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October 31, 2011
Post-Reformation Digital Library Announces Major Upgrades, Expanded Coverage

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (October 31, 2011) – On the second anniversary of its public launch, the Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL) has become available in an upgraded form with its own domain (www.prdl.org). This new version of the library is powered by a database format, which allows detailed search queries and integrates findings of source material from a wide variety of digital libraries and digitization projects. After more than a year in development, the new website now covers more than double the number of authors and works as its previous iteration.

“This upgrade cements the place of the Post-Reformation Digital Library as the single most comprehensive public database for early modern research in theology on the planet,” said David Sytsma, moderator of the PRDL’s executive board. Whereas the previous version of PRDL functioned as an online digital bibliography covering about 700 authors from the early modern period, the new database-driven version of PRDL offers a host of new research capabilities and includes nearly 2,000 figures.

“Our current coverage of authors from just the Reformed tradition surpasses the entirety of the first version of PRDL,” said Todd Rester, a member of the PRDL executive board and doctoral candidate at Calvin Theological Seminary. With nearly 800 authors, the PRDL’s listings remain strongest in the Reformed tradition, but steps taken by the executive board to broaden coverage to other theological traditions have met with success. Earlier this year the PRDL added an advisory board of established scholars, currently with 15 members from institutions across North America and Europe, to provide expertise for expanding the database’s records for Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Arminian-Remonstrant, Anabaptist, Socinian and Unitarian authors, as well as figures from diverse schools of philosophical thought.

Launched in the Fall of 2009 and hosted by the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, the Post-Reformation Digital Library (www.prdl.org) is a select database of primary source documents focusing on early modern theology and philosophy, from the late 15th-18th centuries, spanning publicly-accessible collections from major research libraries, independent scholarly initiatives, and corporate documentation projects.

“While the initial launch of PRDL was warmly received by early modern scholars, the executive board always intended for that version to be a first step toward a much more ambitious tool. With today’s launch we feel like we’ve taken that significant next step,” said Sytsma, who is also a doctoral candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary.

In addition to the increased scope of PRDL’s coverage of the early modern intellectual terrain in theology and philosophy, the new database format makes possible a number of significant search options to optimize the PRDL’s utility for scholarly research. Searches can now be filtered by a number of factors, including place of publication, publication language, date, author, and publisher, as well as other features like theological genre or relation to particular biblical books, as in the case of scriptural commentaries. The site’s upgraded browsing feature also allows the user to filter results by many of these criteria with a single click.

While the move to a database has eased the work of tracking data from the variety of digital libraries and projects that host the digital sources, user feedback remains critical to the ongoing success of the PRDL. “From the beginning we have depended on the knowledge and expertise of our site’s users, and for the PRDL to remain a vibrant tool for early modern scholarship, it is essential that the community of users feel empowered to contribute to the continuing improvement of the site,” said Rester. To that end, the new PRDL site includes enhanced user feedback tools, which allow someone using the site to assist in the categorization and correction of information for currently indexed titles, as well as to recommend new authors and works for inclusion in the PRDL database.

As of today’s launch of the new version of the Post-Reformation Digital Library, the database includes coverage of over 1,900 authors, 24,000 titles, and 34,000 individual volumes. Visit the PRDL and find out more at www.prdl.org.

Contact Jordan J. Ballor at (616) 617-7669 or [email protected] for more information.

About the Meeter Center: The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies is a research center specializing in John Calvin and Calvinism that opened in 1981 and is located at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

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