Thousands of early English books released online to public by Bodleian Libraries and partners

(27 January 2015) More than 25,000 early English texts from 1473-1700 have been released online to members of the public as part of a collaborative initiative led by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the University of Michigan Library.

From Shakespeare and Milton to little-known books about witchcraft, cookery and sword fighting, this rich data set comprises fully-searchable text files that can be read online or downloaded in a variety of formats.

This corpus of electronic texts has been created and released by the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP), an international collaboration among universities, funders and ProQuest, an information company central to global research. Previously, the texts were only available to users at academic libraries involved in the partnership but the data was released into the public domain on 1 January.

‘We are opening up these fantastic books to people who wouldn’t normally be able to access them. I’m fascinated to see what people will do with them,’ said Michael Popham, Head of Digital Collections at the Bodleian Libraries.

Members of the public, teachers and researchers around the world can now have access to thousands of transcriptions of English texts published during the first two centuries of printing in England. The corpus includes important works by literary giants like Chaucer and Bacon, but also contains many rare and little-known materials that were previously only available to those with access to special collections at academic libraries.

The text-only files are a unique resource for members of the public to browse for curious and interesting topics and titles ranging from witchcraft and homeopathy to poetry and recipes. In addition to browsing and reading text-only versions of these early English books, users of EEBO-TCP can also search the entire corpus, which contains more than two million pages and nearly a billion words. The text has been encoded with Extensible Markup Language (XML), allowing individuals to search for keywords and themes across the entire collection of works, in individual books or even within specific sections of text such as stage directions or tables of contents.

Read the very detailed announcement here.