dcsimg About Early European Books - Early European Books

About Early European Books

Early European Books provides scholars with new ways of accessing and exploring the printed record of early modern Europe, drawing together a diverse array of printed sources from the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Developed and produced in close collaboration with scholars, rare books librarians, bibliographers, and other experts from the library world, this new 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 the Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library, Copenhagen).

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 – Breviarium Ottoniense (Odense Breviary) and Guillaume Caoursin's De obsidione et bello Rhodiano ('On the siege and war of Rhodes'), both printed by Johann Snell in Odense in 1482 (Lauritz Nielsen 29 and 39 respectively) – through to works by the astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) issued from his private press at Uranienborg, on the island of Hven, before 1597. Other notable works of Tycho in this collection include his De nova et nullius ævi memoria prius visa stella ('On the new and never previously seen star'), published in Copenhagen in 1573 (Lauritz Nielsen 429).

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), Protestant reformers 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.

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.

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..

About Collection 2

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 Nencini Aldine Collection. More than 770 editions printed by the Aldine Press, founded by Aldo Manuzio the Elder (also known as Aldus Manutius) in Venice in 1495, and continued by his wife, son and grandson until the 1590s. 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, more portable, octavo paper size.

Manutius was a scholar of Ancient Greek, and the Press was central to the Renaissance revival of Greek learning: he enlisted Greek scholars, editors and typesetters to produce important 'pocket classics' editions of Aristotle, Homer, Sophocles and others, along with Greek grammars and dictionaries. His press also published Latin texts by Martial, Ovid, Virgil and others, and Italian literary texts such as Petrarch's lyric poetry and the first portable edition of Dante's Divine Comedy. The Aldine text formed the standard edition of Dante until the late 19th century, and the second Aldine edition (1515) was the first to include the famous woodcut diagram illustrating the circles of Hell.

Marginalia. A collection of 64 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes which have been 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.

Other notable authors include Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger (nephew of Michelangelo the painter and sculptor), the playwright Lodovico Castelvetro and the poet Alessandro Tassoni. Continuing the astrological theme, there are also editions of works by Galileo and Johannes Kepler with annotations by Galileo's follower, the mathematician and scientist Vincenzo Viviani (1622-1703).

Incunabula: almost 1,200 volumes, including rare first editions of the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and 100 volumes by the controversial preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498).

Sacred Representations. 783 sixteenth- and seventeenth-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 in Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany and are considered by scholars 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

Collection 3 is substantially larger than the previous collections, containing 3 million pages in total, from more than 10,000 volumes scanned at four different libraries. 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. This breadth of scope gives a wide-ranging overview of the intellectual life and historical upheavals of early modern Europe. The collection contains the founding works of modern sciences such as botany, anatomy and astrology, together with accounts of travel, exploration and warfare, and influential works of literature, philosophy and humanist thought. In the field of religion, users will find 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, and Counter-Reformation publications of the Catholic Church.

The volumes for Collection 3 are taken from the following libraries:

  • Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Central Library of Florence, Italy)

  • Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands)

  • The Wellcome Library, London

  • Det Kongelige Bibliotek (Royal Library, Copenhagen)

Highlights of Collection 3 include:

  • History of Science: the Wellcome Library's collection ranges from scholarly editions and translations of the works of Galen, Galileo, Dioscorides, Fuchs and Aldrovandi to books on alchemy, demonology, falconry and cookery (La Varenne's Le cuisinier françois, 1656, is the founding text of modern French cuisine), so-called books of secrets (containing recipes for medicines and household remedies, including Latin, Italian, Spanish and German editions of Alessio Piemontese's De Secretis) and books of prodigies (such as Pierre Boaistuau's illustrated catalogue of monsters, demons, deformities, natural disasters and miraculous events, Histoires prodigieuses, 1568).

  • Philosophy: works by René Descartes (Principia Philosophiae, 1644; Les Passions de l'ame, 1650), Baruch Spinoza (editions of the Tractatus theologico-politicus in Latin, 1670 and French, 1678) and key humanist and Renaissance authors.

  • History: pamphlets from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek relating to the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule, the persecution of the Huguenots, and the assassination of William of Orange.

  • Fine art and illustrations: 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).

  • Fine 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).

  • The Age of Exploration: 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).

  • Literary works from throughout Europe, including Molière's L'avare (Paris, 1693), Torquato Tasso's Gierusalemme liberata (Paris, 1678), Sebastian Brant's Ship of Fools (Latin edition; Basel, 1498), Juan de Mena's Las trescientas (Seville, 1499), Joost van Vondel's Maria Stuart (1647) and Philipp von Zesen's Adriatische Rosemund (1645).

About Collection 4

Like its immediate predecessor, Collection 4 contains almost 3 million pages and includes works from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (BNCF), the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Wellcome Library and the Kongelige Bibliotek; in addition, Collection 4 sees the first inclusion of volumes (c.1,700) from the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).

Works from the BnF in Collection 4 include the first Protestant Bible in French (published in Lyon in 1544) as well as editions and translations of the Fathers of the Church, bearing testimony to the importance of the Christian Humanist movement in France, in the wake of Erasmus. A number of works also 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. Texts of laws and regulations, as well as editions of the customs of the French provinces, jurisprudential treatises on specific matters (such as contract law or feudal law, etc.) and compendia of jurisprudence along with their commentaries also feature. Philosophy is represented by, amongst others, Plato's Republic and contemporary works such as the Six books of the Republic by Jean Bodin as well as French translations of Italian authors such as Machiavelli and Giovanni Botero (a leading theorist of the 'raison d'Etat' at the end of the 16th century).

The contents of Collection 4 as a whole are as wide-ranging as previous collections, including important works of science, art, medicine, travel and popular miscellanies from the Wellcome Library (including many items from William Morris's personal collection), scholarly works of history and theology from the BNCF, literary translations and legal texts from the Netherlands' Koninklijke Bibliotheek (including a substantial number of volumes from the Elzevir press), and texts relating to the Reformation from the Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen.

About Collection 5

Completed in December, 2014, 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 includes period works by the self-proclaimed seer Nostradamus, numerous titles by the pioneering Danish physician Thomas Bartholin and 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). Complementing works of philosophy from classical times are works of philosophy extending from an edition of writings by the Middle Ages theologian Duns Scotus published in Venice in 1503 to 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 valuable for 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. Classical texts include editions of Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle, as well as Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Cicero and Julius Caesar. Early-modern French philosophy is represented by, for example, works by Pascal and Descartes. Editions of the fables of La Fontaine can also be found. Religious works are amply represented in works by Church Fathers such as Augustine, Athanasius and John Chrysostom, as well as contemporary figures engaged in the disputes of the Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation such as Luther, Calvin, Erasmus and Gabriel du Preau. Latin texts by the Italian heretic Giordano Bruno and the Florentine firebrand preacher Savonarola are also included. Works of science and alchemy include 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 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, tulip growing and 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.

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.