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Early European Books: About

What is Early European Books?

Origins of Western culture: printed sources from continental Europe to 1700.

Building on the success of Early English Books Online (EEBO), ProQuest has embarked on a European-wide project which will trace the history of printing in Europe from its origins to 1700. The Early European Books resource is set to encompass all European printed material, and material printed in European languages, from the early modern period. The contents are drawn from major repositories including the Danish Royal Library, the National Central Library in Florence, the National Library of France, the National Library of the Netherlands, and the Wellcome Library in London. Over time, other significant national libraries will be adding their collections to Early European Books to enable researchers to conduct a seamless survey of the origins and development of Western culture.

Early European Books contains significant works by Aristotle, Copernicus, Descartes, Erasmus, Kepler, Luther and Spinoza, alongside ephemeral works such as pamphlets and almanacs.

The works encompass all the major fields of human endeavour, including science, medicine, philosophy, theology, literature, history, political science, travel and exploration. Together they provide a rich source of content for study and research across the cultural landscape of early modern Europe.

Early European Books provides:

  • Full-colour, high-resolution (400 ppi) facsimile images scanned directly from the original printed sources.
  • Each item captured in its entirety, complete with its binding, edges, endpapers, blank pages and any loose inserts, providing scholars with a wealth of information about the physical characteristics and
    provenance histories of the original artefacts.
  • Detailed cataloguing, including standardisation of variant author, city and printer names, thanks to a partnership with the CERL Thesaurus (www.cerl.org).
  • A thumbnail view which allows scanning of the contents of the entire volume.
  • Images displayed in a Flash viewer, allowing the user to zoom, pan and rotate the image.
  • Searching for books, or specific pages, that feature illuminated lettering, marginalia, maps, portraits or other graphic features.

EEB Collections

Jump to a description of a specific collection::
      Collection 1 | Collection 2 | Collection 3 | Collection 4 | Collection 5
      Collection 6 | Collection 7 | Collection 8 | Collection 9 | Collection 10
 

Collection 1:

  • 2,600 volumes from the Royal Library, Copenhagen
  • 500,000 pages
  • Comprises the entire Danish National Collection from 1482-1600, including works published in Danish or in Denmark and Iceland, and selected foreign works about Denmark. In addition, includes a collection of works by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) and followers including Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).

 

 Collection 2:

  • 2,750 volumes from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (BNCF)
  • 600,000 pages
  • More than 770 editions printed by the Aldine Press in Venice between 1495 and the 1590s, including influential scholarly editions of Italian literature (such as Dante’s Divine Comedy) and the classics (Aristotle, Homer, Ovid).
  • Almost 1,200 incunabula (books printed up to 1500). Includes rare first printed editions of the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and 100 volumes by the apocalyptic preacher Girolamo Savonarola. Also includes key examples of early German printing such as Fust and Schöffer’s 1462 Bible and the first edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).
  • 90 volumes which have been identified for the importance of their marginal annotations, including volumes owned and annotated by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).
  • Sacred Representations: unique collection of 800 editions of early Tuscan mystery plays.

 

Collection 3:

  •   10,246 volumes, drawn from four major European libraries:
    • Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze: around 33% of the Collection will be drawn from the BNCF’s holdings, including around 2,000 further volumes of incunabula (90% of them printed in Italy).
    • Koninklijke Bibliotheek: around 30% of the Collection will be drawn from the National Library of the Netherlands’ holdings of works printed in the Netherlands before 1700. In the 17th century the spirit of tolerance in the Dutch Republic meant that it effectively became the ‘bookshop of the world’, publishing controversial works by European thinkers such as Descartes and Galileo in addition to the authors of the Dutch Golden Age.
    • The Wellcome Library, London: around 22% will be taken from the Wellcome Library’s specialist and highly international collection of books relating to the history of medicine and science.
    • Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library, Copenhagen): we are returning to Copenhagen to digitise the Royal Library’s collection of 17th-century works from and relating to Denmark, plus their collection of Western European incunabula, and around 15% of Collection 3 will be taken from these holdings.
  • 2.8 million pages.

 

Collection 4:

  • Over 9,200 volumes
  • More than 2.9 million pages
  • From the collections of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Wellcome Library and the Kongelige Bibliotek.

