Practices of Erudition - Knowledge Production - Arcane Knowledge

The study of practices of scholarship and their significance for the scholarly production of knowledge in the early modern period has long been one of the research foci of the Gotha Research Centre and its director Martin Mulsow. Since 2013, among other things, projects and conferences have been conducted on the important Orientalists Johann Ernst Gerhard (1621–1668) and Hiob Ludolf (1624–1704) as well as on the knowledge production of the Enlightenment, each leading to a number of publications (see below).

Of central importance for this field of research is the study of early modern (scholarly) letter networks. Handwritten scholarly correspondence is one of the most important treasures of the libraries. At the Gotha Research Centre, several books and research projects on correspondence have already been completed, among others on the botanist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840), the Gotha duchess Luise Dorothea (1710–1767) with her lady-in-waiting Friedrike von Montmartin (1729–1752), the Baltic writer Garlieb Merkel (1769–1850), the theosophist Friedrich Breckling (1629–1711) and the radical pietist networks of the so-called Philadelphians. Currently, preliminary work is underway on an edition of the correspondence of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486–1535) and on the complete edition of the writings of Jacob Böhme (1575–1624). In the future, the correspondence of Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel (1659–1707) and the correspondence between Duchess Luise Dorothea and Ernst Christoph von Manteuffel (1676–1749) will be made accessible through digital editions in cooperation with the Gotha Research Library and the Thuringian State Archives – Gotha State Archives.

One of the most eminent fields of philosophical and legal knowledge production from the 17th to the early 19th century was early modern natural law. Since 2019, the Gotha Research Centre has maintained a research unit in cooperation with the Max Weber Centre and the network “International Law 1625–1850. An International Research Project” for studying this topic. As part of this cooperation, several individual projects and studies are currently being conducted or prepared, among others on natural law at universities in the Baltic region, on natural law in the work of Heinrich and Samuel Cocceji as well as in Samuel Pufendorf’s work, and on Christian natural law in Johann Christian von Boineburg’s work (1622–1672), as well as a subproject within the CRC “Structural Change of Property”, which explores the relations between property and customs in natural law.

Among the most prestigious fields of scholarly knowledge production in the early modern period were arcane ‘sciences’ such as alchemy. At the end of the 17th century, alchemy was intensively practised at the Gotha court in order to be able to produce gold; in parallel, the princes collected manuscripts and books on the subject. An interdisciplinary working group of historians and chemists has been studying the process guidelines (partly experimentally) for several years with the support of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. An anthology on alchemy in Gotha is in preparation. Finally, the focus "Arcane Knowledge" addresses research on the Illuminati and Freemasons, which is described in more detail in the research field "Court – Socialisation – Enlightenment".

A relatively new focus, with which Martin Mulsow returns to his dissertation topic, deals with Renaissance philosophy and late humanist scholarship. In addition to a project working on an extended edition of Matteo Palmieri's Della Vita Civile, several German-Italian summer schools on the Renaissance should be mentioned here, which will take place every two years in Loveno di Menaggio starting in 2024 in cooperation with Villa Vigoni, the German-Italian Centre for European Dialogue. The programme of Deep Intellectual History is also new. Until now, historiography has been largely limited to written sources; the horizon usually reaches back only to ancient Greece. “Deep History”, on the other hand, asks about continuities with so-called prehistory.

Research projects and networks



Publications (selection)