Web Sites: Research Aids

English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

Lists over 460,000 items printed in the British Isles and North America between 1473 and 1800. Definitive place to find bibliographical records for early printed books. Contains very useful information such as number and location of extant copies. Useful to use in tandem with Early English Books Online (EEBO), the print Short Title Catalogue , and Eighteenth Century Collections Online ( ECCO ).

Early English Books Online (EEBO)

Digital facsimile images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700. Over 100,000 books are represented in this database. Incorporates information from the STC, Wing, and the Thomason Tracts. Absolutely invaluable, especially for accessing texts that have never been published in modern editions. Must use in tandem with ESTC and print STC . Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

Dictionary of National Biography (DNB)

Scholarly biographies of major public figures in British history. A good place to start when conducting biographical research. The bibliographies at the end of these articles provide excellent information for further reading. Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

British History Online

Primary and Secondary sources related to British history. Divided into useful categories such as region, time period, and type of resource. Excellent source for local histories, gazetteers, maps, and archival calendars.

Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP)

An easy-to-use and highly customizable search engine of every playbook produced in England, Scotland, and Ireland from the beginning of printing through 1660, DEEP provides a wealth of information about the original playbooks, their title-pages, paratextual matter, advertising features, bibliographic details, and theatrical backgrounds. 

Records of Early English Drama (REED)-Patrons and Performances

The REED Patrons and Performances Web Site is designed to include a wide range of data about professional performers on tour in the provinces – their patrons, the performance venues they used and the routes they took across the kingdom. The data compiled by REED is searchable by venue, patron, event, and troupe. Useful bibliography and maps.

Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project

Digital images of the Dulwich College manuscripts once owned by Edward Alleyn (1566-1626), the Elizabethan actor, and Philip Henslowe (1555-1616), theater impresario and owner of the Rose theater. These manuscripts contain a wealth of material on the practice and business of early modern theater, including financial records, legal documents, and rare “plots” of early staged plays.

Shakespeare Searched

A good way to search for keywords in the works of William Shakespeare. You can search by individual play or by individual character (i.e. the word “honor” in lines spoken by Othello).

Politics, Literature and Theatrical Culture in London, 1625-1725

Explores the social, political and literary world of London between the reign of Charles I and the early Hanoverian period.  Contains interactive maps, brief descriptions of major topics in the city's history and more than 150 images pages dealing with London's geography and social topography, major episodes in its history and thematic issues such as the expansion of commerce, the circulation of news and political commentary, and patterns of crime. 

The Shakespeare Quartos Archive

The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is a digital collection of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays. A cross-Atlantic collaboration has also produced an interactive interface for the detailed study of these geographically distant quartos, with full functionality for all thirty-two quarto copies of Hamlet held by participating institutions.

Leeds Verse Database

The Leeds Verse Database (BCMSV) contains detailed information about individual items of English poetry contained in the 17th and 18th-century manuscripts from the Brotherton Collection. The database indexes over 6600 poems from more than 160 manuscripts.

Union First Line Index

The purpose of the Union First Line Index, hosted by the Folger Shakespeare Library, is to enable cross-institutional literary research by providing a database of the first lines of manuscript verse held by the contributing institutions. Researchers can enter keywords as search terms; search by First Line , Last Line , Author , Title , Shelfmark , Women only ; limit searches to specific institutions; and sort search results in various ways. Covers the Bodleian, Beinecke (Osborn Collection), British Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, Harvard, Huntington, Leeds (Brotherton Collection — 17th and 18th century only), Harold Love and Meredith Sherlock (Clandestine Satire), and Steve May's Elizabethan Poetry.

Early Stuart Libels

Early Stuart Libels is a web-based edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. It brings into the public domain over 350 poems, many of which have never before been published. Though most of the texts are poems of satire and invective, others take the form of anti-libels, responding to libellers with orthodox panegyric. Contains a first-line index, MS index, and index of major topics of libelous writings (i.e. the Execution of Ralegh or the Lake-Roos Affair).

Broadside Ballad Archive

EBBA is dedicated to mounting online surviving early ballads printed in English, with priority given to black-letter broadsides of the seventeenth century. Contains all ballads from the famous Pepys collection, many available in full text transcription.Very useful bibliographical records for most ballads. Supplemented with scholarly essays on the “Pepys Categories” of ballads.

