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Early Printed Books (Europe 1450 to 1800)

This guide offers bibliographic tools for understanding the national output of printed works in early modern Europe .

Gathering a Retrospective National Bibliography

The definitive retrospective national bibliography for Great Britain is the online English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). How was the information for the ESTC gathered?

The sources for the ESTC are varied: period bibliographies, thematic bibliographies, printed catalogs of library holdings, catalogs of a printer’s inventory, trade journals, bibliographies specializing in types like pamphlets, broadsides, sheets, and dissertations about printing history. Sources include regional titles, including bibliographies about the history of printing in Ireland. Below is a sample of the more evocative titles used for establishing the authoritative retrospective national bibliography of Great Britain and Ireland. For a full listing of the historic bibliographies, including with annotations, see: Bibliographie der nationalen Bibliographien = Bibliographie mondiale des bibliographies nationales = A world bibliography of national bibliographies, by Friedrich Domay, from 1987. Search Worldcat for holdings and online editions.


Growoll, Adolf: Three Centuries of English book trade bibliography. An essay on the beginnings of book trade bibliography since the introduction of printing in England . . . Also a list of the catalogues etc. published for the English book trade from 1595 to 1902 by Wilberforce Eames. New York: Dibdin Club; London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co. 1903.

List of catalogues of English book sales, 1676-1900, now in the British Museum. (Vorwort:) George Frederick Barwick. London: The Trustees of the Brit. Museum 1915.

Myers, Robin: The British book trade from Caxton to the present day. A bibliographical guide based on the Libraries of the National Book League and St Bride Institute. London: Andre Deutsch 1973.

British book sale catalogues, 1676-1800. A Union list. Comp, and ed. by Alan Noel Latimer Munby and Lenore Coral. London: Mansell 1977.

Ames, Joseph: Typographical Antiquities; or The history of printing in England, Scotland, and Ireland: containing memoirs of our ancient printers, and a register of the books printed by them (from MCCCCLXXI to MDC)...1899.

Duff, Edward Gordon: A Century of the English book trade. Short notices of all printers, stationers, bookbinders, and others connected with it from the issue of the first dated book in 1457 to the incorporation of the Company of Stationers in 1557. London: The Bibliographical Society 1905.

A Dictionary of the printers and booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1557-1640. Comp. by Harry Gidney Aldis, Robert Bowes, E. R. McClintock Dix, Edward Gordon Duff, Strickland Gibson (a. o.) General ed.: Ronald Brunlees McKerrow. London: Bibliogra phical Society 1910.

Catalogue of books in the Library of the British Museum printed in England, Scotland and Ireland, and of books in English printed abroad, to the year 1640. (Comp, by George Bullen.) Vol. 1-3. London: The Trustees of the Brit. Museum 1884.

Hand-lists of books printed by London printers, 1501-1556. (Comp, by) Edward Gordon Duff, Walter Wilson Greg, Ronald Brunlees McKerrow, Henry Robert Plomer, Alfred William Pollard and Robert Proctor. London: Bibliographical Society 1895-1916.

Catalogue of books in the John Rylands Library . . . printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of books in English printed abroad to the end of the year 1640. (Comp, by Edward Gordon Duff.) Manchester: John Rylands Library 1895.

Madan, Falconer: The Early Oxford Press. A bibliography of printing and publishing at Oxford 1468-1640. With notes, append. and illustrations. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1895.

Early English printed books in the University Library, Cambridge (1475-1640). Vol. 1-4. Cambridge: Univ. Press 1900-07.

A Short-title catalogue of books printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of English books printed abroad 1475-1640. Comp, by Alfred William Pollard and Gilbert Richard Redgrave. 2nd ed. London: Bibliographical Society 1950. 
Note: A number of editions and supplements to this catalog have been published, and are listed under this entry in Domay. The English Experience. Books printed in England before 1640. A descr

The English Experience. Books printed in England before 1640. A descriptive catalogue of 769 facsimile editions now available for immediate delivery. (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum; Norwood/N. J.: Walter J. Johnson 1977.

English recusant literature, 1558-1640. Selected and ed. by David Morrison Rogers. (1-177. 1971-74:) Menston/Yorks., Engl.: Scolar Press; (178. 1974ff.:) Ilkley/Yorks. & London: Scolar Pr. Vol. 1 1971 ff. (Vol. 394. 1979).

McKerrow, Ronald Brunlees: Printers' and publishers' devices in England and Scotland 1485-1640. London: Chiswick Press 1913. LIV, 216 S. mit 428 Faks.

Engeische boeken in Nederland gedrukt gedurende de 16e eeuw. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff. In: Bibliographische Adversaria. 1. Serie, D. 5 (1883-86).

Allison, Antony Francis, and David Morrison Rogers: A catalogue of Catholic books in English printed abroad or secretly in England, 1558-1640. Pt 1.2. Bognor Regis/Engl.: Arundel Press 1956.

