For the past two years, I have been an assistant editor for an innovative digital humanities project entitled Boston College Jesuit Bibliography: The New Sommervogel. The position has afforded me some interesting opportunities. Among the most exciting of them has been the chance to coordinate the collection of bibliographical data by a worldwide network of Jesuit and non-Jesuit scholars.

The goal of the New Sommervogel is to create a comprehensive and searchable online database of all things Jesuit. Building upon a venerable tradition of Jesuit bibliography, it encompasses books, chapters, articles, dissertations, and other materials. So far, our team (under the direction of Robert Maryks) has gathered data for the past ten years, but our records will eventually extend all the way back to the foundation of the Society! This ambitious project is being undertaken by the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College in partnership with Brill Publishing. The online platform is scheduled to launch by the end of the summer with an initial offering of 3,500 records spanning the years 2011-2013. Thanks to the generous support of Boston College, the New Sommervogel will be an open-access resource, one that we hope will be of great value to scholars around the world.

One of the most daunting aspects of this massive project is our mandate to peruse and collect data from over 1,300 (and counting) scholarly and semi-scholarly journals. This is where Jesuit networking has come to the rescue! From the project’s inception, we have been aided in our task by a number of volunteer correspondents who check journals and submit their findings via an online form. Our network has expanded to include over 60 scholars hailing from 22 nations on 5 continents and speaking—or more to the point, reading—15 languages. While less than a quarter of these scholars are Jesuits, many of them are personally or professionally connected to Jesuit institutions and all of them are active in the burgeoning field of Jesuit studies.

Working with such a wide array of kind and talented people has been a highly rewarding experience. The sheer scope of their collective knowledge and interests is astounding and illustrates both the breadth and the importance of Jesuit studies as a scholarly endeavor. Our project has been improved in numerous ways by the engaged feedback our correspondents have given us. Their generosity and enthusiasm are also impressive. I have continually been struck by the willingness of already busy scholars to donate their precious time and energy to such a large undertaking and by the warm response we’ve received when discussing the project at conferences. The efforts of this network of volunteers in the construction of the New Sommervogel bibliography is a truly inspiring example of scholarly collaboration, aided in no small part by Jesuit fraternity.

If you would like to get involved with the New Sommervogel, please e-mail me (Kasper Volk) at volkkasp@gmail.com.

Photo: Lorianne DiSabato via Flickr