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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 (
  • 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 1-12

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 11 | Collection 12

Collection 1

Collection 1 contains:

  • 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

Collection 2 contains:

  • 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

Collection 3 contains:

  •   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

Collection 4 contains:

  • 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

Collection 5 contains:

  • 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

Collection 6 contains:

  • 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

Collection 7 contains:

  • 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

Collection 9 combines a balanced selection from the Wellcome Library in London and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague and includes approximately 3,300 titles and around 1.37 million pages of new material.

Among the treasures to be discovered here are selections from the Wellcome Library's prestigious collection of incunabula, or earliest printed books. These include medical titles in particular, from editions of Aulus Cornelius Celsus's De Medicina, to a 1496 Venice edition of the Liber Teisir by the 12th-century Arab physician Ibn Zuhr, to works by Alessandro Benedetti, the 15th-century surgeon general of the Venetian army, and to the 1491 Venice printing of Antonio Gazio's treatise on health, Corona florida medicinae.

Literary works include a 1480 Gouda edition of the Dialogus creaturarum by Nicholaus Pergaminus.

A typically rich and intriguing variety of science and medical titles can be found in the later material from the Wellcome Library. In medicine, these range from standard works of the classical world by Galen and Hippocrates to the writings of the Arab physician Serapion the Younger and to more specialized studies of the early modern period. Included are multiple works on anatomy and surgery by the likes of Fabricus ab Aquapendente (1533-1619), Caspar Bartholin (1585-1629) and Johann Dryander (1500-1560). Also included is Jean Riolan's writings on blood circulation, multiple works by the "Dutch Hippocrates" Pieter van Foreest and a 1539 Paris edition of Guillaume Budé's work on gout and diseases of the joints. As well as scientific titles on chemistry and astronomy, also included is a fascinating range of titles pursuing alchemical enquiry and the occult sciences. Numerous works touching on alchemy by the 13th-century Iranian polymath Geber and by Paracelsus (1493-1541) are supplemented by titles such as Robert Fludd's (1574-1637) Integrum morborum mysterium and a 1541 Strasbourg edition of Walther Hermann Ryff's work on the art of memory, De memoria.

Beyond these, the Wellcome selection is supplemented by a mix of natural history and classical literature. A work by Robert Boyle on air pumps and even a book on beards: Marcus Antonius Ulmus' Physiologia barbae humanae (1602).

Content from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek provides a variety of material but also gives an emphasis to science, mathematics and astronomy titles. Starting with 17th-century editions of Pliny the Elder's writings on natural history in both Latin and Dutch translation, the selection moves to a 1682 Amsterdam edition of the Dutch botanist and artist Abrahamus Munting's Waare oeffening der planten and numerous other works of early modern scientific enquiry. Astronomy titles include Jacob Cats' Aenmerckinghe op de tegenwoordige steert-sterre (1618) as well as works by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Antonio Magini who devised the Maginian System of planetary theory. In mathematics, the selection includes a 1691 Amsterdam edition of Jacques Ozanam's Dictionaire Mathematique and Abraham de Graaf's De geheele mathesis (1694). A further science highlight from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek is a selection of writings by the Dutch doctor and philosopher Heydentryk Overkamp collected in Alle de medicinale, chirurgicale en philosophische werken in another Amsterdam publication of 1694. Political science and history titles feature too in Collection 9 works from The Hague, but the selection is also marked by titles reflecting Dutch engineering and entrepreneurship such as Johan Sems's Practijck des lantmetens (1648) and Sybrandt Hansz Cardinael's Boeckhouden (also 1648), a work on financial bookkeeping.

Together these evenly balanced selections from the Wellcome Library and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek form a richly rewarding body of material, making Collection 9 an essential addition to Early European Books.

Collection 10

Collection 10 is from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) with over 2,500 titles and approximately 1.3 million pages.

This selection of books is drawn from the Philosophy, History and Human Science (PHS) department of the BnF and features sixteenth- and seventeenth century titles published within the borders of modern-day France. It offers a range of works from a period that transitions to the Enlightenment and the epistemological revolutions of French philosophers and theorists.

Unlike previous selections from the BnF which reflected the dominance of Paris and - to a lesser extent - of Lyon in the early-modern French publishing world, this corpus gives wider representation to the provincial press that came to emerge particularly during the seventeenth century. The new selection therefore includes contributions from Rouen, then France’s second city, as well as from Douai (ceded to France in 1668), Caen, Bordeaux, Troyes, Toulouse and a further network of towns both large and small, of bishopric offices, and of courts and schools.