A Short title catalogue of books printed in Britain, and British books printed abroad, 1641-1700, held in Australian libraries. With an introduction on the development of rare book collections and research facilities in Australian and New Zealand libraries. Comp. by William James Cameron. Sydney: Wentworth Press 1962.

Clancy, Thomas H.: English Catholic books 1641-1700. A bibliography. Chicago: Loyola Univ. Press 1974.

Allison, Antony Francis, and Valentine Fernande Goldsmith: Titles of English books (and of foreign books printed in England). An alphabetical finding list by title of books published under the author's name, pseudonym or initials. Vol. 1.2. Folkestone/Kent: William Dawson 1976-77.

Hazlitt, William Carew: Hand-Book to the popular, poetical, and dramatic literature of Great Britain, from the invention of printing to the Restoration. London: John Russell Smith 1867. XII, 701 S. (mit Forts., Erg. u. Reg.) 1876-1903.

Madan, Falconer: Oxford books. A bibliography of printed works relating to the University and City of Oxford or printed or published there. With appendixes, annals, and illustrations. Vol. 1.2. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1912-31.

Aldis, Harry Gidney: A List of books printed in Scotland before 1700, including those furth of the realm for Scottish booksellers. With brief notes on the printers and stationers. Printed for the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society 1904. Photographically reprinted with additions including entries for books published in 1700. Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland 1970.

A List of books printed in the British Isles and of English books printed abroad before 1701 in Guildhall Library. Pt 1.2. London: Corporation of London 1966-67.

A Short-title Catalogue arranged geographically of books printed and distributed by printers, publishers and booksellers in the English provincial towns and in Scotland and Ireland up to and including the year 1700.

A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640. Ed. by Edward Arber. Vol. 1-5. (1-4:) Privately printed (at) London 1875-77; (5:) Birmingham 1894.

A Transcript of the Registers of the Worshipful Company of Stationers 1640-1708. Vol. 1-3. (Ed. by George Edward Briscoe Eyre with assistance by Henry Robert Plomer.) Privately printed. London 1913-14.

The Term Catalogues, 1668-1709 A. D.; with a Number for Easter Term, 1711, A. D. A contemporary bibliography of English literature in the reigns of Charles II, James II, William and Mary, and Anne. Ed. from the very rare Quarterly Lists of New Books and Reprints of Divinity, History, Science, Law, Medicine, Music, Trade, Finance, Poetry, Plays, etc. with maps, engravings, playing cards, etc., issued by the booksellers, etc. of London. (Comp, by) Edward Arber. Vol. 1-3. London: Edward Arber (privately printed) 1903-06.

Short Title Catalogue of books printed in the British Isles, the British Colonies, and the United States of America, and of English books printed elsewhere, 1701-1800, held in the libraries of the Australian Capital Territory. Ed. by William James Cameron and Diana Carroll. Vol. 1.2. Canberra: National Library of Australia 1966.

Eighteenth-century British books. A subject catalogue. Extracted from the British Museum General Catalogue of printed books by G. Averley, A. Flowers, F. J. G. Robinson, R. V., and P. J. Wallis. Assisted by J. G. B. Heal, B. Jones (a. o.) (Computer Services). Project for Historical Biobibliography (PH1BB), University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Vol. 1-4. Dawson. 1979.

Union Catalogue of scientific libraries in the University of Cambridge. Books published before 1801. Comp. at the Scientific Periodicals Library, University of Cambridge. London: Mansell 1977.

Watt, Robert: Bibiliotheca Britannica, or a General Index to British and foreign literature. Vol. 1-4. Edinburgh: Archibald Constable [and others] 1824 (Nachdr. durch Burt Franklin in New York als «Burt Franklin: Bibliography and Reference series». Nr. 75)

Lowndes, William Thomas: The bibliographer's manual of English literature; containing an account of rare, curious, and useful books, published in or relating to Great Britain and Ireland from the invention of printing with bibliographical and critical notices, collations of the rarer articles, and the prices at which they have been sold in the present century. New ed., rev., corrected & enlarged. With an appendix relating to the books of literary and scientific societies by Henry G. Bohn. Vol. 1-6. London: Henry G. Bohn 1857-64.

Bohn, Henry George: A catalogue of books. London: Henry G. Bohn 1841. (With a new introd. by Francesco Cordasco. Nachdr. in 2 Teilen durch die AMS Press, New York 1974).

Subset: Early English Books Online EEBO

Against this back ground of bibliographic sources, EEBO is based on the following bibliographies

  • Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640)
  • Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) in their revised versions
  • Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) 
  • Early English Books Tract Supplement 

The scope and content of each bibliography is described in the About section of the Early English Books Online EEBO


Acronyms can be confusing; here are some acronyms that come up a lot within early printed books in Europe resources:

ESTC, EEBO, EEBO-TPC, ECCO, and ECCO-TCP are interrelated resources for early print in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America

ISTC, USTC, and  EEB are interrelated for all of Europe