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The Collation

Early Modern Digital Texts: a link roundup

quote from Hamlet F1
quote from Hamlet F1

quote from Hamlet F1 "Words, words, words"

The early modern textual landscape is broad and varied online, from full-text collections focused on a single genre or area of research, to in-depth examinations of the history of a famous text. In this post, we’ll explore a few of the online projects that aim to provide insight into early modern texts—and full texts for reading: some at scale and some in intimate detail. We’re focusing here on projects that are open access and primarily based outside the Folger.

Starting big

Lexicons of Early Modern EnglishLEME is an extensive database that aims to explore the English language itself during the period. It includes dictionaries, lexical encyclopedias, glossaries, spelling lists, and other linguistic resources of the early modern period. While LEME is not as fully authoritative a lexical resource as The Middle English Dictionary, its extensive holdings allow a thorough exploration of word usage during the period. Browse the site’s word list or search the lexicons for a particular term.  

image of graph from Early Print's n-gram viewer for 'loue' and 'love'Early Modern Print: Text Mining Early Modern EnglishEarly Print offers a range of tools for the computational analysis of English print culture before 1700. Based on the substantial work done by the EEBO Text Creation Partnership, Early Print offers tools such as an early modern “n-gram viewer,” which allows users to compare the frequency of different words (or different spellings!) during the early modern period. Take a look at early modern English in print, writ large.

Visualizing English Print also explores the big picture of English language usage through the large body of texts made available by the Text Creation Partnership. They’ve carved out different sub-groupings for exploration, such as Shakespeare, early modern drama, and early modern science. Their site is a great place to explore the range of things that can be done with digital texts. With all transparency, we should note we’re affiliated.

If you’d like to access the texts Early Print and VEP are based on, you can browse, search, and read texts on the Oxford Textual Archive’s TCP page. Phase one texts are in the public domain and accessible to all. Phase 2 are coming in 2020.

Thematic collections

Perhaps you want to dig deeper into a specific genre of text, either literary or historical. We’re leaving aside drama for the moment, and encouraging you to explore some other genres:

Screenshot of the English Broadside Ballad Archive entry for The Amorous Gallant

Do ballads float your boat? You can explore early modern ballad culture (including texts and music) at the English Broadside Ballad Archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara or at Broadside Ballads Online from the Bodleian Libraries.

Early Stuart Libels collects over 350 examples of early seventeenth-century political poetry. You can explore the 1641 Depositions at Trinity College Dublin, which include transcripts and images of 8,000+ depositions, examinations, and associated materials in which Protestant men and women told of their experiences following the outbreak of the 1641 Irish Catholic rebellion. If you want to cast a wider net, British History Online provides over 1,200 volumes of printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland, from 1300 to 1800.

Explorations of single works

Or you can go very deep indeed, and dive into projects focused on a single text:

Leonardo de Vinci’s Treatise on Painting offers readers a chance to explore the manuscript and printed versions of the work compiled by Francesco Melzi, one of his pupils. This project focuses on the fragmented transmission pattern and emphasizes comparison of different textual witnesses to explore how “Leonardo’s” thoughts on painting were presented and understood across time.Homepage for the Acts and Monuments Variorum

John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs presents a variorum edition of The Acts and Monuments, the incredibly influential early modern book of Protestant martyrs. This edition allows you to browse and compare the unabridged texts of four massive editions published during John Foxe’s lifetime, in 1563, 1570, 1576, and 1583.


Are there other projects that we should know about that provide full-text resources and are open-access? Tell us in the comments!

Note: there are also a wide range of subscription-based resources that the Folger offers to our readers who are on-site in our reading rooms. See a much fuller, but by no means completely comprehensive list of both subscription and free offerings on Folgerpedia.


Sorry for some self-advertising, but The Early Modern Women’s Research Network Digital Archive at the University of Newcastle (Australia): and my own digital edition of Mary Wroth’s poetry,

Paul Salzman — August 21, 2018


A huge number of English translations from texts from the polymath Leibniz available here:

Lloyd Strickland — August 22, 2018


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