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Christoph Sander (Research Group Visualizing Science: Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History): 'Magnetic Margins. A Typology of Reader Annotations in Copies of William Gilbert’s De Magnete'

William Gilbert’s De Magnete (1600, repr. 1628, 1629, 1633) is often considered a landmark publication in the history of science, being the first extensive experimental publication on the magnet. My paper will discuss an online census database of all extant copies of Gilbert’s widely read work. This digital tool aims at surveying historical reader annotations in combination with metadata on provenance and digital editions of the four printed editions. I will focus on the question of how a (graph) database ontology can represent the variety of different types of reader annotations. What types of scribal interventions, annotations, inscriptions, manipulations of early-modern readers are to be found in c. 400 copies examined, and how they can be mapped to a database taxonomy by means of a stable vocabulary. Eventually, these questions reach beyond this particular project and general problems of database ontologies, but also identify the apparent lack of a clear and distinct vocabulary to describe readers’ additions to the printed material. 


The Work in Progress seminar explores the variety of subjects studied and researched at the Warburg Institute. Papers are given by invited international scholars, research fellows studying at the Institute, and third-year PhD students.

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image: Detail from William Gilbert, Tractatvs Siue Physiologia Nova De Magnete, Magneticisqve Corporibvs Et Magno Magnete tellure: Sex libris comprehensus: [Rostochii] Hallervordius, 1628: © HAB Wolfenbüttel, Nc 4 ° 46, page 228