Early Modern Letters Online

Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) is a growing union catalogue of correspondence from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. EMLO forms part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project based at the University of Oxford known as Cultures of Knowledge.

Bringing together experts in history, philosophy, science, and literature with librarians, archivists, and systems developers, Cultures of Knowledge uses digital methods to reassemble and interpret the correspondence networks of the early modern period.

EMLO is a combined finding aid and editorial interface, building basic descriptions of early modern correspondence.


EMLO digital systems were first designed and developed in 2009 by the Bodleian Libraries Oxford. They have since then been in constant use with the union catalogue growing in collection. In 2022, Cottage Labs were tasked with updating the EMLO digital systems, with the aim of modernising the software infrastructure and improving its functionality. Importantly, we had to retain interoperability among the different subsystems of EMLO, during ongoing upgrades, as a part of our multi-year project.


The database structure of EMLO edit showcased the organic growth of EMLO. We identified bottlenecks and improved the performance of the underlying database design, while retaining interoperability with legacy components. We modernised the design of EMLO edit, taking into account the requirements of the EMLO editorial team and workflows they had developed through years of using the system.


Cottage Labs in partnership with the EMLO team, have been working closely on delivering a robust, modern software platform that meets their usage requirements and is better to maintain. We have now developed and deployed the upgraded, core EMLO Edit component and are currently working on upgrading the EMLO public discovery component. Following this, we will be working on expanding EMLO Edit, adding functionality to allow community edits and opening up EMLO edit to researchers across the world.