Announcement | Brown Library’s Digital Publications Initiative’s First Born-Digital Scholarly Monograph Published by University of Virginia Press

The pathbreaking multimodal digital book — Furnace and Fugue — was developed with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Providence, R.I. [Brown University] Brown University’s Center for Digital Scholarship, based at the University Library, announces the publication of the first born-digital scholarly monograph under the Digital Publications Initiative, a collaboration between the Library and the Dean of the Faculty. Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary, edited by Professor of History Tara Nummedal and Independent Scholar Donna Bilak, brings to life in digital form an enigmatic seventeenth-century text, Michael Maier’s alchemical emblem book Atalanta fugiens. This intriguing and complex text reinterprets Ovid’s legend of Atalanta as an alchemical allegory in a series of fifty emblems, each of which contains text, image, and a musical score for three voices. 

Published by University of Virginia Press as part of the distinguished academic series Studies in Early Modern German History, Furnace and Fugue re-renders Maier’s multimedia masterpiece as an enhanced and interactive digital scholarly work that allows contemporary readers to hear, see, manipulate, and investigate Atalanta fugiens in ways that were perhaps imagined when it was composed but were simply impossible to realize in full before now. “We saw an opportunity to bring Maier’s 1618 vision to life in a completely novel way,” said Tara Nummedal. ”The interactive digital format allows us to reach multiple audiences at once: not only fellow scholars and students, but also singers, practicing alchemists, and visual artists.” The Press will publish Furnace and Fugue on an open access basis, making it available immediately, for free, to anyone. “UVA Press is delighted to collaborate with Brown University in bringing out this cutting-edge digital publication. Furnace and Fugue presents the best in innovative and creative publishing, combining rigorously reviewed and edited scholarship with a multi-sensory presentation of Maier’s seventeenth-century music and text,” explained Nadine Zimmerli, Editor of History and Social Sciences at University of Virginia Press. “We hope that this digital monograph will inspire and enrich all readers and listeners.” The development of Furnace and Fugue through the Digital Publications Initiative was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Social Science Research Institute at Brown University.

screenshot from Furnace and Fugue featuring an emblem of a lion, sheet music, and option to play musical recording
Screenshot from Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary

Brown is at the vanguard of digital monograph publishing, facilitating the creation and validation of new scholarly forms that demonstrate a range of ways in which the digital environment is necessary for articulating and advancing scholarly argument beyond the capabilities of print. “Furnace and Fugue is a wonderful example of Brown’s Mellon-supported Digital Publications Initiative, which attempts to develop technically diverse and innovative digital publications demonstrating the unique opportunities of digital platforms,” said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin, co-principal investigator for the Initiative. “We are delighted to be able to support the outstanding scholarship of Brown faculty by leveraging this opportunity.” With oversight from Digital Scholarship Editor Allison Levy and drawing upon the expertise of the Center for Digital Scholarship, faculty selected for this opportunity are enabled to develop their scholarship in ways that take advantage of emerging digital methods and formats. These pathbreaking scholarly works are then submitted to leading university presses that have corresponding academic interests and the infrastructure for peer review and digital publication. 

“Brown University, and the University Library in particular, has a long history of pioneering work in digital scholarship,” said Joukowsky Family University Librarian Joseph S. Meisel, co-principal investigator for the Initiative. “Leading the way in models and practices for first-rate digital scholarly monographs is making a significant and much-needed contribution.” Five additional born-digital publications covering a range of humanistic fields are currently in various stages of development under the Digital Publications Initiative. One is forthcoming with Stanford University Press in 2021. Over the next six years, thanks to renewed support from the Mellon Foundation, the Initiative plans to add four to five new projects to its portfolio. 

The University of Virginia Press will host a virtual book launch for Furnace and Fugue on August 25 at 1:00 pm EST. 

Media inquiries: Jennifer Braga at (401) 863-6913 or Jennifer_Braga@brown.edu.