National Archives

Contains many resources and guides related to the UK National Archives held at Kew. Some useful features: topic-specific reference guides (i.e. family history or military history); Access to Archives (search for keywords in archives held all over England); Documents Online (for a fee, one can download high-quality PDFs of documents such as wills).

Private Libraries of Renaissance England (PLRE)

Searchable database of early modern book-lists representing private libraries. Contains all book-lists found in the printed volumes of Private Libraries of Renaissance England as well as other book-lists printed elsewhere. Search fields include language, format, stationer, STC/Wing, owner, professional status [of owner], and MS type.

British Book Trade Index (BBTI)

An index of the names and brief biographical/trade details of people who worked in the book trade in England and Wales and who were trading by 1851.

Perdita Manuscripts

Digital images of manuscripts written or compiled by women in the British Isles during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This international project has brought together texts from archives and libraries across the United Kingdom and the USA. Accessible only at UMass or Renaissance Center . Link takes you to the Adam Matthew Digital Collections homepage; choose “Perdita Manuscripts” from drop down menu, select “IP address,” and then “login.”

Cambridge Scriptorium

A digital archive of manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books from c. 1450-1720, including research and teaching resources for late medieval and early modern manuscript studies. All manuscripts are fully indexed. Includes the best early modern paleography tutorial on the net.

Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Archive

Exactly what it sounds like: a database of watermarks. Searchable by dozens of image categories in four languages.

RBMS Resources

A list of resources used by rare book and manuscript catalogers. Includes excellent history of the book information and many invaluable research tools.

Latin Place Names

A guide to Latin place names found in early English and Continental imprints. Includes variant spellings.

Latin Words in Imprints of Early Modern Books

A guide to Latin words used in early English and Continental imprints.

Reading Experience Database

Database of the reading experiences of British subjects from 1450 to 1945. Records actual experiences of reading only (not fictional experiences). Searchable by many categories, including socioeconomic status of the reader, genre of book, and the read text's provenance.

St. John's College, Cambridge Bindings

An excellent digital collection of historical bookbindings, organized by material, time period, and country of origin.

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names

Find a place name, current or historical.

Gazetteer of British Place Names

The Gazetteer provides an exhaustive place name index to Great Britain, containing over 50,000 entries. It lists the historic county and the main administrative areas in which each place lies.

William Whitaker's Words

Probably the best online tool for Latin translation. Enter any piece of Latin (doesn't have to be the root) and you will receive all of its possible meanings. Will supply tense, mood, etc. based on the ending of your word. Includes medieval Latin forms. Will not translate entire sentences (therefore a rudimentary knowledge of Latin grammar is still essential).

Voice of the Shuttle: Renaissance and 17th Century

Nest of hyperlinks related to everything Renaissance and 17th Century. Really good websites on individual writers.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

Etymologies, date charts, usages; everything English language. Excellent for looking up archaic words. Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME)

A collection of dictionaries and other word lists printed in English before 1700. Useful for etymologies and determining contemporary word usage. Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

MLA International Bibliography

Although one must still consult the print version of this resource for some gaps in the records, the MLAIB is a good place to look for secondary criticism on a topic related to literatures in modern languages. See Harner's Literary Research Guide for more information on how to navigate the online and print versions. Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

MLA Directory of Periodicals

Source for all sorts of minutiae related to scholarly journals, including addresses for manuscript submissions, number of articles accepted per year, etc. Keyword searches allow one to find journals related to his or her particular field. Accessible only at the Center or with a UMass login.

Penn English List

Standard list of CFPs (calls for papers) for the study of English literature. Learn about edited collections, new journals, and conferences. Searchable by subfield.

Univ of Glasgow Emblems Site

Glasgow University Library holds the Sterling Maxwell collection of emblem books, the largest such collection in the world. The site contains images and texts from a variety of English and Continental emblems. A great source for researching the multiple symbolic valences of certain images in the early modern period. The “French Emblem Project” is probably the most useful “sub-site”; its search engine is impressive.

English Emblem Book project

Contains digital images of nine major English emblem books of the early modern period. The “Research” section contains a lot of interesting information about the study of emblem books, including a good bibliography.

British Printed Images to 1700

An amazing collection of thousands of prints and book illustrations from early modern Britain . Searchable by subject matter, persons shown, producer, and several other categories.

Libraries and Catalogs

Via Libri

If you’re looking for a book you’ve come to the right place. ViaLibri’s meta-search engine can search all used-book sites  (i.e Abe Books, Bibliophile), and then you can sort out the best deals. Via Libri is also an invaluable research tool. With the “search libraries” function, users can instantly access the catalogues of all of the world’s major research libraries and national union catalogues.

