What is a book?

Technically, a book is simply a specific format of information. Theoretically, though, a book is a substantial collection of information. The codex format, which is the structure of modern books, allows for a lot of information to be gathered and presented together. Usually books take a while to research and write, so they often present established or developed information on a field, topic, or question. They may have developed out of a research article or articles, which come to form the chapters of the book, with an introduction and conclusion, which provide background information and a matured analysis of the information. Due to the nature of publication, the information is probably several years old before it is printed. As well, the publisher has considered the work of the author as being worthy of being published; based on the reputation, agenda, and audience of the publisher, this could be because the information is reliable, maintains the status quo, or is controversial, sensational, or appealing. 

monograph is a material in which information is presented in a single resource. It is a discrete source of information, as opposed to an ongoing source of information, like a serial. A book is the most common example of a monograph. 

primary text is original text written in the course of life. The text of a literary work, poem, diary, newspaper article, etc. are all examples of primary texts. 

secondary text is text written about and around primary texts. Commentaries, introductions, notes, discussions, etc. are secondary texts.

transcript is an exact reproduction of a primary text, including any marks, punctuation, errors, oddities. 

facsimile is a reproduction of a manuscript, book, map, piece of art, etc. which accurately replicates the scale, materials, color, condition, etc. of the original resource. A partial facsimile is a reproduction of only part of a resource. Facsimiles are used by researchers who cannot access the original resource, and by libraries and museums to allow a form of access to resources while preserving the originals.

critical edition is an authoritative, edited edition of an original text in its original language. These works are composed by a respected scholar and expert on the text, and are composed of the edited text, extensive background information, annotations, explanations, and discussions of the latest scholarship. In some cases, the critical edition presents a single, whole text. With many medieval texts which are fragmented and exist in multiple manuscripts, for example, this is impossible. Instead, a critical edition of such texts either selects a variant or combines the variant texts into a re-constructed "original" text. Research on a text should use a critical edition, if one is in existence. Critical editions provide a wealth of information, as well as an authoritative text. However, research and analysis using a critical edition should also note any limitations of a critical edition, if it is a partial or re-constructed version of a text. 

translation is a material which presents a text in a language different from that in which the text was originally written. Translations exist on a spectrum of literal to interpretive. Some translations convey each word exactly from one language into another. Some convey the same meaning, emotion, and intent, while recognizing and utilizing the structure and nature of different languages. 

Transcripts, critical editions, and translations are accompanied by editorial notes which explain the choices and reasons which the author made in presenting the material, and help the researcher understand exactly what information they are being presented with and how it was produced. 

Resources at Harvard

Harvard University Press

Harvard University Press (HUP) was established on January 13, 1913 as a division of Harvard University, and has long been a leading publisher in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

The Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium

The Harvard Celtic Colloquium was established in 1980 by two graduate students in the Harvard University Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures as a forum in which graduate students could share their work and gain experience in professional academia. Since then, it has been organized annually by a team of students in the department, and has gained an international reputation, annually drawing a diverse mix of scholars from around the world to present papers on all facets of Celtic Studies. Papers presented at the annual conference are published in The Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium.

Fred Norris Robinson Celtic Seminar Library Celtic Collection

The departmental library of the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures, located in the Widener Memorial Library, contains a collection of books and scholarship on a wide range of topics in Celtic Studies.

History of the collection

In 1966, the Celtic scholar Fred Norris Robinson bequeathed his substantial collection of books related to all different aspects of Celtic Studies to Harvard. This collection became the foundation of the Fred Norris Robinson Celtic Seminar Library Celtic Collection.

How to find?

The collection is located in Room K on the third floor of Widener Library.

