Useful websites and online resources for researching and studying early modern and reformation history.
1. Databases of Printed Texts
Searchable collection of around 30,000 digitized broadside songs, from Britain in the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Links to the English Broadside Ballad Archive at UC Santa Barbara.
Searchable collection of c2286 digitized French political pamphlets held by Brigham Young University in Utah, USA. Smaller than the Newberry Collection, but a great deal not in the standard bibliographies.
Database of newspapers, particularly emphasizing local and regional newspapers (that is, not London-based national ones), though the eighteenth-century holdings are not as significant as the nineteenth- and twentieth-century holdings.
Searchable database of British periodicals from 1681 to 2005.
Only a small number of the Bodleian’s extensive collection of rare books (26 at time of writing) western manuscripts (121 at time of writing) have been digitized. There are also writing blanks and board games from the eighteenth century, some ephemera, non-western manuscripts, maps and images.
A set of transcribed, searchable neo-Latin texts, mainly from German authors, in the early modern period. Includes a number of Latin reference works, which can be particularly useful for glossing neo-Latin vocabulary and usage.
EEBO has page images of almost every work printed in the British Isles and North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere, from 1470-1700. Uses standard bibliographic references. Misleadingly comprehensive. Many but not all texts are full-text searchable.
An attempt to develop a counterpart to EEBO for non-Anglophone materials printed before 1701. Currently includes holdings from libraries in Copenhagen, Florence, the Hague, the Wellcome Library in London, and some from the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Links to the USTC.
A census of printed editions in Italian libraries, roughly 1501-1600. The standard bibliographical resource for sixteenth-century Italian printed works. Provides information about surviving copies in Italian libraries, as well links to digitized copies, often to editions from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome uploaded to Google Books.
A selection of works published in Britain and its empire between 1701 and 1800. Not comprehensive at all, but contains 180,000 titles amounting to over 32 million searchable pages.
Searchable resource with over 9,000 early modern broadside ballads, with text, images and even music. Unites many important collections from a number of different archives.
This site provides digitized rare printed books from Swiss libraries, including works with marginalia. Around 50,000 works pre-1800. Searchable.
A joint project of various libraries, museums and cultural institutions: includes texts and objects. Searching takes practice, but the site brings together material not easily accessible elsewhere. A sample search of the year ‘1598’ brought up important archival material from Dutch central and provincial archives, art from Spain and Austria, medals from Hungary, etc etc
Provides reproductions of a large number of printed and manuscript items held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France. These can be difficult to browse and search -- full text searching of early modern print is spotty, and it is easier to find manuscripts through the BnF’s manuscript catalogue. But once found, the material is easy to browse and download.
Google Books has digitized enormous numbers of early modern printed books, from libraries all over Europe and North America. Most of these are out of copyright, and so are freely available; indeed, you can often find multiple editions of the same book, or even copies of the same edition, from different libraries. OCR allows some degree of full-text searching, and you can narrow searches by time period.
The Internet Archive has lots of out-of-copyright nineteenth-century scholarly editions (see below); but the Newberry Library has also uploaded their entire collection of 30,000 early modern French pamphlets there.
An online edition providing a way into four editions of Foxe’s work (1563, 1570, 1576, 1583). Makes the massive work more easily searchable, and makes it easy to compare different editions. A substantial bibliography as well.
A collection of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth century ephemera -- pamphlets and so on -- housed at the Bodleian Library. Categories include Advertising, Book Trade, Crime, Entertainment, and Prints.
The Library of Congress in Washington, DC, has digitized a number of collections of interest to early modernists, including the Kislak Collection (artifacts from indigenous Americans), the Thomas Jefferson Papers, digitized microfilm make in the 1950s from the manuscripts of the monasteries of Mount Athos and other orthodox religious communities; pre-1700 European printed music; Persian manuscripts; and hundred of early modern printed books, including over 500 pre-1500 incunabula.
A digital repository of information about printed books and manuscripts. Many but not all have digital photographs. The main interest are the collections covered, concentrating on libraries in Czechia and Romania. Searching by date turns up all sorts of interesting items.
Twenty-four volumes of the French mercury (1605-43) have been page-scanned by EHESS.
The digital collections of the Bavarian State Library (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) and other Bavarian libraries. It has hundreds of thousands of early modern titles available for free, mostly Latin and German but some in other languages, including English. Manuscripts, too.
An ongoing effort to publish a full online edition of transcriptions of Newton’s published and manuscript works, including notebooks and correspondence.
The Royal Society has the full set of the Philosophical Transactions reaching back to 1665. Including articles, letters, book reviews, etc.
Searchable, digital collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century news media, collected by Charles Burney and held by the British Library. Concentrates on newsbooks, newspapers and periodicals. Much content not held by EEBO.
