Starting December 2016, I will lead a small-scale research project that aims to catalogue, analyse and edit the correspondence of Pieter Jacob Cosijn (1840-1899), Leiden University’s first Professor of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon Philology. The project will employ two student research trainees for the duration of a whole year. The project is funded by the Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.

Pieter Jakob Cosijn and some of his correspondents: Henry Sweet (1845-1912); James Murray (1837-1915); and Eduard Sievers (1850-1932)

Pieter Jacob Cosijn’s Correspondence and Scholarly Collaboration at the End of the Nineteenth Century

Pieter Jacob Cosijn (1840-1899) was Leiden University’s first Professor of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon Philology. A recognised expert in the field of Old English grammar and textual criticism, Cosijn corresponded with various prominent philologists and experts in his field, including Julius Zupitza, Arthur Napier, Henry Sweet and Eduard Sievers. These letters reveal a collaborative attitude among these philologists: they asked each other for opinions, criticized each other’s publications, debated various points of textual criticism of Old English poetry and pitched possible etymologies for long-lost words. It wasn’t all business, however: they also asked each other for autographed pictures and made arrangements to meet up in person. This correspondence thus provides a unique insight into scholarly collaboration at the end of the nineteenth century, as well as the evolution of the scholarly study of Old Germanic languages and the role played by a prominent Dutch scholar in this field. Since Cosijn’s correspondence has only rarely been studied, this project aims to catalogue, analyse and edit a portion of over a hundred letters (preserved in the Leiden University Library) between Cosijn and his scholarly colleagues.

Letter by Henry Sweet to Pieter Jakob Cosijn (Special Collections, Leiden University Library)

The project hopes to deliver a critical edition of P. J. Cosijn’s correspondence with a number of prominent scholars. We will aim to publish this edition, along with an introduction and analysis, in a peer-reviewed journal. In addition, the project will involve a conference about the role of scholarly correspondence in the study of the history of a discipline like Germanic philology.

This project is part of Leiden University’s Research Traineeship Programme. Moreover, the project is closely connected to one of my other projects (“My former Germanicist me”: G. J. P. J. Bolland (1854-1922) as an Amateur Old Germanicist). You can read the full project description here. On the 17th of November 2017, we are organising a conference on “Scholarly Correspondence on Medieval Germanic Language and Literature’ at Leiden University; see the call-for-papers (deadline 31st of August, 2017) for more information.