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Literatures in English: Early Modern Period (1485-1660)

This page lists sources that cover multiple periods, genres, and/or nationalities. See additional resources in the "Historical Literary Period" and "Geographical Region" pages.

Full Text Collections

Folger Digital Texts. "Meticulously accurate texts" of the plays and poems from editions in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Under a Creative Commons license, access is free as is downloading of the source code for non-profit projects.

Ben Jonson Online (Cambridge University Press). Jonson’s complete writings for readers of the twenty-first century, in the light of current editorial thinking and recent scholarly interpretation and discovery. It offers a clear sense, afforded by no other previous edition, of the shape, scale, and variety of the entire Jonsonian canon. At the same time, it is the first edition to use digital technology to give a dynamic insight into Jonson’s processes of composition and to reveal the editorial choices which underpin the modernized text.

Early English Books Online (EEBO) EEBO contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700 - from the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War. Now includes EEBO Introductions and other secondary materials.

Read about Text Creation Partnership (TCP). Although UCSD was not a member of the Text Creation Partnership consortia, the 25,000+ texts enhanced during its Phase I (2000-2009), along with texts from the Eighteenth-Century Collections Online database and the Evans Early American Imprints database, are now accessible to all users of EEBO, ECCO, and Evans. UCSD does not have access to Phase II (2010-present). You are welcome to use it at the UC Irvine and UCLA Libraries.

Early English Prose Fiction, more than 200 works written between 1500 and 1700; English Poetry, over 160,000 poems by more than 1,250 poets, and English Drama, over 3,900 plays in verse and prose, are all sections of Literature Online (LiON). Click here for a separate LibGuide devoted to the Literature Online database.

Early Modern Literary Studies: Electronic TextsA page with links to free online editions of texts from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Includes texts of almost 80 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English authors, including Sidney, Wyatt, Marlowe, Donne, Massinger, and Jonson..

Shakespeare Quartos Archive.  A digital collection of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare An early, but still useful, simple HTML collection of all the plays and poetry.

Literature Online (LION) Collection of Adaptations. Eleven major editions from the First Folio to the Cambridge edition of 1863-66, twenty-four separate contemporary printings of individual plays, selected apocrypha and related works and more than one hundred adaptations, sequels and burlesques from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, Biography

Ben Jonson Encyclopedia. Ed. D. Heyward Brock and Maria Palacas. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature.Ed. Garrett A. Sullivan, Jr. and Alan Stewart Malden, Mass.: Wiley Blackwell, 2012.

Cook, James Wyatt. Encyclopedia of Renaissance Literature. New York: Facts on File, 2006. Geisel Reference (2 West) PN 721 .C66 2006 

Smith, Emma. The Cambridge Shakespeare Guide. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge UP, 2012. For each of the plays and major poems, Smith provides a summary of the plot and major characters, the major themes, and a summary of major productions. Part II includes essays on Shakespeare's language and the theater of his time, a history of major printed editions of his texts, the apocryphal works, and a brief biography. 

Wells, Stanley W. A Dictionary of Shakespeare. New York & Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998 (digital edition updated 2002). Compiled by one of the best-known authorities on Shakespeare, this dictionary offers short articles on all aspects of Shakespeare in his own time and on his impact and influence on later ages. It includes entries on the plays and the major characters, on Shakespeare's life and his contemporaries, on actors from Edmund Kean to Peter O'Toole, on theaters and directors, and comments on Shakespeare by later authors such as Austen, Johnson, Keats, and Woolf. 

Findlay, Alison. Women in Shakespeare: A Dictionary. London: Arden Shakespeare/Continuum International, 2014. More than 350 entries explore the roles of women in Shakespeare's drama, how women were represented on Shakespeare's stage, and the role of women in Shakespeare's professional and personal lives.

Gibson, Marion and Jo Ann Esra. Shakespeare's Demonology: A Dictionary. Bloomsbury, 2014. .

Grantley, Darryll. Historical Dictionary of British Theatre: Early Period. Lanham, Md.: The Scarecrow Press, 2013. The author, a professor of theater history at the University of Kent, offers a thorough, informative, and entertaining look at the places, plays, and people involved in British theater from 1311 to 1899.

