Marc Kolakowski

Postdoctoral researcher

Contemporary history of Luxembourg
Marc is a postdoctoral researcher

I am an historian of scholarship, who specialises in early modern religious studies. My current research is dedicated to an unpublished treatise by Sir Isaac Newton known as “Of the Church”, sometimes also referred to as “A Church History Compleat” (mostly from the early 1710s). Most of its content is to be found in two voluminous – and rather disorganised – sets of autograph manuscripts: one held at the Fondation Martin Bodmer, in Switzerland, the other at the National Library of Israel, in Jerusalem. Through a combined analysis of codicological and textual data gathered from these more than one thousand pages of ecclesiastical history, I intend to offer a new perspective on their dating, re-ordering and relationship to Newton’s other works. As a member of the Newton Watermarks Project, I collaborate with Scott Mandelbrote, Fellow, Director of Studies in History, and Perne Librarian at Peterhouse. I am also revising and completing the entire TEI transcription of the Bodmer MS for the Newton Project.

My dissertation, submitted in December 2020 and soon to be published by Droz Editions in Geneva, is the first monograph devoted to Johann Wilhelm Stucki (1542-1607), an important scholarly figure and theologian from the Swiss Renaissance. In the initial part of my research, I relied on Stucki’s unedited correspondence, as well as autobiographical passages from his published works, to show how his early years in Zurich and his many travels across Europe shaped a distinctive comparative approach to contemporary and ancient religions. After that, I focused more specifically on his most ground-breaking opus: an encyclopaedic treatise entirely dedicated to ritual sacrifices in Antiquity. My reading of his Sacrorum sacrificiorumque gentilium brevis et accurata descriptio (Zurich, 1598) contributes to current debates in History of Scholarship about the initiation of a paradigm shift in religious studies during the second half of the 16th century. Through comprehensive translations of letters, prefaces and key-passages from the original Latin, it also grants access to previously overlooked sources. This work was awarded the 2021 Faculty Prize (University of Lausanne), the 2022 French Prize for “exceptional literary merit” (Société Académique Vaudoise), and the 2022 biennial Fritz Stolz Prize (Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Religionswissenschaft) for best dissertation in Religious Studies.
Since 2016, I am a member of the Bodmer Lab, a Digital Humanities project based at the University of Geneva, where I continue to supervise the digitalization and cataloguing of the French autograph manuscripts collection held at the Fondation Martin Bodmer (ca. 500 pieces, 16th-20th c.). Provenance research led me to explore further the transmission of Stefan Zweig’s collection of literary manuscripts to the Swiss bibliophile Martin Bodmer, between 1936 and 1963. With the help of various institutions and scholars across Europe and the United Kingdom, I have been able to gather and study ca. three hundred and fifty letters that document this process and shed a new light on the collection’s history through the 20th century. The results of this investigation, as well as a hundred manuscripts from the Zweig/Bodmer collection, were presented during an exhibition that I curated at the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature in 2021. An illustrated catalogue with an historical introduction was published on that occasion, accompanied by an online exhibition and a round-table of experts. As of 2023, an agreement was reached to turn this first contribution into a more consequent book that I am due to publish in the coming years.

I spent my childhood in France, and my university years in Switzerland, where I have taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels during most of my time as a PhD student. I was a Visiting Scholar at the History Faculty of the University of Oxford for the academic year 2014-2015. There, I joined the Early Modern Letters Online project (EMLO) as an assistant to the Digital Editor. I am currently affiliated to Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, as a Senior Research Associate for the academic year 2022-2023.

Online projects