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Worth’s commitment to scientific debate is graphically displayed in the Worth Library not only by the host of individual publications of well known early modern natural philosophers but also by the serried ranks of his fifty-volume set of the Acta Eruditorum, the German equivalent of the Philosophical Transactions. Initiated by Otto Mencke (1644-1707) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) in 1682, the Acta sought to combine the book review model of the Journal des Sçavans and the emphasis on scientific investigation in the Philosophical Transactions. The Acta was divided into ‘Theologica, Juridica, Medica et Physica, Mathematica, Historica et Geographica and Miscellanea, but it is clear, as Laeven (1990) suggests, that Mencke had a strong commitment to the ‘exact sciences’: mathematics, medicine and physics accounted for the vast majority of the articles published in the journal under his editorship. It is likely that this scientific focus made the Acta more attractive to Worth than the Journal des Sçavans. Worth collected a complete set of the Acta Eruditorum and the two abridgments of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society available to him during his lifetime, but the Journal des Sçavans is strikingly absent from his library. As Kronick (1990) points out, the Journal des Sçavans more closely reflected the concerns of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres rather than the Académie des Sciences. While it contained material that would have been of interest to Worth the emphasis on book reviews, particularly of theological material, was less appealing to him.
The Acta eruditorum on the other hand, provided him with current scientific debate in early eighteenth-century Europe. It featured contributions from many of the authors Worth was assiduously collecting: Robert Boyle (1627-91), Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689), Newton, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679), Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695). In Worth’s eyes the Acta evidently transcended any Leibnizian connotations and emerged as an invaluable introduction to current scientific research. It did so due to Otto Mencke’s committed editorial policy: as Leuven (1990) explains, Mencke deliberately avoided overly contentious issues and was anxious to provide a journal which would be seen to be independent of any bias. In the main Otto Mencke achieved this but as Newton’s priority dispute with Leibniz blossomed to fruition it became clear that the Acta reflected continental support for Leibniz, rather than Newton who seldom engaged directly with the Acta. Neither Newton nor his followers were assiduous correspondents with the Acta but Mencke’s reprinting of many of articles from the Philosophical Transactions, which in turn reflected debates within the Royal Society, surely enhanced the value of the journal for Worth.
Kronick, David A. (1990), ‘Notes on the Printing History of the Early ‘Philosophical Transactions’, Libraries and Cultures 25, no. 2, pp. 243-268.
Laeven, Hub. (1990), The ‘Acta Eruditorum’ under the editorship of Otto Mencke. The history of an international learned journal between 1682 and 1707 (Amsterdam).by