Oxford Dictionary of Plays. Ed. Michael Patterson. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Although not limited to the early modern period, this resource has useful information on plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, and their contemporaries.

Luminarium Encyclopedia Project. A project ongoing since 2001 to add contextual articles for the texts included in Luminarium (See under Full Texts).

Berger, Thomas L., William C. Bradford, and Sidney L. Sondergard. An Index of Characters in Early Modern English Drama Printed Plays, 1500-1660. Rev. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Geisel Reference PR 1265.3 .B4 1998

Wells, Stanley. Great Shakespeare Actors: From Babbage to Branagh. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Short essays that explain the particular talents that each performer brought to bear on Shakespeare's plays.

Portals and Websites: Early Modern Period

Early Modern Hub Has three chief components: Early Modern Resources, a research portal to websites that focus on high-quality, free-access resources suitable for advanced research, study and teaching, especially online primary sources; Early Modern Commons, an aggregator of blogs; and Early Modern News, containing information on upcoming conferences, calls for papers, a summary of major blog discussions, RSS feeds, etc. 

Iter: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance  Anot-for-profit partnership dedicated to the advancement of learning in the study and teaching of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700) through the development and distribution of online resources. Includes links to online journals, primary and secondary bibliographies, and other useful websites.

Luminarium: Renaissance Literature (1485-1603) 

Luminarium: The Seventeenth Century (1603-1660)

Both Luminarium sites have a substantial scholarly overview of the period and its literature, links to resources on a large number of individual writers and to some full texts, timelines of the period and of publications within them, review and quiz questions, etc.

Shaksper: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference, with extensive lists of more specific websites, blogs, and two RSS feeds.

The Marlowe Society  An overview of Marlowe's life and works, suggested readings, the full text of the Society's Newsletter and its Research Journal (starting volume 5), links to other useful sites, etc. 


Secondary Bibliographies & Surveys of Research

In addition to the MLAIB and ABELL, use:

World Shakespeare Bibliography Online. An annotated bibliography of Shakespearean scholarship and productions that lists a significant number of works important to Renaissance/Early Modern literature generally. The international coverage encompasses books, articles, dissertations, productions, films, websites, computer software, and reviews of them--in short, anything that is related to the study of Shakespeare. Edited by renowned bibliographer James Harner. Note: the database does not include UC eLinks; you will need to enter the titles of resources cited into Roger or Melvyl to determine if they are owned by or accessible from UCSD. 

"Recent Studies in the English Renaissance" and "Recent Studies in Tudor and Stuart Drama" appear annually in the Winter (number 1) and Spring (number 2) issues, respectively, of the journal Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900These surveys of the most recent year's book-length scholarship are written by established scholars in the field of Renaissance nondramatic literature (Winter) and drama (Spring). Volumes of this journal since 1999 can be found in Project Muse; volumes before 1999 are available in JSTOR -- use the links from the Roger record.

Edmund Spenser World Bibliography. The largest on-line source of bibliographic information on Spenser. For the years that it now covers (1974-2009), it claims to includ 30% more items than the MLA International Bibliography. But it hasn't been updated past 2009.  Its companion is Sir Philip Sidney World Bibliography.

A New Companion to Renaissance English Literature and Culture. Ed. Michael Hattaway. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Over 80 chapters surveying various aspects of early modern English culture, from ecology to race.

The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Tragedy. Ed. Garrett A. Sullivan and Emma Smith. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. (In LiON). Print copy available for circulation at PR 658 .T7 C36 2010

Oxford Handbooks. The Library has recently acquired digital copies of the entire Oxford Handbooks of English Literature series. It includes volumes devoted to Early Modern Theatre,  Edmund Spenser, English Prose 1500-1640, Holinshed's Chronicles, John Donne, Literature and the English Revolution, Milton, Shakespeare, Shakespeare's Poetry, the Early Modern Sermon, Thomas Middleton, Tudor Drama, and Tudor Literature 1485-1603.

Other Disciplines

The following are the principal discovery tools for scholarship in disciplines other than literature:

Historical Abstracts. Covers scholarly on non-US history devoted roughly to years after 1450, although some citations to scholarship on the medieval and early-early modern periods are included.

