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FHS Course I - Paper 3: Literature in English 1550-1660: Primary Texts Online

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You can search for scholarly e-book editions (eg Oxford Scholarly Editions) via SOLO or by browsing the platform directly

Search for online resources via Databases A-Z:

For access to the majority of resources covered in this guide, go to the English section of the subject list on Databases A-ZYou will also find useful resources in the LinguisticsNewspapers, and History sections.

Early printed material: digital facsimile

Early English Books Online (EEBO) features 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. Over 200 libraries worldwide have contributed to EEBO. From the first book printed in English through to the ages of Spenser, Shakespeare and of the English Civil War, EEBO's content draws on authoritative and respected short-title catalogues of the period.

Beginning with the very first book published in English, EEBO draws from four authoritative bibliographical resources – both Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) in their revised versions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) and the Early English Books Tract Supplement – to present more than 146,000 titles and over 17 million scanned pages of content.

Broadside Ballads Online presents a digital collection of English printed ballad-sheets from between the 16th and 20th centuries, linked to other resources for the study of the English ballad tradition. 

This resource is maintained by the Bodleian Libraries and features the Bodleian's digital collections of ballads, with links to the English Broadside Ballad Archive’s digital presentations of pre-1800 ballads from other libraries, and to the folk song scholarship of the Roud Broadside Index, hosted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

English Broadside Ballad Archive's priority is to archive all of the surviving ballads published during the heyday of the black-letter ornamental broadside ballad of the 17th century—currently estimated to stand at some 11,000 extant works. Digitised works include:

  • the the full archive of the Pepys Collection of over 1,800 ballads.
  • the four volumes of Roxburghe Ballads held at the British Library.
  • the Euing collection of 408 black-letter ballads held at the University of Glasgow.
  • 600 early broadside ballads at the Huntington Library in Pasadena.
  • Britwell collection of some 90 loose black-letter ballads of the 16th century.
  • the broadside ballad collections from the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, including the important Crawford Collection
  • 1,150 broadside ballads in the collections of Harvard University's Houghton Library.

Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama opens a window on the vibrant theatrical community in which Shakespeare built his career. Unlike other Folger resources about Shakespeare and his plays, Early Modern English Drama (EMED) features the plays by other playwrights, illuminating an extraordinary era of artistic ferment.

In addition to Shakespeare’s plays (which are available in Folger Digital Texts), hundreds of works were written and performed during London’s first period of commercial theater, from 1576 to 1642. A total of 403 of these plays by other writers still exist in early printed editions. EMED provides a wealth of data on each of them, which you can browse or search online or download in a variety of formats.

EMED also includes full texts of a number of the plays in the original spelling as well as with some regularized forms. The textually encoded files are available, too. Whether you read the plays, discover new insights through data exploration, devise college and graduate curricula, or work toward scholarly editions, EMED widens our horizon to different plays and to new questions as we consider the drama of Shakespeare's time.

Online texts

Drama Online provides access to the searchable full-text of over 1000 plays drawn from the Methuen Drama, Arden Shakespeare and Faber lists, as well as 350 plays from Nick Hern Books, to form a collection of the most studied, performed and critically acclaimed plays from Aeschylus to the present day. Over 100 critical and contextual works are also included, as well as biographical and bibliographical information for each playwright. The collection will be regularly updated with the latest works from new and established writers. 

NB Oxford does not have access to all video content on Drama Online

Literature Online provides access to the full text of more than 350,000 British and American original works, as well as links to useful background material.



NB all texts in these two resources can also be found via SOLO, but these platforms allow searching of the full text

Women Writers Online
The Brown University Women Writers Project is a long-term research project devoted to early modern women's writing and electronic text encoding. Their goal is to bring texts by pre-Victorian women writers out of the archive and make them accessible. They support research on women's writing, text encoding, and the role of electronic texts in teaching and scholarship

Manuscripts: digital facsimiles

British Literary Manuscripts: Medieval & Renaissance presents facsimile images of a range of literary manuscripts — including letters, poems, stories, plays, chronicles, religious writings, and other materials — from roughly 1120 to 1660. Consisting primarily of works in Middle and Early Modern English, British Literary Manuscripts Online: Medieval and Renaissance provides online access to the original manuscripts of seminal literary, religious, and philosophical texts and trace the prevailing social and cultural attitudes of the times through important historical documents like the letters of Alcuin and Lanfranc and the chronicles of Waverly, Glastonbury, St Martin’s, and Lichfield.

Perdita Manuscripts: Women Writers 1500-1700 provides access to the manuscripts of early modern women writers, from diaries to works of drama, and from widely scattered locations. Detailed catalogue descriptions are linked with complete digital facsimiles of the original MSS, providing a wide variety of search and browsing options. There is extensive biographical information, notes on provenance, bibliographies, the first and last lines of all poetry, and contextual essays and notes on 'Perdita in the Classroom'.

Digital Bodleian gathers together over 650,000 freely available digital objects under a single user interface which supports fast user-friendly viewing of high resolution images.