The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies Online Lecture Series presents regularly scheduled lectures related to the study of premodern manuscript books and global manuscript culture.
This lecture emerges from the Digital Beehive, a years-long effort to annotate the early eighteenth-century commonplace book of Francis Daniel Pastorius. The polymath and polyglot founder of Philadelphia’s Germantown, Pastorius took up the early modern tradition of commonplacing to link the natural world to the world of humanism in which he had been trained. The result, a manuscript called The Bee-Hive, was innovative in the religious and political possibilities of its content as well as in the author’s proto-computational methods of organizing knowledge. However, these innovations were difficult to uncover before the manuscript’s digitization and annotation. Using the Digital Beehive, this lecture will suggest that untangling Pastorius’s experiment in commonplacing reveals a story of radical Protestant traditions, early abolitionist thought, and utopian ecological planning—wherein Pastorius was influenced by literary and scholarly traditions of the past but expressed a groundbreaking vision for Philadelphia and early America.