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From Reassembling the Republic of Letters to
LetterSampo - Letters on the Semantic Web

Background - Republic of Letters on the Semantic Web

SeCo participated in the Digital Humanities EU COST action Reassembling the Republic of Letters 1500-1800, 2014-2018, led by prof. Howard Hotson (University of Oxford) and Dr. Thomas Wallnig (Universität Wien). Eero Hyvönen (Aalto University and University of Helsinki (HELDIG)) led the Work Group 2 People and Networks in the initiative involving over 30 countries. Related to this topic, there was also the project Cultures of Knowledge, phase III (2015-2017), at Oxford where SeCo collaborated with Oxford and Stanford University with the goal of designing a Linked (Open) Data infrastructure, linked data service, and tooling for the underlying humanist scholarly community, based on the data harvested in the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) database and portal.

Next Step: LetterSampo - Letters on the Semantic Web

Inspired by the international collaborations on the Republic of Letters and the Bio CRM data model, SeCo group moved on to designing and implementing a prototype framework and semantic portal demonstrator that supports Digital Humanities research on epistolary data. For this purpose, a new LetterSampo project was started at Aalto university and HELDIG. Our goal is to develop a prototype called "LetterSampo - Letters on the Semantic Web", based on the "Sampo" model and "Sampo-UI" framework. LetterSampo is a new member in the Sampo series of semantic portals, a sister to, e.g., the Mapping Manuscript Migrations service of medieval and Renaissance manuscipts, and BiographySampo for biographical and prosopographical research. LetterSampo can be used for analysing epistolary data in different data repositories in different countries, or for aggegated international datasets, such as Republic of Letters Data. LetterSampo project is an independent new initiative in SeCo group funded by Aalto and the HELDIG Centre.

We welcome collaborations with researchers in humanities regarding epistolary data, and have started to collaborate with the network scientists prof. Mikko Kivelä and Javier Urena Carrion of Aalto University, with the goal of applying their temporal network analysis tooling in epistolary data. Collaborations with the Dutch researchers developing the ePistolarium system and German researhers working on the correspSearch system are underway.

For a presentation and demonstration of the "LetterSampo - Historical Letters on the Semantic Web" system, see the video below:

From Republic of Letters 1500-1800 to LetterSampo from SeCo Research Group on Vimeo.

Contact Persons

Prof. Eero Hyvönen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Dr. Jouni Tuominen, Aalto University and University of Helsinki

Petri Leskinen, Aalto University



Eero Hyvönen: Sammon taontaa semanttisessa webissä (Forging Sampos on the Semantic Web). Aalto University, Semantic Computing Research Group, February, 2021. Article submitted for review. bib pdf


Eero Hyvönen: Sampo Model and Semantic Portals for Digital Humanities on the Semantic Web. DHN 2020 Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 5th Conference, pp. 373-378, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2612, Riga, Latvia, October, 2020. bib pdf link
Eero Hyvönen, Petri Leskinen and Jouni Tuominen: From the Republic of Letters to LetterSampo – Historical Letters on the Semantic Web. Oct, 2020. Submitted. bib pdf


Jouni Tuominen, Eetu Mäkelä, Eero Hyvönen, Arno Bosse, Miranda Lewis and Howard Hotson: Reassembling the Republic of Letters - A Linked Data Approach. Proceedings of the Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018), pp. 76-88, CEUR Workshop Proceedings, vol. 2084, Helsinki, Finland, March, 2018. bib pdf link
Between 1500 and 1800, a revolution in postal communication allowed ordinary men and women to scatter letters across and beyond Europe. This exchange helped knit together what contemporaries called the respublica litteraria, Republic of Letters, a knowledge-based civil society, crucial to that era’s intellectual breakthroughs, and formative of many modern European values and institutions. To enable effective Digital Humanities research on the epistolary data distributed in different countries and collections, metadata about the letters have been aggregated, harmonised, and provided for the research community through the Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) service. This paper discusses the idea and benefits of using Linked Data as a basis for the next digital framework of EMLO, and presents experiences of a first demonstrational implementation of such a system.
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