How to find the collection in the library catalog:

  • Open HOLLIS, Harvard's library catalog.
  • Above the search bar, there are options for different types of searches. Select Advanced Search
  • An expanded search box will appear. At the top of the search box is the text Search for and options to search the entire system or to limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds. There are also the options to search for reserves or by barcode. Select Library Catalog. This will limit the search to only materials which Harvard holds.
  • In the expanded search box is the text Search Filters. Below this text is a row of three search boxes. The first box limits what the search will look at (e.g. author names, titles, etc.). Click the downward arrow in the first box and select Code: Library + Collection from the dropdown menu. This tells the search to look for materials in specific locations and collections.
  • The second box limits whether the search looks at everything which contains the words searched for, or whether the search only looks at things which match the search words exactly. Click the downward arrow in the second box and select contains from the drop-down menu. This tells the search to look for materials in any of the locations and collections which contain the words searched for.
  • The third box is where search words are entered. The materials in the Fred Norris Robinson Celtic Seminar Library are all cataloged with the code CEL*.  Type CEL* in the third box. (Note: Do not forget the asterick. The asterick indicates that there can be more letters after CEL. The search will retrieve any materials which have a code which starts with CEL.)
  • Select the Search button in the bottom right corner of the expanded search box. 

This search will retrieve all the materials in the Fred Norris Robinson Celtic Seminar Library.

How to access?

The collection is non-circulating but is accessible to students, faculty, and staff in the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures. Access can also be granted to visiting scholars upon request. 

To apply for access, visiting scholars must submit a brief description of their research project, the time required for its completion, and the reason why the use of the Robinson collection is essential for it to the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures Chair. Physical access to the library is via authorized ID card. Once permission for access is granted by the Chair, authorization arrangements are made with the Widener Library security services. During their first visit, an individual should make an appointment with the Curator of Robinson Celtic Library for an introduction to the arrangement and use of the collection. Those with short-term ID authorization who wish to continue access to the library beyond the original allotted time must apply to the Chair for renewal. New ID authorization or renewals of prior authorization will ordinarily not be provided during the summer break; however, those with access during the spring term may seek permission to renew access through the summer, which must be done before the end of the spring term exam period.

Publishers of Celtic Studies Materials

Some publishers are known for publishing materials related to Celtic Studies. 

Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press, also called Clarendon Press, is a leading publisher in the scholarly world, and publishes scholarly materials on a wide range of topics, including Celtic Studies.

Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is a leading publisher in the scholarly world, and publishes scholarly materials on a wide range of topics, including Celtic Studies. The university itself has a Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic which produces scholarship. 

University College Dublin Press

University College Dublin Press publishes contemporary scholarly, peer-reviewed writing in a broad range of subjects including history, literary studies, music, and science. The Press has a special focus on Irish Studies.

Cook University Press

Cook University Press has been publishing materials in Irish Studies for over 80 years.

University of Wales Press

University of Wales Press is a primary and long-standing publisher of materials on Celtic Studies, particularly Welsh Studies. The work of scholars in Celtic programs at various universities in Wales, including Bangor and Aberystwyth, publish their scholarship through the University of Wales Press. 

Edinburgh University Press

Edinburgh University Press is one of the leading university presses in the United Kingdom, publishing books and journals across a range of subject areas in the humanities and social sciences, as well as materials related to Scottish Studies.

Aberdeen University Press

Aberdeen University Press publishes the scholarship of the university's Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies.

Four Courts Press

Four Courts Press began as a publisher of theological materials and has since expanded to academic publications in the fields of Celtic Studies, Medieval Studies, Modern History, Art, Literature, and Legal Studies.

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

The School of Celtic Studies of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies publishes works in the field of Irish and Celtic Studies.

Royal Irish Academy

The agenda of the Royal Irish Academy is to communicate scholarly material to a wider public. It publishes six scholarly journals, landmark series, and monographs.

Irish Academic Press

Irish Academic Press publishes books of Irish interest, including Irish History, Contemporary Irish History, Military and Political History, Literature, Arts and the Media, Social History, Women’s Studies and Genealogy.

Field Day

Founded in 1980 by playwrights, actors, and writers, Field Day publishes materials related to Irish theatre.


Coiscéim is a leading Irish language general publisher, with over one thousand titles of prose and contemporary poetry in Irish.

Cumann na Scríbheann nGaedhilge

The Irish Texts Society has been publishing well-edited and translated editions of important works from the cannon of Irish language literature for over a hundred years.

Sáirséal – Ó Marcaigh

Now part of Cló Iar-Chonnachta, Sáirséal – Ó Marcaigh has been a leading Irish language publishing house for many decades, publishing many of the leading poets and prose writers of the twentieth century.

Gomer Press

Gomer Press publishes books related to Wales and Welsh Studies, particularly Welsh language materials.

