Covering Europe, the Americas, and portions of Asia from the 17th through the 19th centuries, Electronic Enlightenment offers access to tens of thousands of letters and other correspondence from leading figures and lesser-known correspondents of the early modern period. The documents are often drawn from critical scholarly editions and have been extensively annotated and linked to related documents and other correspondents, "allowing you to see the complex web of personal relationships in the early modern period and the making of the modern world." The Electronic Elightenment project (a research project of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) is, in its own words, “reconnecting the first global social network.”
As of August 2016, the product contained over 70,000 letters and documents (keyed full-text, rather than original images), with more than 8,500 correspondent entries and over 300,000 scholarly annotations. The site also includes detailed information on more than 60,000 manuscripts and 100,000 early edition sources.
The "EE Scholarly Edition of Correspondence (EESEC)" presents an "interconnected network of letters drawn from a broad range of sources, edited by an international assortment of scholars." Contents have been drawn from correspondents of 53 nationalities (Europe, Asia & the Americas) and are primarily in English (45%) and French (45%), with other documents in a variety of other European languages. Users may search documents by writer or recipient, date or place. Letters are discovered, accessed and edited by academic projects, providing not only access to the original texts, but also a range of scholary annotation and explanatory notes.
The "EE Biographical Dictionary" contains extensive information on the correspondents which are continually identified and updated. Biographical notes include title, nationality, occupation, birth or death date & place. Each entry also links to the person's correspondents and their letters, and cross-links to other figures in EE.
EE's "News-sheet—Autumn 2016" indicates the product has more than 70,000 items of correspondence, and more than 8,500 correspondents listed in the Biographical Dictionary. These figures compared to previous updates suggest a rate of approximately 1,000 new items and 100 new biographical entries per year.
The Electronic Enlightenment project was first conceived in 1995 and received funding from the Mellon Foundation to develop its business model. The digital publishing platform was intended to expand the scope of content at minimal cost through distributed contributions. As an Ithaka Case Study (2011) noted: “The project leaders have invited the community not only to assist in locating this correspondence in special collections, but also to add scholarly commentary and other born-digital material to it . . . To date, six collections of correspondence have been offered to EE, bypassing traditional publication through an academic press. A review board will be created to assess the material.”1
EE provides a variety of additional resources for engaging with the material, including lesson plans, maps and charts, and links to additional online sources. EE welcomes submissions for the publication of additional letters (from one letter to thousands of letters), and accepts new and corrected biographical notes and annotations as part of its regular technical and content updates.”2