Many major libraries worldwide are actively working to produce digital copies of their early printed books. This is beneficial not only because it improves access to the texts from any location, but also because it helps to preserve these cultural treasures for future generations. Furthermore, it reduces the need for researchers to handle these fragile old books. New materials are regularly added to most of the collections below, so keep checking back.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and the focus is on photographic reproductions of the books, rather than transcriptions. Many of the websites include lists of links to other digital collections. Please contact your area librarian if you find a digital collection you think should be added to the list.
The glorious digital collection of the Bavarian State Library, with more than 10,000 digitized incunabula and nearly 300,000 digitized printed books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Extensive collections in German, Latin, and the Romance Languages are online.
The accessible and inviting website allows you to browse the collections by discipline, time period, place of publication (more than 15,000 books printed in Venice between 1450 and 1700 are available), publishing house, image similarity, and other exciting concepts.
Features a wonderful array of thematic collections to browse the digital materials, which are a great place to start if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. The collections of Golden Age Theater, Chivalric Literature, Chapbooks, and fifty-six different editions of the Quijote are of particular interest to scholars of Hispanic literatures. All of the collections can be filtered narrowly or broadly by year.
The digital collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France feature more than 600,000 books, manuscipts, images, musical scores, letters, periodicals, and more.
Gallica is a digital library of French and francophone culture maintained by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Contains numerous electronic texts, images, maps, animation, and sound files of French and other publications in history, literature, science, philosophy, law, economics, and political science.
The collaborative efforts of more than 200 libraries worldwide to provide facsimile editions of almost every book printed in English from 1473 to 1700.
EEBO-TCP is the product of a fruitful partnership between industry and academia. ProQuest's commerical product, Early English Books Online (EEBO), contains the digital page facsimiles of about 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing's Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement. To accompany EEBO's page images, the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) is creating structured SGML/XML text editions for a significant portion of the EEBO works. The current database (30/03/06) contains 521.5 million words, 2.3 million unique forms, in 11,462 documents. For more project information, please visit the Text Creation Partnership Web site.
A collaborative effort between the Royal Library of Denmark, the Wellcome Library in London, and the National Libraries of France, Italy (Florence), and the Netherlands.
Diverse array of printed sources from the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Opens the door to some of the world's most significant collections of early printed books. All works printed in Europe before 1701, regardless of language, fall within the scope of the project, together with all pre-1701 works in European languages printed further afield. Builds upon and complements Early English Books Online (EEBO) and is largely concerned with non-Anglophone materials; however, books in English or printed in the English-speaking world that are already represented in EEBO are not omitted from Early European Books where they form an integral element of the predominantly non-Anglophone collections that have been made available for digital capture. Full-colour, high-resolution (400 ppi) facsimile images scanned directly from the original printed sources. Each item in the collection is captured in its entirety, complete with its binding, edges, endpapers, blank pages, and any loose inserts.--Catalog Record
You can search for digitzed materials by typing your terms into the box and clicking the "Biblioteca digitale" button. The search does not distinguish between trabscribed texts, partial facsimiles, and full fascimiles of early modern editions, however. You may also browse the collections thematically from the "Temi" column on the home page.
A joint project by a group of Swiss universities. More than 500 incunabula and nearly 20,000 books printed between 1501 and 1700 are online. Rich in texts in Latin and German, with good collections of French and Italian. Easy to browse by date.
The digital collections include manuscripts, incunabula, and early printed books on a variety of subjects. You can browse collections on topics such as agriculture, chemistry, and a variety of categories related to medical science.
The collection covers all time periods, regions, and languages, and is not large enough to be among the major resources for early printed European books, but the collections are very accessible to explore thematically or by period.
The BVH project has been built depending on the requests of large communities, composed of disciplines with a variety of requirements: historians, art historians, specialists of literature, philosophy, languages, and historians of sciences. Their desires can be dispatched in four directions:
1. Archive (document content-oriented)
2. Book history (document form-oriented)
3. Linguistics (language-oriented)
4. Style (aesthetics-oriented)
You can browse by collection, author, and by period. Features 1,102 items from before 1600 in various languages, including the disquieting "Here beginneth the seinge of urynes, of all the coloures that urynes be of."
Features a rich collection of botanical texts from the sixteenth through twenty-first centuries. You can choose from a list of subjects including “botanical illustration,” “cryptograms,” “Pre-Linnean works,” and “useful or poisonous plants.”
When you see the list of search results, click on the icon of an open book to see the images, the titles aren’t clickable. Also contains an enormous list of other digital libraries with botany collections.
If you are interested in material from the Vatican that is not digitized, and a trip to Rome is difficult, the Vatican Film Library at St. Louis University in St. Louis holds many microforms of Vatican materials.