The contents are as wide-ranging as previous collections and reflect the social, intellectual and religious concerns of the day. Among the highlights from our existing partner libraries are titles from the Wellcome Library once owned by the Victorian writer and designer William Morris, scholarly works of history and theology from Florence, literary translations and legal texts from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague (including a large number of volumes by the Elzevir Press), and titles relating to the Protestant Reformation from the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen.

The 1,700-some volumes from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) open Early European Books to new areas of knowledge and greater levels of detail. In religious matters, a number of works illuminate the rites and ceremonies of religious life: the celebration of festivals such as Christmas, marriage and funeral rites, practices relating to prayer, fasting, giving alms and processions. Alongside texts on law and regulation sit illuminating accounts of the customs of the French provinces. In the meantime, the realm of philosophy is represented by, among titles, Plato’s Republic and works by the French political thinker Jean Bodin (1530-1596), as well as numerous French translations of works by figures from the Italian Renaissance such as Machiavelli and Giovanni Botero.

 

Collection 5:

  • Over 5,690 titles
  • More than 1,6 million pages of pre-1700 printed works
  • From the collections of  the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (The Hague), the Kongelige Bibliotek (Copenhagen) and the Wellcome Library (London).

Collection 5 once again helps embellish and extend our understanding of the period with titles relevant to countless aspects of the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. Among the notable highlights are works by the legendary self-proclaimed seer Nostradaus, numerous titles by pioneering Danish physician Thomas Bartholin and by the 15th-century English alchemist George Ripley. It also includes classical texts by the likes of Aesop, Juvenal, Hippocrates, Catallus and Aristotle printed for widespread distribution to early modern audiences.

In addition to works by Bartholin, this collection is especially strong on volumes relating to medicine, anatomy and empirical science. These include works by Oluf Borch (1626-1690), one of the fathers of Danish experimental science, the naturalist Niels Steensen (1638-1686) and Paracelsus, the alchemist and founder of toxicology. Medical works include titles by Geralomo Cardano (1501-1576), Donato Altomare (1520-1566) and Giambattista della Porta (1535?-1615).

Reflecting contemporary thought and complementing works of philosophy from classical times are works of philosophy including an edition of writings by the medieval theologian Duns Scotus published in Venice in 1503 and a 1643 Amsterdam edition of Sir Francis Bacon's Nova Atlantis. A similarly rich mix of titles in modern and classical languages is to be found in areas of writing such as literature and poetry, theology, narratives of maritime discovery and works of political science.

 

Collection 6:

  • Over 3,700 titles
  • More than 1,400,000 pages
  • From the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

Collection 6 is distinguished by its wealth of French-language content, including original works, as well as translations from classical literature and from contemporary works in English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and German.

Reflecting Renaissance interest in classical texts, this collection includes editions of Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle, as well as Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Cicero and Julius Caesar. In terms of contemporary French texts, early-modern French philosophy is represented by, for example, works by Pascal and Descartes, while literary texts include the fables of La Fontaine. Examples of religious writings extend from works by the Church Fathers Augustine, Althanasius and John Chrysostom to figures engaged in the disputes of the Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation such as Luther, Calvin, Erasmus and Gabriel du Preau. There are also modern Latin texts by the Italian heretic Giordano Bruno and the Florentine firebrand preacher Savonarola are also included. Interest in science, medicine and alchemy is reflected in a colorfully illustrated La Toyson d'Or (Paris, 1613) by Salomon Trismosin, as well as French translations of Hermes Trismegistus and of William Salmon's Hermetic Dictionary. Along with various accounts of French regional customs and folklore, descriptions of further-afield discovery and exploration include a French edition of Francisco López de Gómara's account of the Spanish conquest of the New World. Adding further dimensions to this rich collection are works on mathematics, astronomy, politics, the arts of warfare, agriculture, falconry and tulip growing, as well a French translation of Ruy López de Segura's work on chess.

 

Collection 7:

  • Over 7,400 titles
  • More than 1.9 million pages
  • From the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (The Hague), the Wellcome Library (London) and from the Kongelige Bibliothek (Copenhagen).