Like the ESTC (see above) but an attempt to provide a census of all European printed matter. Coverage is quite strong up to 1600, and then spottier after that, but still good. Will provide lists of surviving copies, with some links to digitized versions.
The Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachbereich erschienen Drucke des 16 Jahrhunderts is the union catalogue of printed matter appearing in German-speaking lands (but not necessarily in German) during the Sixteenth Century. It is listed by edition, is searchable, provides information about surviving copies, and some links to digitized editions.
The seventeenth-century version of VD16. Again, works listed by edition, searchable, with information about surviving copies and some links to digitized editions.
The digitized collections of the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel
2. Collections or Editions of Manuscript Texts
See Digital Bodleian, Gallica, Europeana, Manuscriptorium, Library of Congress, MDZ, Newton Project above.
Searchable digital edition of 8,000 depositions related to the 1641 Irish rebellion.
Thousands of legal documents from the UK’s national archives, photographed and reproduced in their entirety. Many of the records require special training to read, but it is nevertheless an invaluable resource for untangling the legal system and following particular cases.
The Florentine state archive is making headway in digitizing its colossal manuscript archive.
Digital library, largely of out-of-copyright calendars and finding aids related to British History, maintained by the Institute of Historical Research in London. These have been made full-text searchable by double-rekeying (in the days before OCR); otherwise they are relatively difficult to use. Easy to search, hard to browse. Commons and Lords journals, Victoria county histories, hearth tax assessments, calendars of state papers, etc, all included. Recent additions include transcriptions of 2,500+ petitions addressed to various judicial bodies between the 1570s and 1800.
The British Library has begun modest digitization efforts, with a recent team concentrating on early modern manuscripts
Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was a pillar of Queen Elizabeth I’s government from her accession to his death in 1598; his son, Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, was nearly as important until his death in 1612. The papers of both Cecils, as well as their descendants, are held at the family home at Hatfield House, and have (largely) been digitized in this collection. You can search the summary finding aides and (mostly) get access to digitized photographs of the documents themselves.
Transcribes 234 letters to and from Bess of Hardwick (d1550-1608).
Transcribed version of the Grotius correspondence, in original languages. Site is in English, explanatory notes are in Dutch, the correspondence itself is in Latin, French and Dutch.
This website is mainly concerned with one manuscript – the commonplace book of Susanna Collet (made around 1635), now in the Morgan Library – and some further material all associated with Collet’s family and their bizarre spiritual project at early seventeenth-century Little Gidding.
The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has been undertaking a massive digitization programme. More than 20,000 full MSS have been digitized, including hundreds from critical collections like the Barberini Latini MSS. Not every BAV manuscript is digitized, but lots of them are!
A unique and longstanding project to digitize all the available records related to one village in Essex. Exploited in particular by social historians.
An edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. Texts and bibliographical information.
Digitized manuscripts from the Folger Shakespeare Library of Washington, DC., one of the largest repositories of early modern manuscripts in North America.
A number of manuscripts of the critical ‘Fugger newsletters’ surviving in the Austrian National Library (Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek) have been digitized. Coverage is largely of the later sixteenth century, from 1568-1604. Mostly German, but some bits in other languages.
Contains over 200,000 digitized pages of documents from the Royal Archives and Royal Library at Windsor Castle dating to the reigns of the first Hanoverian kings, from George I to William IV.
The digitized papers of the intelligencer and polymath Samuel Hartlib (1600-1662), a mainstay of a mid-17th century British-based circle of projectors and scientists. There are page images and searchable transcriptions.
Digitized manuscripts from Harvard University library. Only a small portion of their early modern manuscripts are digitized, but some are, and it’s worth having a look.
Presents digitized and searchable sources, manuscript and printed, particularly related to plebian Londoners. Includes prison records, poor relief, and so on. Can even help you trace individuals through London’s social system.
A growing database of material from the Medici archive in the Archivio di Stato in Florence. You must register and be approved to access, but then you can add to it; an experiment in collaborative database-building.
A searchable edition of the proceedings of London’s central criminal court from 1674-1913. Substantial guidance is available to help with searching.
The Perdita Project produced bibliographic details about English women writers, c1500-1700, whose works were ‘lost’ or unknown because they remained in manuscript. The Perdita Manuscripts hosts digitized microfilms of 230 manuscripts, from poetry and religious meditations to advice and account books.
The heart of this database are photographs or digitized microfilms of nearly every part of the SP series in the UK’s national archives, from the ‘State Papers Domestic’ to diplomatic papers, for the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Many Privy Council records (PC) are included as well, as well as a number of important volumes in the British Library seemingly selected at random. Nevertheless, this is a game-changing resource in terms of making the records of UK diplomacy and government available to researchers.
