A large amount of online full text is available through Harvard Libraries or free on the Web. Only general digitized print and multi-format collections are listed here. Full text government documents, periodical, and archival material are listed in those sections. To find full text collections in Harvard Library E-Resources: choose Subject + Resource Type: Electronic book/text collections.
- General Digital Libraries
- Digital Libraries/Collections by Region or Language
- Digitized Harvard Collections
- Subject Libraries/Collections
- Finding More Digital Libraries and Collections
Google Book Search, HathiTrust Digital Library and Internet Archives offer books and periodicals digitized from numerous libraries. Only out-of-copyright, generally post-1923 books are fully viewable. Each of these three digital libraries allows searching full text over their entire collections.
HathiTrust Digital Library. Each full text item is linked to a standard library catalog record, thus providing good metadata and subject terms. Thus a full text search of the whole database can be limited by title or Subject term. The catalog can be searched separately. Many post-1923 out-of-copyright books, especially government documents, are full text viewable. You can search within copyright books to see what page your search term is on.
Internet Archive now offers a full text search. Put your terms (phrases or personal names, in quotation marks (""), work best) in the search box and choose Text Contents.
The Online Books Page arranges electronic texts by Library of Congress call numbers and is searchable (but not full text searchable). Includes books not in Google Books, HathiTrust, or Internet Archive. Has many other useful features.
Electronic Text Collections is a list of online text collections.
World Digital Library offers primary source materials.
Searching Early English Books Online (EEBO), Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Early American Imprints.
Since spelling in early books is variable and the long s (which looks like an f) is often used, it is important to try variant spellings and the wild card feature. ECCO offers fuzzy searching in Advanced Search
Both Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) contain full text of most books published 1475-1800 in Great Britain and North America and books published in English anywhere.
Early English Books Online (EEBO) offers full text for works, including much ephemera and many periodicals, dated 1475-1700. Uses Library of Congress Subject Headings.
EEBO uses page images and OCR text. Although searchable by words and phrases, there are character recognition errors and full Boolean searching is not possible. Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership has input over 25,000 works and offers corrected text and full Boolean and other search capabilities for this subset of EEBO.
Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) offers full text for English language works dated 1700-1800. Uses Library of Congress Subject Headings. Searchable by words and phrases based on the OCR text. Many 18th century American imprints are not included in ECCO because they are available in Early American Imprints (EAI) (next).
Both EEBO and ECCO are based on the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC) which has over 470,000 catalog (no full text) entries listing books, periodicals, newspapers and some ephemera printed before 1801. Works published in Britain, Ireland, British colonies, and the US are included, together with items printed elsewhere which contain significant text in English, Welsh, Irish or Gaelic. Books falsely claiming London publication are included. Items omitted from ECCO because they are available in EAI are represented in the ESTC. Reprints (reissues of original works) are not usually included in ECCO; they are fully represented in the ESTC.
NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship) (1770-1920) is a searchable (full text search available) database of selected digital scholarship and of websites related to the British and American long 19th century. Where fee-based material is found, you will have to go through Harvard Library E-Resources; no automatic link to Harvard resources is available.
Digital Public Library of America offers textual, visual, and sound resources contributed by numerous libraries, archives, and museums. Searches catalog records, not full text.
Early American Imprints, Series 1 (1639-1800) and Early American Imprints, Series 2 (1801-1819) are based on the microform collection of books, pamphlets and broadsides issued in America recorded in Charles Evans' American Bibliography and Roger P. Bristol's Supplement to Charles Evans' American Bibliography, and in American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819 by Ralph Shaw and Richard Shoemaker.
American Pamphlets, Series 1, 1820-1922 offers pamphlets held at the New York Historical Society.
American Broadsides and Ephemera (1760-1900)
Digital Libraries by State: These websites list hundreds of local, state, and regional resources.
- State Digital Resources: Memory Projects, Online Encyclopedias, Historical & Cultural Materials Collections
- Digital Libraries by State or Region
- 250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives
- 71 Digital Portals to State History
American Memory (Library of Congress)
Lists of digital libraries
Digital Libraries of Europe (NYU Guide)
European History Primary Sources is an index of scholarly websites providing access to primary sources.
List of digitized documents by country
Search engines and searchable digital libraries
Archives de littérature du Moyen Âge: valuable site containing links to search engines for manuscripts, online resources, and a list of medieval authors with primary and secondary sources
Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) searches OAI-PMH metadata, not the full text, from over 2000 sources of academic open access documents. About 60% of the documents indexed are available full text. The metadata searched is provided by the source and tagging is often inexact. This is a vast collection of documents and has much not available elsewhere.
