dcsimg About Early European Books - Early European Books

About Early European Books

Early European Books provides scholars with new ways of accessing and exploring all works printed in Europe before 1701, drawing together a diverse array of printed sources, regardless of language, as well as works published further afield. Developed and produced in close collaboration with scholars, rare book librarian, bibliographers, and other experts from the library world, this resource opens the door to some of the world's most significant collections of early printed books.

All works printed in Europe before 1701, regardless of language, fall within the scope of the project, together with all pre-1701 works in European languages printed further afield. Early European Books builds upon and complements Early English Books Online (EEBO) and is largely concerned with non-Anglophone materials; however, books in English or printed in the English-speaking world that are already represented in EEBO are not omitted from Early European Books where they form an integral element of the predominantly non-Anglophone collections that have been made available for digital capture.

Early European Books offers full-colour, high-resolution (400 ppi) facsimile images scanned directly from the original printed sources. Each item in the collection is captured in its entirety, complete with its binding, edges, endpapers, blank pages, and any loose inserts, providing scholars with a wealth of information about the physical characteristics and provenance histories of the original artefacts.

Detailed descriptive bibliographic metadata accompanies each set of facsimile Document Images to support browsing and searching. Users of Early European Books are also provided with functionality that allows them to pinpoint particular images containing manuscript annotation and various kinds of non-textual printed matter including illustrations and maps.

Early European Books will be issued as a series of collections, each offering access to the early printed books of one or more major libraries. These collections will build to form a seamless and increasingly comprehensive survey of printing in Europe to 1700.

About Collection 1

The first Early European Books collection has been made possible by a partnership between ProQuest and Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

This collection offers a comprehensive survey of the Royal Library's holdings of items listed in Lauritz Nielsen's Dansk Bibliografi 1482–1600 and its supplement (1919–1996). All of the Royal Library's Danish and Icelandic imprints produced in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries fall within its scope, from the earliest works printed in Denmark through to works by the alchemist and pioneer astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) issued from his private press at Uranienborg before 1597.

Lauritz Nielsen's Dansk Bibliografi 1482–1600 includes material printed across Europe and works in many European languages, including Latin, Danish, German, English, Icelandic, Swedish and Ancient Greek. Authors whose works are represented among the Royal Library's collection of pre-1601 books include humanists such as Erasmus (d. 1536), Boccaccio (1313–1375), and Petrarch (1304–1374), figures of the Reformation such as such as Martin Luther (1483–1546), Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), Hans Tausen (1494–1561), and Johann Bugenhagen (1485–1558), and classical authors such as Cicero, Demosthenes, and Livy.

Among the landmark Latin texts included in this survey of the Royal Library's collections are copies of the three sixteenth-century printed editions of the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus (13th Cent), the first printed with the title Danoru[m] Regu[m] heroumq[ue] historiæ ('Histories of the kings and heroes of the Danes') by Josse Badius (1462–1535) in Paris in 1514 (LN 240), the second, Saxonis Grammatici Danorum Historiae libri XVI, printed by Joannes Oporinus (1507–1568) in Basel in 1534 (LN 241), and the third, Danica Historia libris XVI, printed by Philipp Lonicer (d. 1599) in Frankfurt am Main in 1576 (LN 1450). Also included are several copies of De Denscke Kroneke, an excerpt of the Gesta Danorum in Low German printed by Matthäus Brandis in around 1502 (LN 242) and Den Danske Krønicke som Saxo Grammaticus screff, a Danish version by Anders Sørensen Vedel (1542–1616) printed in Copenhagen in 1575.

In total the Royal Library's collection of pre–1601 printed books consists of more than 2,600 items, comprising around 500,000 pages and occupying about fifty metres of linear shelving. Although Collection 1 consists substantially of material printed before 1601, the Royal Library's holdings of seventeenth-century editions of works by Tycho Brahe and his follower Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) have also been included.

About Collection 2

Early European Books Collection 2 contains early printed volumes from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Central Library of Florence). The selection of works focuses on four collections of particular historic and bibliographic importance within the library's holdings from this period.