Digitized manuscripts from the Beinecke Library, the special collections library of Yale University. Over a million pages digitized, including some early modern British material.
3. Images and Objects
See Digital Bodleian, Europaeana and Library of Congress above.
An online home for every public art collection in the UK, 3,300 institutions and 250,000 artworks. Thousands of early modern works are available. You can search by topic, year, artist, etc.
300 collections from across the world, with over 2.5 million images, and specifically designed for teaching and research. Tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands -- of early modern images, searchable by date, artist, region, etc.
The British Museum has photographed and provided information for a huge proportion of its holdings. Particularly important for us are materials accumulated by early modern collectors like Sir Hans Sloane and Sir Robert Cotton; and the substantial ‘prints and drawings’ collection, which has numerous unique visual sources. Loads of material objects as well.
A digital library of prints and book illustrations from early modern Britain.
A network of museums with significant collections of Dutch and Flemish art worldwide. A guide to the collections; also features a limited number (about 100) of extremely high-quality images, many of them early modern.
A collection of tens of thousands of maps, landscapes and other topographical representations that formed part of King George III’s collections, now at the British Library.
Database of musical iconography - while not comprehensive, a good starting place, particularly for 17th and 18th C continental art.
The Dutch National Museum has an abundance of objects that are searchable and downloadable as high-quality images. In addition to loads of Dutch art, there are also models of ships and artifacts from Dutch life and overseas commerce in the early modern era.
England’s museum of art and design has a massive searchable collection of material and decorative objects.
The University of Toronto is home to the third-largest collection of drawings and etchings by the seventeenth-century master Wenceslaus Hollar. These have been digitized and are available to view and compare with a pretty sophisticated imaging interface.
4. Edited Primary Sources
Almost all eighteenth- and nineteenth-century edited collections of primary sources are available through the text databases described above (especially Gallica, Google Books, Archive.org). This section particularly describes twentieth-century (that is, still in-copyright) edited primary source editions that have been digitized.
Since 1904, the Catholic Record Society has published sources related to English Catholics. 79 volumes are available.
Since 1838, the Camden Society has published editions of medieval and early modern sources. Over 350 volumes have been published, to a very high editorial standard, and are available through Cambridge University Press. You’ll have to sign in to gain institutional access.
The Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu in Rome has been progressively digitizing all the edited material they’ve published on Jesuit history. Well over a hundred volumes are available, including letters of sixteenth century Jesuits, pedagogical materials, materials relating to Jesuit missions in India and the New World, etc.
A collection of medieval, early modern and modern dictionaries of Latin that can be simultaneously searched.
A searchable version of the Grimms’ dictionary of German, good for looking up archaic forms.
A composite dictionary of seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French dictionaries.
An electronic version of the Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, originally created by Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, in the seventeenth century and revised through the nineteenth century. Included in the Database of Latin Dictionaries above.
A database largely created from printing imprints.
A Neolatin dictionary, with translations in German. The only site that was able to gloss Pantosophista for me.
An online edition of Graesse’s 1909 guide to Latin versions of placenames.
A French work that lists Latin terminology for common, scientific and technical words. Most Latin dictionaries give you classical or literary definitions; this is good for working out what people writing everyday Latin in the seventeenth century meant by the words they used. How do you say ‘frying pan’?
A Latin-English dictionary. There are some words I couldn’t find in the above resources but managed to find here.
6. Bibliographic Resources
See above -- USTC, Edit16, VD16, VD17.
An index which aims to include brief biographical and trade details of all those who worked in the English and Welsh book trades up to 1851. Includes not only printers, publishers and booksellers but also related trades (e.g. stationers, papermakers, engravers, auctioneers, ink-makers). BBTI is, however, an index to other sources of information, and is not a biographical dictionary. For Scotland, see Scottish Book Trade Index (below).
The English Short Title Catalogue provides bibliographic information about 480,000 editions published in Britain and its possessions between 1473 and 1800. Does not contain links to digitized copies, but does provide information about the location of surviving copies.
Compositor is a database of eighteenth-century British printers’ ornaments, useful for identifying printers.
Manuscripts associated with early modern writers, both autographs and copies for those interested in manuscript circulation. Organized by author, work and repository.
A searchable, analytical and annotated list of all translations out of and into all languages printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland before 1641. The catalogue also includes all translations out of all languages into English printed abroad before 1641.
Schwabe (1714-1784) was a philosopher and historian based in Leipzig. This is a quite copious list of learned and literary journals of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, organized alphabetically, with formats, years of publication, and sometimes other information. The journals are principally in Latin, German and French, though some are in English, Italian and Dutch; places of publication range across Europe. Printed with the 1747 edition of Morhof’s Polyhistor.