Use Browsing to narrow your search to subject area (e.g., Literature) or Document type (e.g., Manuscript, broadly construed). Open Browsing and choose-Dewey Decimal (for Subject), choose major subject to see next finer level, twice. After choosing View Records add a search term to the Subject Term or Document Type:
e-corpus is a collective digital library containing manuscripts, archives, books, journals, prints, audio recordings, video, etc., on cultural diversity worldwide and specifically in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Europeana: Cultural collections of Europe is the largest European search engine for digitized books, images, manuscripts, etc. Searches catalogs records of material contributed by numerous repositories. Not full text searchable; links to full text. Similar to the Digital Library of America
EROMM: European Register of Microform and Digital Masters searches its own database of records of printed and handwritten material in digital form or on microfilm from institutions worldwide and offers web search for such material.
MICHAEL: Multilingual Inventory of Cultural Heritage in Europe searches digital collections at the collection rather than the item level from European museums, archives and libraries. Contains material not in Base, Europeana or EROMM.
Virtual Library Eastern Europe (ViFaOst)
Gallica includes the full-text for more than 100,000 volumes and 300,000 images covering the Middle Ages to the beginning of the twentieth century, with an emphasis on nineteenth-century material. Included are dictionaries and encyclopedias, journals, manuscripts, recordings and images.
Bibliothèque Francophone Numérique. Scroll down for Découvrez les Collections par Zones Géographiques.
Digital Humanities Database. A searchable database of French and Francophone Studies digital projects.
Guide to German Studies: Digital Libraries & Collections (Univ. of North Carolina)
Gottinger Digitalisierungs-Zentrum hosts a large collection of mainly, but not exclusively, German books in several subject areas.
Zentrales Verzeichnis Digitalisierter Drucke (ZVDD) is the German national portal for digitized scholarly imprints. Searches easily limited by century of publication.
British History Online (11th-19th cent.) offers printed primary and secondary sources for the history of the British Isles. These resources cover ecclesiastical and religious history, intellectual and cultural history, local history, urban development, economic history, parliamentary history, and administrative and legal matters.
Connected Histories: British History Sources, 1500-1900 provides federated searching for several databases of British primary historical sources, including the primary source content of British History Online for 1500-1900.
Manuscripts Online (1000 to 1500) searches a variety of online resources on manuscript and early printed culture in Britain. Includes literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books on websites of libraries, archives, universities and publishers. Some of the resources searched are only accessible via subscription. These resources allow free snippet results but do not provide full access.
Connected Histories and Manuscripts Online are not integrated into the FindIt@Harvard system. When you find something in a licensed/subscription database only a snippet view will display, and you will need to go to the same resource in the Harvard system (if we have it) and redo the search.
Digital Collections at Harvard. Digitized versions of Harvard University Library collections.
- Digital Libraries/Collections by Subject
Black Thought and Culture (ca. 1840-1975) includes monographs, essays, articles, speeches and interviews written by leaders within the black community.
Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics provides print, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University libraries and archives.
Expeditions and Discoveries (1626-1953) documents nine Harvard–associated expeditions of scientific discovery in anthropology and archaeology, astronomy, botany, and oceanography. Contains published work, manuscripts and records, visual sources and maps from 14 Harvard repositories.
The Making of the Modern World offers full text searching of works on economics and business published from 1450-1914 from the Kress Collection of Business and Economics at the Baker Library, Harvard Business School and the Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature at the University of London Library. Includes material on commerce, finance, social conditions, politics, public health, trade and transport. A great deal of more recently acquired material in the Kress Collection is not included in The Making of the Modern World.
Slavery, Abolition, and Social Justice, 1490-2007 is a "portal for slavery and abolition studies, bringing together documents and collections from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world.
Social Theory (1822-1990s) presents major works by several sociological authors.
Victorian Popular Culture currently offers Sensation, Magic and Spiritualism, which includes two sections: Entertaining the Supernatural: Rare printed sources from the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature at Senate House, University of London; and The History of Magic Scrapbooks from the Houdini Collection with related material from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin, Texas.
American Civil War: Letters and Diaries includes published and archival memoirs, letters, and diaries, plus supplementary chronologies, biographies, bibliographies, etc.
American West: Sources from the Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana (1722-1939) offers digitized manuscripts, ephemera, photographs, maps, and printed books.
Civil Rights Digital Library (includes lots of film)
The Gilded Age (1865-1902) offers manuscripts, photographs, cartoons, government documents, songs, ephemera, etc., together with critical essays on selected primary sources
Overland Journeys: Travels in the West, 1800-1880 (Archives Unbound) offers printed materials selected from the bibliographies, The Plains and Rockies: A Critical Bibliography of Exploration, Adventure, and Travel in the American West, 1800-1865, and The Trail West: A Bibliography-Index to Western American Trails, 1841-1869.
Virginia Company Archives: The Ferrar Papers, 1590-1790, from Magdalene College, Cambridge includes digitized version of The Records of the Virginia Company of London (Washington, D.C., 1906-35), with contemporary maps and images.
Immigration to the United States, 1789-1930. provides print, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard's library and museum collections.
