Thursday, 5 November 2015

Introducing GEMMS

Welcome to the GEMMS blog!

Our project


The Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons (GEMMS) is a project to create a group-sourced, comprehensive, online bibliographic database of early modern sermon manuscripts (1530-1715) from the British Isles and North America. The database will be a finding aid for many types of manuscripts related to sermons held in numerous repositories in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the USA and Canada.

The primary goal of the GEMMS project is to develop a collaborative international research culture among early modern sermon scholars. We hope to facilitate such collaboration by identifying, classifying and publishing bibliographic data for a broad range of manuscript sermons in our database.

Currently, it is often difficult for researchers to access manuscript sermons because they are inadequately catalogued or classified, are not fully described in online catalogues and are scattered among many libraries and archives, sometimes far from their places of origin. These challenges have meant that manuscript sermons often have been neglected by scholars in favour of printed sermons, which websites such as EBBO and ECCO have made more easily accessible. While there has been much valuable scholarship based on printed sermons, which has broadened our understanding of British sermon culture, manuscript sermons allow us to get closer to the moments of preaching and reveal more about routine preaching during the early modern period. Our database will help address the challenges of access and make it easier for a wide variety of researchers to make use of the wealth of manuscript sermons, sermon notes and sermon reports.

In addition to our database, we want to encourage research on manuscript sermons by providing a forum for an online community of sermon scholars. In this blog, we will be reflecting on our work identifying and classifying manuscript sermons. We hope that our discussions of issues, challenges and discoveries will spark your interest and encourage conversations among users of early modern sermons. In this blog and our other social media sites, we also will be highlighting related projects, websites, conferences and publications to help keep you informed on the latest developments in early modern sermon studies.


Features of our database


The GEMMS database will include metadata for a variety of manuscript sermons, including complete sermons, sermon notes, sermon outlines, and for manuscript reports of sermons, such as sermon diaries, registers of preachers and lists of sermons.

The database will be fully searchable, and users will be able to browse the sermons by repositories, manuscripts, people, locations of preachings and Biblical texts. It also will feature brief biographies of preachers and links to manuscript descriptions in online catalogues. In this blog, we will be profiling selected sermon collections, and users will be able to go directly to these posts from the relevant database entries.

Entries for individual sermons will include:
  • bibliographic data
  • classification of the type of manuscript sermon
  • the primary language
  • names of associated people, such as preachers, note-takers and scribes
  • Biblical text(s)
  • surviving data on the delivery of the sermon, including dates, locations and occasions

Entries for sermons also may include:
  • classification of the sermon genre
  • a composition date
  • description of the contents
  • description of material features
  • identification of print editions or witnesses for sermons

Entries for sermon reports will include:
  • bibliographic data
  • classification of the type of report
  • a composition date
  • the primary language
  • associated people, such as the creator or frequently mentioned preachers

Entries for sermon reports also may include:
  • brief description of the contents
  • description of material features
  • associated places
  • identification of print editions or witnesses for reports


The GEMMS team is beginning to populate the database with data collected by a few individual contributors, the principal researchers and our research assistant in Oxford. By the time we launch the database in the spring of 2016, the database will contain data for over 5000 sermons. Once the database is launched, we hope that researchers interested in manuscript sermons will contribute their own data, as well as make use of the database for their research.


The GEMMS database will be a free resource hosted by Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance and is funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

~ Jennifer Farooq

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