This final instalment of content from Copenhagen, includes more than 2,700 new titles with sixteen incunabula, one of which is the first printed edition of Leon Battista Alberti’s seminal work on architecture De re aesdificatoria (Florence, 1485). Also included are works by the pioneer Danish physician Thomas Bartholin on his discovery of the thoracic duct and the lymphatic vessels, as well as his 1658 translation of the Venetian nobleman Luigi Cornaro’s book on healthy aging. Added to this are titles on a range of subject areas including astronomy, philosophy, literature and aesthetics, as well as classical literature and curiosities such as household calendars and the first ever Danish cookbook (published in 1616).

Works from the Wellcome Library include editions of the Fasciculus medicina by the German physician Johannes de Kethem, as well as illustrated titles on anatomy, midwifery, and an extensive range of 16th-century titles on the new disease of syphilis. Other highlights include Paracelsus’ groundbreaking study on the health of a single occupational group, Von der Bergsucht oder Bergkranckheiten drey Bücher (Dillingen, 1567) and William Harvey’s Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus (Frankfurt, 1628), the first edition of his account of his discovery of blood circulation. Also included are religious texts such as the Dutch Anabaptist David Joris’s T’ wonder-boeck (1551) and a 1681 French translation of Leon Modena’s study of Jewish ceremonies and customs. Also from the Wellcome are two editions of Italian geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio’s Navigatione et viaggi, a compendium of explorers’ first-hand accounts of their navigations and travels.

As well as six incunabula, Koninklijke Bibliotheek selections incorporate a number of exploration narratives, including Dutch translations of Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Discovery of Guiana (Amsterdam, 1617) and of Leo Africanus’ Della descrittione dell’Africa (Rotterdam, 1665). History titles incude accounts of the Dutch Revolt by the likes of Samuel Ampzing, Pieter Bor and the Flemish historian Emanuel van Meteren, as well as a Dutch history of the British Isles during the period of the English Civil War, Jacob van Oorts’s Ontlokene roose, bloeyende distel-bloem, en Hersnaerde Harp door (Dordrecht, 1661). Philosophy and religious titles include a 1674 Amsterdam edition of Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus, as well as works by Descartes and the influential German mystic Jacob Böhme, by Dutch humanists like Janus Dousa and Erasmus, and by key figures of the Reformation such as Jean Calvin, Theodore Beza and Martin Luther.

 

Collection 8

The second Early European Books collection to be dedicated solely to content from the prestigious Bibliothèque nationale de France, the first part of Collection 8 to be released brings together over 3,200 titles and more than 1,120,000 pages of new material.

Particularly strong on religious texts, Collection 8 includes works ranging from liturgy and ritual to the writings of the Church Fathers and examples of the impassioned spiritual debates prompted by the Protestant Reformation. From works by St Cyprian and St Augustine through to more than 30 titles by Bernard of Clairvaux, a founder of the reformist Cistercian Order, Collection 8 underlines how the early modern print revolution brought key texts of the early Western Church to a wider audience. Works by Jean Calvin and the Huguenot minister Pierre Du Moulin (1568-1658) give Protestant writings of the period a particular French inflection. In the meantime, Roman Catholic viewpoints are evinced in works by Savonarola, Bonaventure and Alphonse Rodriguez, as well as by French churchmen Jean-Pierre Camus, Guy de Roye and Joseph Lambert, among others.

Print editions of classical Roman authors are also well represented in Collection 8 with an abundance of titles from the likes of Cicero, Virgil, Juvenal, Martial and Terence, as well as editions of Ovid in both Latin and French translation. French poetry and literature, too, is richly exampled with multiple editions of François Villon, Pierre de Ronsard, Rabelais and numerous titles by Madeleine de Scudéry. French translations of foreign works also include editions of Cervantes, Boccaccio and Leon Battista Alberti. Another great strength of Colllection 8’s selection is its fascinating diversity of titles giving accounts of French history, society and topography, ranging from the lives of individual monarchs to legal documents, and from descriptions of specific regions within France to the history of Gaul. Works of natural history are also much in evidence from translations of classical texts like Pliny to handsomely illustrated contemporary taxonomies of flora and fauna. Venturing beyond the boundaries of France, Collection 8 additionally includes histories of a range of other European countries as well as of Asia and the Americas, including letters from a 16th-century Jesuit priest stationed in Japan, a life of Tamerlane and L’histoire naturelle et generalle des Indes (1555), a French version of a work originally written in Spanish by the historian Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo (1478-1557). Supplemented also by works on ancient history, on medicine and geography, on political science, linguistics and rhetoric, and on Italian, Greek and Spanish poetry, Collection 8 constitutes a hugely rewarding source of study and a worthy addition to previous Early European Books collections.

