The Transactions in the early eighteenth century

How much difference does the identity of the editor make to the content of a journal? In the early eighteenth century, the answer was ‘quite a bit!’. The first editor of the Philosophical Transactions, Henry Oldenburg had died in 1677, and subsequent editors had a tendency to reinvent the periodical (consciously or not) to suit their own interests or editorial abilities. Here, we present a series of charts to illustrate how the Transactions changed under the various editorial regimes of the early eighteenth century.

The editors of the period were: Hans Sloane, c1695-1714; Edmond Halley, 1714-1720; James Jurin, 1720-1727; William Rutty, 1727-1729; and Cromwell Mortimer, 1729-51.

Source of material – from the fellowship of the Royal Society, or not?

During Sloane’s editorship, the proportion of material contributed by fellows of the Royal Society increased significantly – and this trend continued under the subsequent editors.

Source of material – British or overseas?

The Transaction was more strongly British (with less overseas material) during Halley’s editorship .

Topic of material – broad disciplinary breakdowns

Sloane included far less material from astronomy and mathematics than did his successors

Where do the data come from?

This analysis is based on a manual count of sample volumes of the Transactions, carried out by Noah Moxham in 2019. It extends to 1738 because after that, the form/genre/remit of the Transactions had stabilised.


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