The first of these, the Nenci Aldine Collection brings together more than 770 editions printed by Aldo Manutius and the Aldine Press, founded in Venice in 1495. The Aldine Press was one of the most historically significant institutions in the early history of printed books, with numerous innovations including the first use of italic type and the adoption of the smaller, readily portable, octavo paper size. The second significant collection is of 64 16th- and 17th-century volumes identified for the importance of the postillati, or marginal annotations. Researchers will be able to read marginal notes written by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) on his own personal copies of works by Euclid, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso and Horace.

Third in this prestigious list comes almost 1,200 volumes of Incunabula, including rare first editions of the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and 100 volumes by the controversial preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498). The fourth collection presents over 780 16th- and 17th-century editions of sacre rappresentazioni, popular verse plays depicting Biblical scenes, episodes from the lives of the saints and Christian legends, which were originally performed throughout Tuscany and which scholars consider to form the foundations of Italian theatre. Although many of the texts are anonymous, those by named authors include Castellano Castellani's Figliuol prodigo and Lorenzo de' Medici's Rappresentazione di San Giovanni e Paolo.

About Collection 3

Early European Books Collection 3 is substantially larger than the previous collections, containing nearly 3 million pages in total, from more than 10,000 volumes scanned at four different libraries: the Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library, Copenhagen) the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Central Library of Florence, Italy), and our two new partner libraries, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) and The Wellcome Library in London.

This breadth of scope gives a wide-ranging overview of the intellectual life and historical upheavals of early modern Europe, touching on all areas of cultural, scientific, intellectual and social life from the Reformation to the Renaissance and to the Age of Discovery. It encompasses works in all major European languages, printed in the cities which led the explosion of the print industry in the early modern era, such as Nuremberg, Basel, Leiden, Paris and Venice. The collection contains founding works of modern science, together with accounts of travel, exploration and warfare, as well as influential works of literature, philosophy, religious debate and humanist thought.

The inclusion of volumes from London's Wellcome Library has extended the product's range of scientific titles. Collection 3 provides scholarly editions and translations of the works of Galen, Galileo, Dioscorides, Fuchs and Aldrovandi, as well as works on alchemy and demonology, falconry and even cookery titles such as La Varenne's Le cuisinier françois of 1656. Volumes from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek widen the scope of philosophical debate of the period with titles by Descartes and Spinoza, as well as providing a wealth of contemporary historical analysis in the form of pamphlets relating to the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule, the persecution of the Huguenots, and the assassination of William of Orange.

Religious texts are represented in the collection through examples of Reformation and Counter-Reformation debate, and supplemented by editions of the works of the Church Fathers, early Bible editions in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and vernacular translations, missals, psalters and breviaries, Protestant sermons and tracts. Literary works include Molière's L'avare (Paris, 1693), Torquato Tasso's Gierusalemme liberata (Paris, 1678) and Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools (Latin edition; Basel, 1498). Titles reflecting the Age of Discovery can be found in several editions of Theodor de Bry's America (from 1595 onwards), and Joannes de Laet's History of the New World (Leiden, 1625), together with surveys, chronicles and illustrated natural histories of Brazil, Peru, Ethiopia, India, Persia and the Portuguese East Indies (in Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch and Latin).

Lastly, as well as reflecting the intellectual currents of the day, highlights from the collection also include splendid examples of the art of printing, from Nicolas Jenson's Venetian imprints of the 1470s and examples of Dutch 'prototypography', to Christophe's Plantin's prolifically illustrated editions of Monardes' survey of plants of the New World (1574) and the House of Elzevir's editions of the Classics and the Greek New Testament (Leiden, 1624). Works of fine art and illustration include Albrecht Dürer's Four Books on Human Proportion (Arnhem, 1622), and volumes with engravings by Jacob de Gheyn (Waffenhandlvng, or The Exercise of Arms; Amsterdam, 1608), Johan Bara (Emblemata amatoria, Netherlands, c.1620) and Jöst Amman (Panoplia, Frankfurt, 1568).

About Collection 4

Like its immediate predecessor, Early European Books Collection 4 contains almost 3 million pages and includes works from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Wellcome Library and the Kongelige Bibliotek. As a new addition, Collection 4 also sees the first inclusion of some 1,700 volumes from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).