Collection 8 reflects in depth the variety of early modern France’s intellectual, spiritual, political and everyday concerns while at the same time giving space to a broader European outlook during a period of radical scientific advancement and of overseas exploration and expansion.

New highlights include:

  • Age of Discovery: Nicolas Gervaise’s Histoire naturelle et politique du royaume de Siam (1688) published in Paris by C. Barbin; Histoire nouvelle et curieuse des royaumes de Tunquin et de Lao (Paris: G. Clouzier, 1666), a French translation from the Italian written by Giovanni Filippo de Marini.
  • Science: Le traictie des comettes et signification (Paris: Ph. Le Noir, 1540), a collection of extracts on comets by noted astrologers and astronomers from Ptolemy to Haly Abenragel and Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi and to Gilles de Rome.
  • Literature: Jean L’Archer’s Breton verse Le Mirouer de la mort (1575); Veteris philosophi Syru De Sapientia divina Poema aenigmaticum (Paris: Antoine Vetré, 1628), poetry by Gregory Bar Hebraeus (1226-1286), a bishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church and noted polymath.

 

Collection 9: The Medical Incunabula from the Wellcome Library

  • The earliest printed works in the Wellcome Library are the incunabula - books printed before 1501.
  • This collection numbers more than 600 volumes, most of which were acquired during Sir Henry Wellcome’s lifetime (1853–1936), and it is one of the most important collections of medical incunabula in the world.
  • Reflecting the breadth of Henry Wellcome’s collecting interests, as well as the fact that medicine intersected with many other fields of knowledge in this period, it also includes works that relate to non-medical subjects, such as Hartmann Schedel’s richly-illustrated Liber chronicarum (The Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493).
  • Many of the incunabula were printed in Italy and Germany, the earliest major centres of printing, but the collection also includes books produced in France, the Netherlands and other parts of Europe.
  • Several volumes are extremely rare, sometimes with only one other copy known to exist. A number have fine historical or more recent bindings, including bindings by the fifteenth-century binder Johannes Richenbach (d. 1486) and by Robert Riviere (19th century) and Sangorski & Sutcliffe (20th century). Many books also stand out due to their fine woodcut illustrations, showing human anatomy, plants and animals, and more unusual subjects, such as conjoined twins. 

The collection is also of great interest in terms of provenance. Many volumes were acquired through the sale of other collections, particularly those of William Morris, Joseph Frank Payne and Kurt Wolff. In addition, certain books were owned by distinguished fifteenth-century individuals, such as the Nuremberg physicians Hieronymus Münzer and Hartmann Schedel, and the English physician Thomas Linacre. The collection thus reflects the contemporary readership of incunabula and reveals how these books circulated in fifteenth-century Europe. 

 

Collection 10: (to be launched November 2016) from the Department of Philosophy, History and Human Sciences of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). This collection will contain material from the encyclopaedic collections on the following topics:

  • Anthropology, ethnology
  • Archeology and antiquity
  • Education
  • Geography
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology and psychoanalysis
  • Prehistory
  • Religion
  • Sociology

The collection has a large number of Catholic parish bulletins and also compiles compendia of short-lived publications such as propaganda flyers, mail order catalogs, advertising materials, etc.

Videos

The demo is divided into sections about different features of the site. Click on one of the links below to view a demonstration of a particular feature. 

Enhanced Metadata with USTC

ProQuest’s partnership with the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) further improves access and discoverability of materials essential to researchers of the early modern era. 

The USTC has reviewed and standardized the datasets for all the Collections, by applying their own Subject Classifications to each work. This provides an additional discovery layer for Early European Books that streamlines and improves search results for users. These new fields cover a broad range of subjects from academic dissertation; agriculture; art and architecture; astrology; bibles; medical texts; political tracts and many others.

Moreover, the USTC has normalized metadata on the following fields: place of printing, region of printing, language, and year/date range. Because place of publication has been standardized across all the material, the translation of this material can be interpreted as scatter points on a scatter map. 

See more in the Search page.