Gwasg Gee

Gwasg Gee was one of the principal publishers of Welsh language books for almost two centuries, including Welsh-language journal on Welsh literature.

Y Lolfa

Y Lolfa was established in the 1960s as a response to the call for Welsh language materials.

Gwasg Pantycelyn

Gwasg Pantycelyn is a publisher of Welsh language materials.

Modern Humanities Research Association

The Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) is a United Kingdom–based international organization that publishes advanced study and research in the humanities, including language research.


Brill is a Dutch international academic publisher founded in 1683 in Leiden, Netherlands. Brill today publishes 275 journals and around 1200 new books and reference works each year. In addition, Brill provides of primary source materials online and on microform for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. Brill publishes in the fields of Languages, Linguistics, Literature, and Cultural Studies.

Boydell & Brewer Ltd

Boydell & Brewer is is a British academic press that specializes in publishing historical and critical works. The modern publishing institution formed from the two houses, Boydell Press and D.S. Brewer. Both presses published scholarly materials, D.S. Brewer publishing materials on the field of Celtic Studies. In addition to British and general history, the company publishes three series devoted to studies, editions, and translations of material related to the Arthurian legend. There are also series that publish studies in medieval German and French literature, Spanish theatre, early English texts, in other subjects.


Brepols Publishing is an international academic publisher of works in the humanities.

Folk Literature from Celtic Traditions

Ancient Irish Tales (by Tom Peete Cross and Clark Harris Slover, 1936)
Includes a selection of Irish tales compiled edited by Slover (a medievalist) and Cross (a Celticist and folklorist).

Celtic Folk Tales from Armorica: Collected in the Nineteenth Century (collected by François-Marie Luzel; translated by Derek Bryce, 1997)
Tales from the Armorica region of France, which includes Brittany.

Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales (by Rees and Rees, 1978) 
This text may serve as a reference to original tales. “The chapters are well referenced to original literary sources and to selected modern works.” However, be prepared: “the chapter notes are inconveniently bunched together at the end of the book, and their elaborate contractions necessitate further consultation of a long list of abbreviations in which the bibliography is cast” (quoted from a review in volume 35 of the journal Antiquity, by T.G.E. Powell).

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi (edited and translated by Matthieu Boyd with the modernization assistance of Stacie Lents, 2017)
A modernized translation recommended for newcomers to the Mabinogion, this version of the tales was edited and translated by a recent graduate of Harvard's department of Celtic Languages and Literatures.

Francis James Child collection of ballads in Child Memorial Library (Widener Library)
Books and scores documenting British and Scottish ballads collected by Harvard's first professor of English, Francis James Child, as well as ballads he collected from North America, most prominently in New England. To select one or more ballads based on thematic story motifs, see the Motif Index of the Child Corpus. You may listen to recordings of some of these via Smithsonian Global Song.

Irish Texts Society (Series)
The Irish Texts Society issues annotated editions of texts in Irish with English translations and related commentaries. A selection of these include tales and myths of Ireland. Please sort through the short list of results to identify these, and click on the "Online" link to access them.

Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race (by T.W. Rolleston)
Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857-1920) was an Irish writer, literary figure and translator known for works that spanned a wide range of literary and political topics. He wrote Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race in 1911 in an attempt to revitalize what he felt was a waning appreciation for the heritage of all Celtic peoples. Perhaps the best representation and description of all the legends, myths and spiritual histories of Ireland, Britain and Wales, this collection includes the stories of Ultonian and Ossianic cycles, the voyage of Maeldum, and the myths and tales of the Cymry (Welsh). Rolleston also provides the fantastic narratives of Cuchulain, King Arthur, Deirdre, the Grail, and many more. This book is also available online via Project Gutenberg.

Popular Tales of the West Highlands, Orally Collected (compiled and translated by John Francis Campbell, new ed. published 1969)
Campbell was a dedicated Celtic studies scholars of the nineteenth century.

The Turn of the Ermine: An Anthology of Breton Literature (selected and translated by Jacqueline Gibson and Gwyn Griffiths, 2006)
A treasure chest of plays, folksongs, folktales, ballads, lives of saints, travel writing, stories, and poems that illuminate Breton culture and society over two millennia.

What are Tale-Types & Motifs?