The contents of Collection 4 as a whole are as wide-ranging as previous collections and reflect in a kaleidoscope of detail 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.

Works from the BnF featured in Collection 4 once again open out 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.

About Collection 5

Early European Books Collection 5 contains more than 5,690 titles and over 1,671,000 pages of pre-1700 printed works from the following three libraries: the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen and the Wellcome Library in London.

Sharing with previous collections a rich variety of classical and original early modern texts, 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, Collection 5 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, making Collection 5 a diverse and rewarding repository, and a worthy addition to previous collections in Early European Books.

About Collection 6

Early European Books Collection 6 is the first collection dedicated solely to a selection from the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris and contains over 1,400,000 digitally-preserved pages from over 3,500 different works. As wide-ranging in subject matter as previous collections, Collection 6 is also 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, Collection 6 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 as a French translation of Ruy López de Segura's work on chess.

About Collection 7

The first new release of Early European Books in 2015, Collection 7 is published in its entirety and brings together over 7,400 titles and more than 1.9 million pages from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, the Wellcome Library in London and from the Kongelige Bibliothek in Copenhagen. The collection marks the final instalment of content from Copenhagen, with over 2,700 new titles including 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 in numerous languages 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).

Continuing with the medical theme, 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 from the Wellcome 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. Beyond medicine and works on science, selections from the Wellcome also include 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, the first of its kind.

As well as six incunabula, selections from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek also 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). Material from The Hague is similarly strong on history titles, with 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 are also well-represented, with 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.

About 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.

Other Project Partners

The Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC)


The St Andrews Universal Short Title Catalogue project (USTC) will create one of the most powerful resources ever envisaged for the study of book and print culture, providing a complete survey of all printed books – at least 350,000 editions – published in Europe between the invention of printing and the end of the sixteenth century.

The project will create a searchable interface, bringing together data from established national bibliographical projects and new projects undertaken by the project team based in St Andrews, with partners in University College, Dublin. The USTC builds upon the principles established by the St Andrews French Vernacular Book project, completed and published in 2007.

ProQuest and USTC have been partners since the inception of the Early European Books project. Users of Early European Books will find that the bibliographic metadata for many items in the collection includes a USTC number in the Bibliographic Number field. More USTC numbers will be added as Early European Books and the USTC grow and develop, and cross-linking between the two resources will be made available when the USTC is made available online in 2011.

The CERL Thesaurus

This collaborative project by members of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL, www.cerl.org ), contains forms of imprint places, imprint names, personal names and corporate names found in found in Early Modern printed books, including variant spellings, forms in Latin and other languages, and pseudonyms. The Thesaurus, comprising more than 700,000 records, has been integrated into the search feature of Early European Books, allowing users to search for modern forms of city names in a variety of languages (Venezia, Venice, Venedig) and return hits for historical and Latin variants, or search for personal names such as Virgil and retrieve hits for 'Virgilius Maro, Publius' or 'Vergilio'.


Dr Paul Ayris, President of the Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche (LIBER):

"LIBER is delighted to be associated with ProQuest's Early European Books project and with the vision to include all imprints from across the whole of Europe between 1475 and 1700. It is a compelling vision and will result in a magnificent tool for European scholarship. LIBER feel that a viable model has been established to create a high-quality resource with huge benefit to scholars, students and beyond"

Cheryl LaGuardia, Library Journal, 04/01/2010:


"How do you rate a product that brings the contents of the great libraries of Europe to your desktop with this kind of precision, quality, and attention to detail? You give it a ten! When completed, EEB is going to fulfill the dreams of scholars around the world. A natural complement to EEBO, this is essential for every library supporting scholarly humanities research".

ProQuest welcome feedback on Early European Books. Please contact us with your comments and queries.

Case Studies

Early European Books: From Decision Maker to End-User
A look at how Early European Books is being used in a leading international university.

Using Early European Books
An overview by Dr Edward Wilson-Lee, Fellow in English at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.

Please note that only English language versions of the case studies are available for download.