In philosophy, of particular interest are the editions from the big names of the Grand Siècle such as René Descartes and Nicolas Malebranche, or the so-called “erudite libertines” like Gabriel Naudé (1600-1653). The significance of the seventeenth century is clearer still in the categories of geography and general history where the century's major reference works are well represented. These titles include a series of editions of the Grand Dictionnaire Historique by Louis Moréri (1643-1680), a further series on world history in French and Latin by the Jesuit Horace Turcelin (Orazio Torsellino), the Rationarium temporum of Father Denis Petau (1583-1652), the learned treatises of fellow Jesuit Philippe Labbé (1607-1667), and in particular his Concordia chronologica published in 5 folio volumes by the Imprimerie Royale. These reference works stand alongside many accounts of travels around the continent (Claude Jordan, Charles Patin, Théodore Turquet de Mayerne, among others) as well as of journeys beyond Europe (Jean Mocquet, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and others). Demonstrating a similar diversity, two editions from the Discours sur l’histoire universelle by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627-1704) sit with the series of “exemplary” and moral stories of the prolific bishop of Belley, Jean-Pierre Camus (1584-1652), published mainly in the provinces.

Coverage of Ancient history and Catholic theology is balanced between French and Latin editions. Although Roman history is predominantly covered in Latin, French translations of historians such as Tacitus, Plutarch, Suetonius, Quintus Curtius, Sallust and Florus abound in the seventeenth century. Meanwhile, modern scholars such as the prelate Nicolas Coeffeteau (1574-1623) and the French historiographer Scipion Dupleix (1569-1661) make their contributions in folio format in their Histoire romaine.

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of this selection, works on theology reflect equally the extensive output of scholarly works and dogma (mainly sixteenth-century titles published in Paris and Lyon), the intensity of the disputes – particularly those surrounding the emergence of Jansenism (from the mid-seventeenth century onwards) - and the progress of “Christian humanism” advocated by St Francis de Sales and extended through a rich literature intended for the faithful, among them Tridentine and diocesan catechisms. Through these texts, links can be traced between the religious controversies and conflicts that marked the sixteenth century, and the equally virulent debates that characterized the seventeenth century.

Collection 11

  • Total Pages: 470,000
  • Total Number of items: 2,200

Launched to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Collection 11 is the first Early European Books release to be curated fully thematically, made possible by the addition of a new search field. Since 2016, Early European Books has been enriched by the inclusion of 38 different USTC subject classifications, allowing the user to identify titles by subject area and to navigate the product with enhanced selectivity. Curation steps from this collection onwards will also be informed by subject themes in Early European Books.

Collection 11 focuses squarely on religious works. The collection draws on material from 4 libraries in Europe: the Wellcome Library in London as well as from three national libraries – Italy’s Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Denmark’s Kongelige Bibliotek and Holland’s Koninklijke Bibliotheek. The titles selected include devotional literature, bibles and bible commentaries, but also mystical writings, works on witchcraft and demonology and books of funeral orations, all of which reflect the rich terrain of early modern religious, spiritual and popular belief.

Beyond the inclusion of earlier Christian writings, Collection 11 focuses strongly on texts of the early modern period, and in particular on titles which relate to the religious debates of the Reformation. What began in 1517 with the circulation of Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” – originally prompted as an outcry against the selling of indulgences by the Church – led to the most decisive schism within Western Christendom. Reflecting this historic shift, Collection 11 contains writings by many of the best-known figures of the Reformation. Editions of Luther’s postils are exampled, together with numerous works and commentaries by Jean Calvin.

Collection 12

Collection 12 forthcoming, Fall 2017

  • Total Pages: 570,000,
  • Total number of items:  approx. 1200 works

EEB 12 is the first fully thematic collection from the BnF in Paris.  The selection was made using the USTC Subject Classification that is added to each work. For EEB 12, the focus is on the themes History and works related to Politics and Governance.  The collection has a strong emphasis on ‘History and Chronicles’ (circa 50%) and a substantial number of ‘Political tracts’, ‘Discourses on government and political theory’ and ‘Classical’ works.  Since these themes are often part of a larger bound width volume, other topics in the bound width have been included.



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.