ATLA Religion Database.       Anthopology Plus.

The Philosophers' Index.          Bibliography of the History of Art

Film and Television Literature Index (1987-present) Film Literature Index (1976-2001 only)

International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance  

International Index to the Performing Arts   Music and Performing Arts Online


Web of Science         Academic Search Complete     

Periodicals Index Online An index to over 6000 periodicals in the humanities and social sciences, with some articles as old as 1665.

Annals, Calendars, Etc.

Several websites have timelines of major events and publications, but the following two resources, although available in print volumes only, are unsurpassed in their thoroughness and scholarly detail.

Harbage, Alfred. Annals of English Drama, 975-1700: An Analytical Record of All Plays, Extant or Lost, Chronologically Arrnaged and Indexed by Authors, Titles, Dramatic Companies, Etc.  Revised by S. Schoenbaum. 3rd edition revised by Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim. London: Routledge, 1989. Principal arrangement is by known or probable date of first performance, then by author(s)' name if known and then anonymous plays by title, in tabular format. Geisel stacks PR 635 .C54 H37 1989.

Kowachi, Yoshiko. Calendar of English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642. New York: Garland, 1986. Based largely on Harbage, but this is a daily calendar of theatrical performances in London and other regions of England. Geisel stacks PN 2589 .K36 1986


Titled Elizabethans: A Directory of Elizabethan Court, State, and Church Officers, 1558-1603. Ed. Arthur F. Kinney and Jane A. Lawson. Revised, expanded edition. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.


In the Glassy Margents  The official digital presence of The Shakespeare Newsletter.  News, book reviews, theater reviews,

Bibliographies and Indexes of Primary Sources

Because it contains virtually every printed text in English between 1475 and 1640, EEBO (see the box at left for Full Text Collections) is also the major interdisciplinary primary bibliography for the period. 

EEBO incorporates the texts and bibliographical data from A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad 1475-1640, first compiled by A. W. Pollard and G.R. Redgrave (frequently called "STC" or "Pollard & Redgrave," and the Short-Title Catalog of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and British North America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700, compiled by Donald Wing, frequently referred to as "Wing."    

Greg, W. W. A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration. London: Bibliographical Society, 1939-1959. 4 volumes. Still the standard descriptive listing of all editions, issues, and variants of 1700 dramatic works written through 1642, including later editions through 1700. Available via Circuit from SDSU's Love Library.

May, Steven W. and William A. Ringler, Jr. Elizabethan Poetry: A Bibliography and First-Line Index of English Verse, 1559-1603. London; New York: Continuum, 2004. 3 vols.  Geisel Reference PR 531 .M39 2004


Index of English Literary Manuscripts. London: Mansell; NY: Bowker, 1980-     . Volume I (in 2 parts), 1450-1625, and Volume 2 (in 2 parts), 1625-1700, both edited by Peter Beal. Geisel stacks      PR 83 .I5 (seventh floor)


Audio & Video Collections

Arkangel Shakespeare Productions. Audio recordings of complete performances of 38 of Shakespeare's plays, featuring actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company (London).

The Huntingon Library

The Huntington Library in San Marino is one of the most comprehensive research libraries in the U.S. for the study of British and American history and literature, and the Early Modern Period is its oldest collecting area. Its collections are available to graduate students who are candidates for the Ph.D. degree.  Read the registration procedures before you plan to visit. 

Adaptations (for LTEN 222)

Library of Congress subject headings:

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Adaptations

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Adaptations--History and Criticism

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Film adaptations

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Television adaptations

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Individual play title--Adaptations (this has not been used consistently)

Shakespeare, William [dates]--Stage History

Literature Online (LiON) Collection of Adaptations of Shakespeare. Eleven major editions from the First Folio to the Cambridge edition of 1863-66, twenty-four separate contemporary printings of individual plays, selected apocrypha and related works and more than one hundred adaptations, sequels and burlesques from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation.  A peer-reviewed, online-only, multimedia Shakespeare journal. Indexed in the MLA Bibliography, ABELL, and World Shakespeare Bibliography.

List of William Shakespeare Screen Adaptations.  This Wikipedia article has an unusually informative listing, by play, with extensive credits of directors and performers, with links.