Since their emergence in the second half of the seventeenth century, scholarly journals and newspapers – usually called 'Ephemerides' by contemporaries - have functioned as 'diaries of the scholarly world'. Containing advertisements, descriptions and reviews of new books; reports about scientific discoveries and projects; as well as news from scholarly institutions and people, they have informed about almost everything taking place in the world of academic and popular knowledge, including fine arts. Because they were published quickly and were widely accessible, they not only allowed scholars to take part in contemporary scientific discourse, but they also enabled anyone sufficiently educated to participate in such discussions. Thus the scholarly papers, operating as 'networks', prepared the way for communication that was equally public, comprehensive and critical, and which was not restricted by language of national borders. Very rightly, scholars have called them 'key works' of the Enlightenment.
In the German-speaking world, a tradition of Ephemerides began to develop around 1682, about two decades after scholarly papers appeared almost contemporaneously in France, England and Italy. This tradition, which was not achieved anywhere else, was both quantitatively and qualitatively remarkable. The exceptional flowering of the domestic ‘scholarly press’ can be attributed, not lastly, to the variety of territorial centers in Germany. By the end of the eighteenth century, up to 1,000 scholarly journals and newspapers had been founded - ranging from short-lived one-man-endeavors to stable enterprises surviving decades. From the beginning, both the cradle and the core area of the scholarly periodicals were the Protestant lands in central and northern Germany with their famous printing centers. But other regions of the empire as well as neighboring, German-speaking areas also produced numerous renowned papers. This is particularly the case for the upper German / Catholic region, where large, independent scholarly journals and newspapers developed, albeit with a delay. Even in non-German-speaking areas abroad - for example, in Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia or in the Netherlands – German language Ephemerides appeared.
Since 2011, the research project Gelehrte Journale und Zeitungen (Scholarly Journals and Newspapers) has been conducted by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in cooperation with the State and University Library of Lower Saxony in Göttingen, the University Library of Leipzig, and the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The framework of this project not only includes indexing and digitizing the most important German representatives of this massive corpus of scholarly papers, but also making evident the papers' eminently important function in the emergence of the 'Enlightened scientific community' and its structures. The focus will be on the general, polyhistoric Ephemerides, which took into account the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences - fields that were emerging and becoming distinct during this period.
Drawing on the results of the Systematisches Register zu deutschsprachigen Rezensionszeitschriften 1700-1784 (http://idrz18.adw-goettingen.gwdg.de/index.html) completed in 2007, the store of material to be made accessible comprises 128 periodicals (ca. 1,274 volumes and ca. 850,000 pages) and contains original contributions, reviews and scholarly news as well as all facets of critique. In order to manage the regional dispersal of the selected Ephemerides, some of which only exist in scattered fragments that need to be merged to create a 'virtual' complete copy, the development of the project has been divided among the three sites of Göttingen, Leipzig and Munich. Each of these sites represents in its own way a center of the Enlightenment; thus in selecting the journals to be analyzed and indexed at each location, we took into consideration geographical and confessional aspects as well as criteria of local accessibility.
The resulting inventory will be made accessible via an interactive online database, which will facilitate advanced searches and detailed research. However, the results of this project need to be understood as more than simply collections of facts and material; they will also provide a source of interconnected – networked – information that will augment and deepen current knowledge about the century of the Enlightenment. Thus the project is as important for questions of a general 'topography of knowledge' and networks of knowledge in the eighteenth century as it is for the reception history of individual works and the development of specialized disciplines.