Lists the names, trades and addresses of people involved in printing in Scotland up to 1850. It covers printers, publishers, booksellers, bookbinders, printmakers, stationers, papermakers. For England and Wales, see British Book Trade Index, above.
7. Biographical Resources
If you are lucky enough to be working on someone with an entry in a biographical dictionary, you should look them up!
Combines entries from the Allgemeine and Neue Deutsche Biographie projects; 50,000 biographies for people from German-speaking lands.
Around 30,000 biographies from the ongoing biographies for Italian nationals, including loads of minor writers of the early modern period.
The UK’s biographical dictionary. 60,000 relatively comprehensive biographical entries, complete with notes of archives and sources at the bottom. Always look up your subjects here.
Over 20,000 biographies of MPs and members of the House of Lords, many of whom were not important enough to rate an article in the ODNB. Usually includes notes and sources.
The CCED team integrated lots of church records -- subscription records, taxation records, and so on -- to help you track your random clergyman’s career through the Church of England, even moving diocese to diocese.
8. Maps and Calendars
Maps the spread of printing during the second half of the fifteenth century. Primarily a teaching resource.
In 1582, after intense work by a number of mathematicians and astronomers, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a calendar modification called the Gregorian calendar. This is the calendar we still use today. Prior to 1582, and after 1582 in lots of non-Catholic countries, Europeans used the Julian calendar, which was systematically out of synch with the Gregorian (10 days in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 11 days in the eighteenth century, etc etc). ‘Historical Calendar’ allows you to quickly figure out what date you’ve got, what day of the week it was, and so on.
A digital reproduction of a highly detailed 1561 map of London, combining various datasets to show streets, various shops, and so on.
An interactive digital map of Giambattista Nolli’s 1748 map of Rome. Rich with metadata and connections to images, and developed to a very high standard.
An attempt to create a rounded historical topography of early modern Rome. Includes information on artworks, buildings, architects, streets. Difficult to browse but easy to search, with information on artwork and loads of architectural resources.
9. Data Sets
These sites host various forms of data – wages, prices, trade, gold/silver conversion, currency value, births and deaths, etc – as they changed over time. The websites will sometimes offer interpretive tools, but most often will just have downloadable spreadsheets and explanations as to how the data sets were created.
Offers datapoints on things like grain output per worker, product prices from tax registers, and so on, especially for the sixteenth century.
An extension of the classic project directed by Richard Bonney in the 1990s and the basis of significant comparative work on state finance. The site contains a helpful introduction, functional search fields and direct access to the data.
A site created and maintained by economic historians that compiles datasets related to income and prices across time and space. Do you wonder how much the price of beef in Florence changed over the sixteenth century? Go see what they’ve managed to collect!
Collected by KNAW’s International Institute of Social History provides raw data, interpretive articles and resources for tracking changing prices and wages over time.
A collection of datasets around currency exchange; grain prices in Cologne; general prices in the Netherlands; and textile industry data from the Low Countries and England.
Now hosted out of Historical Prices and Wages above, the Scottish Economic History Database, 1550-1780, tracks wages, prices, crop yields and demographics.
10. Finding Aids
Every archive and library has a different mix of online, printed and manuscript catalogues (‘handlists’ that usually can only be consulted on site). Learning your way around a library partly means learning your way around their collections and finding aids. But here are some digital resources that can help you get into that:
A directory of archives in Europe and some other places, with available finding aides. By no means comprehensive, but nevertheless quite extensive and worth exploring before you make archival trips.
A union catalogue of archival holdings of French universities and some research libraries.
A searchable catalogue of the cause papers related to the church courts in York diocese between 1300-1858, held by the Borthwick Institute.
A bibliographic database providing bibliographic data of sermon manuscripts from the British Isles and North America.
A finding aid for early modern correspondence, concentrating on scientists and philosophers. Coverage for other kinds of correspondence -- for example, diplomatic correspondence or newsletters -- is extremely patchy.
A searchable finding aid for manuscripts and modern editions of 15th-17th century music. Catalogue ongoing by volunteer enthusiasts.
An international, non-profit organization and finding aid that aims to comprehensively document extant musical sources worldwide: manuscripts, printed music editions, writings on music theory, and libretti that are found in libraries, archives, churches, schools, and private collections. 1.3 million records.
An attempt to digitize the letters of Sir Hans Sloane from thirty-eight volumes in the British Library. Ongoing with respect to the collection metadata, and so far (as far as I can tell) a handful of transcriptions are available.
11. Online Paleography Courses
Learn to read the handwriting of Southern Germany! Examples from the eighth century to the twentieth. Numerous examples from the early modern period, in both German and Latin, with full transcriptions supplied so you can see how you are doing.
A course in reading early modern English handwriting, with helpful instructional essays on letter formation and writing technology and a series of twenty-eight lessons of increasing difficulty.