Bodleian Libraries secures 1million JISC award for extension to create searchable corpus of the earliest books published in English

8 March 2011

The Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford has secured a £1 million award from JISC Collections to create a complete corpus of searchable electronic texts for the earliest books published in English. This funding enables the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP), led by the Bodleian and the University of Michigan, to make available a further 43,500 early printed texts as part of their project to make all English publications printed before 1700 available to scholars in searchable electronic form. This additional £1 million award recognises the success of the initial EEBO-TCP project which made accessible over 25,000 titles published between 1473 and 1700 and which has, in the words of one scholar, ‘condensed what would previously have taken a lifetime of research and cross-referencing into an afternoon’s work.’*

Richard Ovenden, Associate Director and Keeper of Special Collections, said: ‘The expertise of Bodleian digital editors with their colleagues at the University of Michigan has transformed research opportunities in early modern studies. Previously scholars had to painstakingly search from book to book for information, language and text comparisons. Now they can perform a keyword search, restricted by date or document type such as ‘letter’ or ‘oath’, and begin their research almost instantly.’

Professor David Norbrook, Merton Professor of English Literature said, ‘This large expansion of an already superb database greatly enhances the possibilities for research in literary, cultural and intellectual history. Through the study of words in context, we can trace fine shifts in meaning or emotional register with unprecedented precision.’

These electronic texts are being published through ProQuest’s digital resource Early English Books Online (EEBO) ( which provides access to digital facsimiles of over 125,000 works published in England or English between 1473 and 1700. The Bodleian/Michigan project makes this resource significantly more useful by allowing scholars to search the texts and use new forms of digital scholarship to help understand the early modern period.

These texts are as diverse as the interests of early-modern readers. Their subject-matter includes literature, astrology, legal documents, sermons, travel, propaganda, education, music, medicine, news and gardening.

Well-known treasures – Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1477), Culpeper's The English Physician (1652) and the Book of Common Prayer (1549)– appear alongside more obscure works: The Compleat Vineyard (1665); The Wittie Companion, or Jests of all Sorts (1679); The Delights of Holland (1696). The collection includes books, pamphlets and single sheets, from the first English book printed by Caxton, through the age of Bacon and Shakespeare, Erasmus and Galileo, the tumult of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution.

Maria Bonn at Michigan University said, ‘We are delighted to receive this new funding from the JISC, both because it recognizes the value of our work in EEBO-TCP Phase I and, because it allows us to continue the important task of representing an important part of our cultural heritage in ways that are useful and necessary for today's scholars.’

EEBO and EEBO-TCP are available worldwide through subscription to ProQuest. More than 50 HE and FE institutions in the UK already have access to EEBO and EBBO-TCP, having joined the EEBO-TCP partnership through JISC. The texts will move into the public domain for general use free of charge five years from the end of each phase of the project. Electronic texts from Phase One will become freely available on 1st January 2016.

EEBO-TCP allows readers to choose between viewing the original works and the electronic full text, as well as providing enriched, browsable, fully searchable editions. EEBO-TCP encourages users to request titles they would like as electronic editions so, where possible, they can be prioritized.

The Text Creation Partnership aims to create structured digital text editions for a significant portion of the English Short Title Catalogue ofbooks published between 1473 and 1700. It brings together The University of Michigan, the University of Oxford, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and ProQuest Information and Learning.

*Named academic, in support of EEBO-TCP’s funding application to JISC.


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