The Huntington Library (CATALOGUE): San Marino, CA

The Folger Shakespeare Library (HAMNET): Washington, D.C.

The Newberry Library (CATALOGUE): Chicago, IL

Houghton Library--Harvard (HOLLIS): Cambridge, MA

Beinecke Library--Yale (ORBIS): New Haven, CT

Yale Finding Aid Database

Search the numerous finding aids to Yale’s extensive archival holdings. Also browse the aids by clicking on any of the links under “Alphabetical Listings of Finding Aids by Repository.” Useful finding aids for early modern studies include those within the “Osborn Shelves and Osborn Files” subsection.

British Library (Integrated Catalogue)

British Library-Manuscripts Catalogue

British Library-Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC)

British Library-Database of Bookbindings

The Bodleian Library (SOLO; Western MSS)

The Library of Congress (CATALOGUE)

Birmingham Shakespeare Library

Victoria and Albert Museum: Prints and Books

Lambeth Palace Library

World Cat

Access to OCLC records for books held in libraries worldwide. If you can't find a book in your local catalog, check WorldCat. Useful for tracking down existing copies of a certain book.


Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Formed in 1847 with the purchase of Shakespeare's Birthplace, the Trust works to promote in the every part of the world the appreciation and study of the plays and other works of William Shakespeare and general advancements of Shakespearean knowledge. Contains the Shakespeare Collection of Rare Materials as well as archives related to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare Association of America

A professional association for the advanced study of Shakespeare’s work and times. Holds an annual conference.

Renaissance Society of America

Since 1954, the Renaissance Society of America has been the leading organization in the Americas for the interdisciplinary study of the period 1300-1650 in Western history. Holds an annual conference.

Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL)

CELL develops archive-based research projects of relevance to the period 1500 - 1800. CELL is independently established as part of the academic landscape of Queen Mary, University of London. CELL's research agenda supports projects that pilot innovative methodologies and practices aimed at making archives matter, and that engage energetically with the wider community. They also offer seminars, events, a skills-based postgraduate training programme and have a thriving community of doctoral research students.

The Hakluyt Society

Founded in 1846, the Hakluyt Society seeks to advance knowledge and education by the publication of scholarly editions of primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material

The Malone Society

The Malone Society is named after Edmond Malone, the editor of the first variorum edition of Shakespeare.  Since its foundation in 1906, its purpose has been to make more accessible the materials essential for the study of English Renaissance drama.

The Royal Historical Society

The Royal Historical Society was founded in 1868 and remains the foremost society in Great Britain promoting and defending the scholarly study of the past.

Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (Toronto)

Glasgow Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies


Early Modern at the Beinecke

Blogging the Renaissance

Renaissance Lit

Wynken de Worde

Online Books and Editions

Huntington Library-Guide to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts

By no means an exhaustive guide to Renaissance MSS (although the medieval material is quite good), this book should be used in conjunction with the Guide to British Historical Manuscripts and the Guide to British Literary Manuscripts. Of course none of these printed texts supplant the unpublished card catalog kept on site at the Huntington.

Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1500-1714, Vol. I

Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1500-1714, Vol. II

[Volume III hopefully coming soon]

Foster, Alumni Oxoniensis, 1500-1714, Vol. IV

A list of students at Oxford University from 1500-1714. Useful for identifying obscure personal names.

The Bibliographical Society: Electronic Publications

Includes R.B. McKerrow’s Printers' & Publishers' Devices in England & Scotland 1485-1640, The Coffee House Library Short Title Catalogue, and other useful texts.

Renascence Editions

An online repository of works printed in English between the years 1477 and 1799. Transcriptions, not facsimiles.

Renaissance Electronic Texts (Toronto)

A series of old-spelling, SGML-encoded editions of early individual copies of English Renaissance books and manuscripts,and of plain transcriptions of such works.

Plomer, Dictionary of Booksellers and Printers...1641-1667

Wooley, First-Line Indexes of English Verse, 1650-1800: A Checklist: a bibliography of first-line indexes.

Online edition of John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments

John Carter and Nicholas Barker, ABC for Book Collectors, 8th edition

The Holinshed Project

Searchable texts of both the 1577 and 1587 editions of Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland , a significant work of early modern historical scholarship and one of Shakespeare's major sources.