Early Encounters in North America: Peoples, Cultures, and the Environment (1534-1860) includes letters, diaries, memoirs, and accounts of early encounters between Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, and Americans.
North American Indian Thought and Culture (1600-present) offers a fully Indexed collection of autobiographical, biographical, and oral history accounts covering most North American regions.
Everyday Life and Women in America, c.1800-1920 provides material from the New York Public Library and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women s History and Culture, Duke. Includes books, broadsides, pamphlets, and periodicals.
Gerritsen Collection--Women's History Online, 1543-1945 includes over 4000 monographs, primarily in English, German, and French, plus 265 periodical titles.
North American Women's Letters and Diaries includes approximately 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries from more than 600 women writing from Colonial times to 1950. Some 7,000 pages of previously unpublished materials are included in addition to biographical information.
Women and Social Movements in the United States: 1600-2000 offers journal articles, manuscripts, books, pamphlets, bibliographies, images, and other sources.
Women Working, 1800-1930 includes books, pamphlets, manuscripts and images selected from Harvard's library and museum collections.
Finding More Digital Libraries and Collections
There is no one way to find digitized primary sources on the Internet. The following websites are search engines for digital collections (and thus more focused than a Google search) or lists of digital collections and other online resources. Most of the search engines do not allow limitation to digitized manuscript/archival material, and so manuscript/archival material is often swamped by printed matter and open access scientific publications. Using appropriate search keywords (e.g., papers, correspondence, EAD) is useful. Image limitation is more frequent.
Advanced Google Searches
General Google searches may yield very many results, and it may take much sifting through the results in order to find relevant items. Using Google Advanced Search with specific search terms can help yield more focused results.
Within Google Advanced Search, use the “all of these words” and the “this exact word or phrase” to enter keywords for your subject, for example,
- all these words: Botanists
- any of these words: archives manuscripts correspondence diaries scrapbooks sources letters
- all these words: Botanists
- any of these words: "digital archives" "digital collection" "online collection"
- all these words: botanists Hawaii
- this exact word or phrase: “archival collections” “manuscript collections”
Also try (separately):
all these words: botanists WITH this exact word or phrase: finding aid
all these words: botanists EAD
For any of these searches, use the “site or domain” box to search within just .edu, .org, or .gov sites.
Google Primary Sources Search
Google has created a customized search for primary sources. Use the same terminology suggested for the Google Advanced Search to customize your search. General subject or person searches without the “digital collections” etc. qualifiers will yield more results, but the results list can be a bit disconcerting by identifying items in isolation, without giving you an idea of the broader collection they are located in. As with other Google searches, there is no controlled vocabulary.
Other libraries' research guides are often useful:
In Google Advanced Search
all these words: library [your topic keywords]
any of these words: guides research resources
site or domain: .edu [or ac.uk or country domain, etc.]
WorldCat (the OCLC Union Catalog)
Numerous digitized collections of primary sources have records in WorldCat. These collections of primary sources are often swamped by ebooks on the same subject. There is no one perfect method for finding them, but the following may be tried for any topic. Always find the proper Subject terms for your topic and search using those as well as any keywords. Use Advanced search.
Search: African American Women Authors
Material type phrase: Updating website
You may also combine your search keyword with terms indicating primary sources (Archives, Correspondence, Diaries, Interviews, Manuscripts, Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc., Personal narratives, Sources), thus
Subject terms search: marriage history
Subject terms search:sources or archives or correspondence or diaries
Material type: not ebook
Limit type to: Internet Resources
Willie Harris collection 1950s-1970s consists of photographic prints documenting social customs, religious life, weddings, organizations, and other affairs of African American men, women, and children in Baton Rouge, La. between the 1950s and 1970s.
Search: women slavery
Material type phrase: Internet resource
Limit type to: Archival Material
The latter two searches will yield a mix of digital collections and digitized finding aids.
OAISTER is the largest search engine for online academic material. Includes digitized books and journal articles, open access publications, manuscript/archival material, photographic images, audio and visual files, data sets, and theses. It includes such a vast range of resources that digitized archival and other primary sources are lost in the abundant results if a broad topical term is used. So it is best to use a narrow term or proper name. Thus "Act-Up" yields archival letters. It is possible to limit a search to Archival Material, but I have not found this to be useful.
The Digital Public Library of America searches online material emanating from numerous US libraries. As in OAISTER, one cannot effectively limit to archival/manuscript sources, so broad topical searches are difficult. Specific searches work much better. Searches for proper names, again like OAISTER, often yield individual items (photographs, letters) within collections.
Other general sources for digital collections include:
British Columbia International Digital Library lists digital collections by place and subject.
Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) Content Search Does not use the OAI-PMH protocol. Simple custom Google search of full text in the participating repositories
OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories) uses a very simple Google search to search its over 1650 repositories worldwide. Includes all kinds of digital material. Cannot limit to particular types of material. Does not use OAI-PMH protocol unlike several others, so gets different results.