3-year Research Project at Universität Potsdam to follow the purchase of Alexander von Humboldt’s American Travel Diaries

Last wednesday, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz) announced in a press release the purchase of Alexander von Humboldt’s American Travel Diaries (for more information on the purchase and the German and international press reactions see avhumboldt.de).

Together with the purchase, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding a joint research programm by the Universität Potsdam and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Starting in 2014, Prof. Dr. Ottmar Ette (Universität Potsdam) will lead a research group of at least five researchers (doc and postdoc level) to work on the material, cultural, and epistemological significance of Humboldt’s travel diaries, which can be considered the foundation of what Ottmar Ette has coined as Humboldtian Writing”.

Travel Diary VIIbb/c, 410r: Sketch of Plate 51 of Humboldt's "Vues des Cordillères", outline of the Mountain Corazón, the dashed line indicating orographic snow line. In his adjacent note, Humboldt describes the location of the mountain in the surroundings of Quito. © Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - PK / Fotostelle

Travel Diary VIIbb/c, 410r: Sketch of Plate 51 of Humboldt’s “Vues des Cordillères”, outline of the Mountain Corazón, the dashed line indicating orographic snow line. In his adjacent note, Humboldt describes the location of the mountain in the surroundings of Quito. © Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK / Fotostelle

At the same time, the project includes the complete digitization of both the volumes of Humboldt’s diaries as well as the entire literary estate, currently available in the archives of the Staatsbibliothek. Taken together, both initiatives will provide a new ground for current and future research on the history of European science in the 19th century in general and Alexander von Humboldt Studies in particular.

The purchase of the travel diaries was funded by a consortium of both public and private institutions. The nine leather-bound books will be presented to the public in an official ceremony early 2014.

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