In the Quick guide, we explain the basics about how this edition displays the letters and about ways of searching the edition. To provide further assistance, the first section on this page gives a number of helpful hints for making the most of the site. The second section lists the answers to a number of frequently asked questions.
This site should work with any modern browser. However, it has been optimised for and tested most extensively with Firefox versions 3.0 and higher.
The letters are displayed in two or more columns. If you want to print all the information about a letter, click the Print button in the letter title bar. This will display letter metadata, original text, translation and notes. It does not print the illustrations or facsimiles.
The Advanced search panel is empty by default when you visit it. You can recall the search criteria used in your previous search by pressing the Recall previous button. You can then modify or repeat the previous search. Press the Clear button if you have entered one or more search criteria but want to start afresh. For information about the individual fields, click the question mark to the left of the field.
Technical art terminology
The edition contains a glossary of materials and techniques in order to avoid burdening the annotations with repeated explanations of the technical art terms used by Van Gogh. It can be accessed by clicking Concordance, lists, bibliography at top right, then clicking Glossary of materials and techniques.
Maps and plans
Maps and plans of the places and regions where Van Gogh lived can be accessed by clicking Concordance, lists, bibliography at top right, then clicking Maps and plans.
Physical descriptions of the letters
A careful study has been made of the physical properties of each letter (such as size, paper type, writing material, etc.). This information can be accessed by first clicking the facsimile tab in one of the letter columns, then clicking the physical description link just below the image.
A chronology of Van Gogh’s life can be accessed from the menu at top right. The chronology describes important events in Van Gogh’s life and is hyperlinked, wherever possible, to the letters in which Vincent discusses these events. This can be one way of exploring the content of the letters in relation to Van Gogh’s life.
Frequently asked questions
Q: How can I find out which people Van Gogh corresponded with?
A: If you want to see their letters, click by correspondent in the top menu. For more about the correspondents, click Correspondents. For more about the numbers of letters exchanged between Van Gogh and his correspondents, go to the Overview of all the letters under Concordance, lists, bibliography.
Q: How can I find a letter using the letter numbers from an earlier edition?
A: Under Concordance, lists, bibliography, go to the Concordance. Alternatively, click Select letters in the Advanced search menu and select the edition you want in the drop-down box below Number (range).
Q: How can I see which letters include sketches?
A: Click with sketches in the top menu
Q: How can I find out which letters mention a specific work of art, such as Rembrandt’s Jewish bride?
A: Click Advanced search in the top menu. In the field Work of art, type at least three letters of the name of the artist (in this case, Rem) or a word from the title (bride, for example). A list of the matching works of art will then appear on the right. Click the work and then the search button.
Q: How can I go back to the list of search results?
A: Click Search results in the top menu
Q: How can I sort my search results by correspondent?
A: The Simple search that is available on every screen sorts results by date. The Advanced search can sort results by date, by correspondent or by system-computed relevance.
Q: When I am looking at a specific letter, how can I search within that letter?
A: Use the Search this letter link in the bar above the letter. Note that the browser’s standard search, usually accessed with Control-F, will not necessarily return all hits, as you may not have all the letter elements (original text, translation, notes) open at the same time.
Q: If I know the F or JH number of a Van Gogh painting, how can I use that to search for the work?
A: In Simple search, search for, say, "F 394" (between straight double quotes), or "JH 1379". Alternatively, go to Advanced search and enter the number in the field Van Gogh work F no or JH no.
Navigating a letter
Q: How can I zoom in on a sketch?
A: Clicking the link to the sketch will open the page that the sketch appears on in the zoom window. Click the plus button (+) repeatedly to zoom in. You can move the page around using the mouse. Click the minus button (-) to zoom out, or press Reset to return to the original size.
Q: How can I view the letter in Van Gogh’s own handwriting?
A: Click the facsimile tab above the letter display. You can switch between pages either by clicking the thumbnails under the page image or by clicking the page icons shown in the text. You can zoom in on a page by clicking the facsimile. The sheet will appear in the zoom window. Click the plus button (+) repeatedly to zoom in. You can move the page around using the mouse. Click the minus button (-) to zoom out, or press Reset to return to the original size.
Q: How can I view more details about a letter, such as why it has been dated the way it has, where it is kept, what the titles of the sketches are, etc?
A: Click more... in the white column between the two text columns.
Q: If a topic discussed in a letter is not explained in the letter itself, where can I find an explanation?
A: The event might be an ongoing topic discussed in an earlier letter. It that if the case you will find a reference to that letter under Ongoing topic(s). Click more... in the white column between the two text columns to check the list of ongoing topics (if any).
Q: What are the numbers in the light brown horizontal bar next to the letter number? A: They are the numbers of the letters previously viewed on this computer. They are provided as an extra service to facilitate exploration of the letters. Click a number to jump to the corresponding letter.
Q: How can I see which works of art are discussed in the letter I am reading? A: Click the artworks tab. This will display thumbnails of the works discussed (if any). Click on the image to enlarge it.
Q: What does the ‘+ line endings’ tab do? A: It will show a text with line breaks exactly where Van Gogh made them. It is closer to his actual text, and provides textual notes that account for the minimal changes made by the editors. It also shows the full stops and commas added by the editors, which are displayed as _ and / respectively.