digital editions the possibility of publishing correspondence collections online, integrated into our network of biographical and documentary links.
Despite all of this exciting, collaborative coolness, however, access to the project seems to be by institutional subscription only. (Even the “free trial” available through Oxford University Press seems to be tied to institutional affiliation.)