Tales are composed of elements called “motifs,” which are combined in any number of ways to create a plot. Many tales have the same patterns of motifs. These patterns are called “tale-types.” Identifying the building-blocks and patterns of narratives is helpful in studying, comparing, and analyzing them. For a very brief overview of this process, see: Motif Index, What it Is and What it Does from the British Columbia Folklore Society. Below are a few important definitions:

Function or mytheme is a plot point which directs the course of the tale and appears in set orders.  

motif is the smallest definite element of a tale.

Tale type (or tale-type) is a recurring, self-sufficient plot or group of motifs.

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index

The Finnish scholar, Antti Aarne, compiled the first major tale-type index in 1910. The work was limited to European tales and was later expanded by, first, Stith Thompson, and, then, Hans-Jörg Uther. Stith Thompson translated and expanded Aarne’s tale-type index. His work categorized mostly European tales, with a selection of Near Eastern tales, into different general, abstracted types. His and Aarne’s work are collectively referred to as the “AT number system.” Each tale type is assigned a number identifier and a title (e.g. 510A Cinderella tale-type). In 2004, Aarne and Thompson’s tale-type system was expanded by Hans-Jörg Uther. Known as the “ATU tale-type index”, or “the ATU index” for short, this index is a standard reference in folklore studies.

The ATU index (and here) allows researchers to identify the underlying structure of a tale and to cross-reference it with other tales from all around the world which share the same elements or themes. Each tale-type entry describes which themes and motifs comprise a specific tale-type. Motifs each have an identifying number, which can be cross-referenced with Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature. In this way, researchers can identify similar story plots, and even vastly different tales which share motifs.  

ATU Tale-Type Classification

The Aaarne-Thompson-Uther tale-type index (ATU index) classifies story plots into seven broad categories. Each category is assigned a group of numbers. For example, tale-types which are “Tales of Magic” are tale-types 300 to 749. All tale-types in the index are prefaced with either “AT” or “ATU” to indicate whether they are an original tale-type outlined in Aarne and Thompson’s 1928 or 1961 index or whether they have been re-organized or created by Uther in the new 2004 index, respectively.

1-299             Animal Tales
300-749         Tales of Magic
750-849         Religious Tales
850-999         Realistic Tales
1000-1199     Tales of the Stupid Ogre (Giant, Devil)
1200-1999     Anecdotes and Jokes
2000-2399     Formula Tales

How to Read an ATU Index Entry

If a researcher were studying the tale Cinderella, they would find it cataloged under “Tales of Magic” in the ATU index. The story is tale-type 510 (ATU 510) or “The Persecuted Heroine”. This tale type has two variant types, ATU 510A “Cinderella” tale-type and ATU 510B “Catskin” tale-type. Each ATU index entry contains:

  • Tale-type title
  • Summary of plot
  • Motif references
  • Other tale-types with which it is often combined
  • Comments
  • Bibliography of relevant scholarship


How To Read an ATU Entry


The Motif-Index of Folk Literature

Stith Thompson compiled a massive index of motifs found in European and Eastern folktales between 1932 and 1958. His work, The Motif-Index of Folk Literature (and here), is used by folklorists to identify the elements or “building blocks” which make up a tale. The index assigns a number to each motif and lists tales in which it appears. This allows researchers to identify different tales which contain the same motif, as well as the range of functions of a certain motif in tales, and is useful for comparative analysis. The limits of the index are its geographical range; it is mainly restricted to Europe, though it does recognize a number of Eastern tales. Subsequently, various scholars have created cultural or regional specific indexes to supplement and expand Thompson’s work.

The Motif-Index of Folk Literature Classification

The Motif-Index of Folk Literature organizes motifs into twenty-six different classes, lettered A to Z. Each motif, then, is given a letter to designate its type and a number to identify it.

