Ferdinand Tönnies Letters: A Digital Edition

Digitization, inventory and edition of the letter corpus, the letters written by Tönnies.

Brief von Ferdinand Tönnies an Gustav Radbruch — Kiel, 9.12.1927 sowie Ferdinand Tönnies um 1915 von Ferdinand Urbahns - http://www.dithmarschen-wiki.de/Datei:FotoUrbahns.jpg b p k Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte Märkisches Ufer 16-18 DE - 10179 Berlin

Project Management: Dr Thomas Burch  (Universität Trier - Trier Center for Digital Humanities (TCDH)) · Universität Trier - Trier Center for Digital Humanities (TCDH) · Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Soeffner  (Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI)) · Dr. Uwe Dörk · Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI) · Dr. Martin Lätzel  (Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek (SHLB)) · Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek (SHLB)

Sponsors: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Running time: -

Contact person (TCDH): Dr Thomas Burch

Research Area: Software Systems and Research Infrastructure, Digital Edition and Lexicography

Keywords: “born digital”, Letters, Virtual Reconstruction of dislocated Stocks, 19th century


The correspondence of the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936) offers a unique insight into the emergence and development of sociology as a discipline in its transnational and transdisciplinary communication context. At the same time, it reveals the importance that the medium of letters had on scientific network formation and knowledge formulation well into the 20th century. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the epistolary styles and conventions of letter writing strongly influenced both epistemic and social virtues and guiding ideas of the forming discipline.

Research interested in this formative context, however, faces the obstacle that Tönniesʼ letters are scattered around the world and largely written in difficult-to-read “Kurrent script”. This project aims to make these documents more accessible by building an online edition of all of Tönnies' non-familial letters. More than 1,700 letters are to be brought together, digitized, transcribed, annotated, equipped with analytical tools, and presented on the Internet in a freely accessible and future-oriented manner. Open to the future means that future letter findings and research results can also be fed in. Finally, the competence gained in the work process and the built-in analytical tools of the electronic edition will be used to investigate the above-mentioned unexplored epistemic-epistolary connection: What was the connection between the forms of the letter, the forms of the network, and the forms of sociological knowledge? At the same time, this interpretative work serves to finally test and improve the electronic edition.

Four institutions are working together to realize the project: 1. the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) in Essen, where the editing and research work is being done; 2. the Schleswig-Holstein State Library (SHLB) in Kiel as the institution holding the Tönnies estate; 3. The Trier Center for Digital Humanities (TCDH) of the University of Trier for the IT conception and support of the project; 4. The Communication, Information, Media Center (KIM) of the University of Konstanz, which on the one hand provides the technical infrastructure and on the other hand accompanies the editorial work with the Social Science Archive (SAK). After completion of the project, the KIM will ensure the permanent use of the edition in terms of technology and content.

Image credits for the project tile: Heidelberg University Library, Letter from Ferdinand Tönnies to Gustav Radbruch — Kiel, 9.12.1927, https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/heidhs3716IIIF-1249_7/0002 sowie Ferdinand Urbahns - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Ferdinand_T%C3%B6nnies.jpg b p k Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte Märkisches Ufer 16-18 DE - 10179 Berlin


Dr Claudia Bamberg
E-mail: bambergatuni-trier [dot] de
Phone: +49 651 201-3790

Dr Thomas Burch
E-mail: burchatuni-trier [dot] de
Phone: +49 651 201-3364

Radoslav Petkov
E-mail: petkovatuni-trier [dot] de
Phone: +49 651 201-3359