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 scholars and scholarly institutions, they informed about nearly everything that took place in the world of academic and popular knowledge, including the fine arts. As they were published soon after the events and were widely accessible, they not only allowed scholars to participate in the scientific discourse of the time, but also enabled anyone sufficiently educated to engage in such debates. Thus scholarly journals and newspapers operated as 'networks' and prepared the way for public, comprehensive and critical exchange and debates, not bound by any language or national borders. Very rightly, journals are considered today to be 'key works' of the Enlightenment.
From 1682 on a tradition of Ephemerides began to develop in the German-speaking world, two decades after scholarly papers had appeared, almost simultaneously, in France, England and Italy. In the world of scholarly journals this quantitatively and qualitatively remarkable tradition can be called unique. This exceptional flowering of the domestic 'scholarly press' can, not in the least, be attributed 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-projects to major journals published for several decades. From the beginning on, the protestant lands in central and northern Germany, with their famous printing centers, established themselves as the cradle and core area of the scholarly periodicals. But other regions of the empire, as well as neighboring German-speaking areas, equally produced numerous renowned journals. This is particularly the case for the southern, catholic part of the empire, where large independent scholarly journals and newspapers developed, albeit with some delay. Even in non-German-speaking areas abroad – Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia or the Netherlands for example – German-language Ephemerides were published.
Gelehrte Journale und Zeitungen ('Scholarly Journals and Newspapers'), a long-term research project at the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, cooperates with the State and University Library of Lower Saxony in Göttingen, the University Library in Leipzig and the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The aim of the project not only consists in indexing and digitizing the main German representatives of this massive corpus of scholarly journals, it also intends to make visible the papers' eminent role in the emergence of the 'Enlightened scientific community' and its structures. The project focusses on interdisciplinary polyhistoric Ephemerides, which consider the humanities and social sciences as well as the natural sciences, and contain original contributions, book reviews and scholarly news as well as all facets of critique.
Including the data of two previous Göttingen academy projects – "Index of German-language Periodicals" (IdZ 18, ca. 97,000 records) and "Systematic Index of German-language Review Journals" (IdRZ 18, ca. 76,000 records) –, the research database will, in 2025, eventually provide access to 323 periodicals (ca. 2,775 volumes and ca. 1,260,000 pages), and thus unite the research and indexing work of five decades.
As the selection of the journals to be analyzed and indexed takes into consideration geographical and confessional aspects, the project is carried out in Göttingen, Leipzig and Munich, each of these sites representing in its own way a center of the Enlightenment.
The resulting index is made accessible via an interactive online database offering detailed possibilities for advanced search, links to each article, to library catalogues and – if possible – to the digitized images of the reviewed books. The data should not, however, only be considered as a mere collection of facts and material; they also provide a wealth of interconnected information augmenting and deepening the current knowledge about the Century of Enlightenment. Thus the project is equally important for research on a general 'topography of knowledge' and networks of knowledge in the eighteenth century, as for questions pertaining to the reception history of individual works and the development of specialized disciplines.