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General Introduction from the Editor-in-Chief

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Welcome to The Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (EMCO)  

Our goal is to produce a fully annotated, digital, critical, and open-access edition of the extant correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu, author and Bluestocking salonnière (1718-1800) who was the leading woman of letters and artistic patron of her day. EMCO offers access to transcriptions and facsimiles of original manuscripts, accurate and exhaustive notes, and the most recently discovered letters. 

The correspondence of Elizabeth Montagu is 'among the most important surviving collections from the eighteenth century' (OED). She corresponded extensively with leaders of British Enlightenment coteries, such as Edmund Burke, Gilbert West, David Garrick and Horace Walpole, as well as the Bluestocking inner circle – Elizabeth Carter, Sarah Scott, Hannah More, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Frances Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Vesey, and Frances Boscawen. The c.4,000 extant letters written by Montagu are held in libraries and archives worldwide. The vast majority are held in the Huntington Library, but there are smaller collections elsewhere including the British Library, the Bodleian Library, Longleat Archive, Aberdeen University Library, the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester. 

Fewer than a quarter of these documents have been previously published and then in partial archaic print selections. Now, for the first time, through digital reunification made possible by EMCO, you will be able to access, read, and search high quality images of the original extant manuscripts, transcriptions constructed through the use of cutting-edge automatic handwriting recognition in collaboration with the Transkribus project, and detailed annotations by expert editors whose material forms are dispersed around the world in libraries and private collections.  

The diplomatically transcribed texts, reproducing all significant features of the manuscripts, are set side by side with the original manuscript pages; headnotes provide details of the manuscript’s history and physical description. Commentaries, section introductions, and annotations are as complete and exhaustive as possible to clarify the content of the letters – sometimes in a very nuanced or detailed manner – for modern readers. Though we are publishing only the letters written by Elizabeth Montagu, our unique Inventory also includes all the extant letters from her correspondents, together with date, location, and archive.  

Given that we are processing a vast number of letters, this is a work-in-progress. It is our intention that over the next few months, you will be able to access the facsimile pages of all extant letters written by Elizabeth Montagu, and these will be followed by transcriptions and annotations in due course. The next batches of fully-annotated letters to be published are those to James Beattie, Mary Richardson Robinson and the early letters to the Duchess of Portland. We will be updating the site regularly as we complete more sections. 

The Project is produced by the charity The Elizabeth Montagu Correspondence Online (EMCO) (Charity no. 1174697) in collaboration with the University of Swansea and Oxford Brookes University. The site is hosted by Swansea University. EMCO has been supported by a range of funding bodies and benefactors. Please see our funding page for further information. Thank you to all those who have supported and continue to support this project. 

User Guide

EMCO’s tailor-made interface provides a powerful research and reading experience.  

The main resources in the digital edition are the manuscripts themselves, and their transcriptions. Each manuscript can be opened in a variety of ways: as facsimile pages which can be magnified; as transcribed text set next to the original manuscript page; or through a Headnote that provides details of the manuscript’s history and physical description. To open 'The Edition' click on the link above. You will be able to navigate the correspondence via date and correspondent. As well as the facsimiles, transcripts and notes, each completed section is accompanied by a critical essay, which examines the correspondent's relationship with Montagu.  

To discover the editorial principles behind the edition and the technical details of how it was assembled, see here

We hope that you enjoy reading, researching and exploring Elizabeth Montagu's correspondence. 

Professor Nicole Pohl, Oxford Brookes University 

September 2020