Digital research tools


No longer subscription database (huzzah), the ArchiveGrid is a finding aid for researchers who want to scope out archival collections useful to their projects. It contains almost 2,000,000 descriptions of  materials, including historical documents and personal papers, and shows you how to contact the institutions that house the collections. There’s one hitch for early modernists interested in the British civil wars and Interregnum. ArchiveGrid  depends to a large extent on the voluntary participation of institutions, most of which are here in the US. (As of July 2013, there were 1,686,780 participating institutions in the US and only 16,663 participating institutions in the UK.) That’s not to say you should ignore ArchiveGrid: give it a go.

An admiring observation. ArchiveGrid’s new search design is so easy to use I almost gasped. Say you want to look for materials that have something to do with Andrew Marvell. After you type “Andrew Marvell” (use quotation marks for phrases) into the search box at the top (there’s no advanced search option as far as I can tell), you’ll get a result list describing each item that you can click to find out how to contact the institution that houses it. But–here’s the neat part–if you click the “Result Overview” tab, you can limit your results by topic, archive location, and places and people who’re mentioned in your “Andrew Marvell” results, which can be really useful if you’re tracing social networks or associations of one kind of another. In this example, one of the “people” results is Henry Thoreau, who seems to have been somewhat of a fan.

Blogs and blogging: texts and practice

From Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens.

British History Online

For serious scholars of early modern history, this site is crucial. In their words, “British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research.”

British Printed Images to 1700

Searchable database of early modern prints and illustrations, with the added bonus of a terrific section on the techniques and genres of printmaking, the historiography of early modern images, and a directory of printmakers and publishers. Be sure to read the comments accompanying each image. You’ll learn, for instance, that the adjacent 1646 engraving of a down-at-heart Prince Rupert was engraved by William Faithorne after a painting (now lost) by William Dobson, portraitist of the Oxford court, and published in London by Thomas Rowlett. As it became clear their side was losing the first civil war, Royalist sympathizers Dobson, Fairthorne, and Rowlett scrambled to make money from Dobson’s work. But in October 1646 Dobson died in poverty even as Rowlett attempted to sell Faithorne’s engraving. The website doesn’t indicate when Dobson might have painted the portrait, but by 1646 Rupert, after having surrendered Bristol to Fairfax in September 1645, had been dismissed from military service by his uncle.

Digital research tools

A compendium of great tools for research in the humanities. You’ll be surprised to find out just how many free and useful applications are out there. My favorite is Zotero–a powerful (and free) online bibliographical tool.

EEBO tutorials

ProfessorAlice Eardley explains search basics in only 7 minutes in this EEBO video tutorial. Essential viewing. And here’s some written help from the EEBO website: a product tour that focuses on how to find content and what to do with search results, sample searches, and a search guide that concentrates on search terms, viewing, printing, and other basic options.

English Short Title Catalog (ESTC)

Available free through the British Library, the ESTC lists books, serials, newspapers, and ephemera (e.g., advertisements, playing cards, election propaganda) printed in English, Welsh, Irish, or Gaelic in Britain or elsewhere before 1801. The catalog contains nearly a half million
entries. For those of us who’ve been spoiled by EEBO, it’s a downer to learn that the ESTC is “merely” a catalog. You can’t see or print the items themselves, though ESTC will tell you where they’re physically located.

So should you even bother with the ESTC? Absolutely! In fact, you really need to consult the ESTC any time you’re working with EEBO, because the former lists items that may not be digitized on EEBO or anywhere else online. (Most of these maverick items seem to be ephemera, like the above-mentioned playing cards and election propaganda, which can convey a world of information.) Because the ESTC actually provides a more complete and wide-ranging picture of what was printed before, during, and after the civil wars than EEBO, the ESTC can help you place an individual EEBO document in the context of other publications and give you a sense of its participation or non-participation in contemporary discourses or debates. Plus–and this is no little matter–unlike EEBO’s satanic search engine, searching ESTC is a breeze. I’m finding it more efficient to search the ESTC for items I’m interested in first, and then swing by EEBO to check them out. I especially recommend this two-pronged search strategy to EEBO beginners: believe me, it will cut down on the swearing and teeth-gnashing. See also “A Guide to ESTC, EEBO, ECCO, and Beyond,” below.


Mercurius Politicus on EEBO’s new social dimension, Interactions, which allows users to engage in dialogue with other users and contribute comments on texts.

A Guide to ESTC, EEBO, ECCO, and Beyond

By Stephen Karian, this is a must-read for those of us familiar only with EEBO. Cautions that using EEBO without consulting the ESTC–the English Short Title Catalog (now online)–is plain short-sighted. Although most of us assume that EEBO is a more-or-less complete repository, not all early modern texts have been digitized, and you need to consult ESTC to get truer sense of what’s out there and where to find it. Because ESTC is “only” a catalog (and thus less sexy than EEBO and its downloadable primary texts), it’s easy to dismiss, but it’s an essential tool that scholars should use with EEBO. (BTW, ECCO stands for Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, a database that might come in handy for other coursework.)

New possibilities for old texts

You can download the article in pdf from this site.

New Scholarship, New Pedagogies: Views from the ‘EEBO Generation’

By Stefania Crowther, Ethan Jordan, Jacqueline Wernimont, and Hillary Nunn. Early Modern Literary Studies 14.2/Special Issue 17 (September, 2008).


Another nifty collection of digital tools for scholarship.


Click link above to download the Firefox extension that beats Noodlebib by a mile. No more typing out bibliographical entries as you collect and organize possible sources for research: just a click of the mouse does it all. You can also share your bibliographies with others doing similar research. For a quick introduction, see “Getting started with Zotero” from the Kennedy School of Government website.


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