A. Mythological Motifs
B. Animal Motifs
C. Motifs of Tabu
D. Magic
E. The Dead
F. Marvels
G. Ogres
H. Tests
J. The Wise and the Foolish
K. Deceptions
L. Reversals of Fortune
M. Ordaining the Future
N. Chance and Fate
P. Society
Q. Rewards and Punishments
R. Captives and Fugitives
S. Unnatural Cruelty
T. Sex
U. The Nature of Life
V. Religion
W. Traits of Character
X. Humor
Z. Miscellaneous Groups of Motifs

How to Read a Motif-Index Entry

If a researcher were trying to find the slipper motif in Cinderella, they should search for “slipper” or “shoe” in the subject index which accompanies Thompson’s Motif-Index. According to the index, the word “slipper” is relevant to the H36 motif. Each entry contains:

  • Motif number
  • Motif title (and description)
  • Culture(s) and text(s) in which motif is found
  • Related motifs


How to Read a Motif-Index Entry

Celtic Motif Indices

Index of International Folktales
This searchable resource is hosted online by the School's Collection of the National Folklore Collection in Ireland, which includes stories (e.g., folktales, legends, riddles, proverbs, games) collected by Irish school children from 1937–1939. The online index is based on Aarne and Thompson's The Types of the Folktale (1961) with supplementation from Súilleabháin and Christiansen's The Types of the Irish Folktale (1967). Precedence is given to Irish variants throughout the index.

Motif Index of the Child Corpus: The English and Scottish Popular Ballad (by Natascha Würzbach & Salz; translated by Gayna Walls, 1995)
Indexes themes found in the ballads collected by Francis James Child.

Motif Index of Early Irish Literature (by Tom Peete Cross, 1952)
Designed as a supplement to Stith Thompson's Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, this publication follows Professor Thompson's method of classification and enumeration, marking with an asterisk numbers not occurring in Thompson's work. To help you understand the citations, the "Bibliography and Abbreviations" section starts on page xv of the print volume (or p. 23 of the scan).

ATU-AT-Motif guide 
Although incomplete, a great portion of the AT and ATU classification schemes can be found on this site curated by academic librarian Michael Muchow. He has linked many of them to tales stored on the Internet Archive website.

Folk Tales Online
A helpful guide to finding folk tales online, created by academic librarian Michael Muchow.

Unpacking World Folk-literature: Thompson's Motif Index, ATU's Tale Type Index, Propp's Functions and Lévi-Strauss's Structural Analysis for Folk Tales Found Around the World 
This site is curated by Shawn Urban and hosted at the University of Alberta. It has some overlap with Muchow's resource, above, but includes some unique items. It links to the Multilingual Folk Tale Database (MFTD). Neither is exhaustive. Note: When you see an abbreviated reference to a collection where a published tale can be found that illustrates one of Thompson's motifs, look it up in the detailed Bibliography and Abbreviations section on p. 31 (#45) of Thompson's Motif Index of Folk-Literature as published in Indiana University Studies no. 96–97, via HathiTrust.

Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts
This site is provided by retired professor D.L. Ashliman and hosted at the University of Pittsburgh. Again, there is some overlap with the other sources listed above, but some entries are unique. It is not exhaustive.

Motif-Index of Folk-Literature; a Classification of Narrative Elements in Folk-Tales, Ballads, Myths, Fables, Mediaeval Romances, Exempla, Fabliaux, Jest-Books, and Local Legends (Stith Thompson, 1932)
Used by folklorists to identify the elements or “building blocks” which make up a tale. The index assigns a number to each motif and lists tales in which it appears. This allows researchers to identify different tales which contain the same motif, as well as the range of functions of a certain motif in tales, and is useful for comparative analysis. The limits of the index are its geographical range; it is mainly restricted to Europe, though it does recognize a number of Eastern tales. Subsequently, various scholars have created cultural or regional specific indexes to supplement and expand Thompson’s work. Note: Some of these volumes are available online via HathiTrust's record for Indiana University Studies (wherein a copy was printed); specifically, see IUS volume no. 96-97 which is available online and contains the following volumes of the Motif Index: v. 1 (A–C: Mythological, Animal, Tabu), v. 2 (D–E: Magic, The Dead) and v. 3 (F–H: Marvels, Ogres, Tests). The following IUS volumes containing Motif Index volumes are available via search-only: 100-101, 105-106, 108-112.

Multilingual Folk Tale Database
Folk tales from all over this world are provided on this site, in their original language or in translation. To organize the stories and make it easier to find and compare them, the stories have been classified along the Aarne-Thompson-Uther classification, which is the established standard for folk tales. Although the database contains over 10,000 stories and translations, it contains stories exemplifying only a limited portion of the ATU classes.