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Literatures in English: American Literature Before 1900

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

Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Companions

American Literature on Stage and Screen: 525 Works and Their Adaptations. by Thomas S. Hischak. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012.  

Encyclopedia of Transendentalism. There have been two works with this title:  Ed. Wesley T. Mott. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 1996. Geisel stacks PS 217 .T7 E53 1996, and Ed. Tiffany K. Wayne. NY: Facts on File, 2006. Geisel stacks PS 217 .T7 W39 2006

Full Text Collections

Archive of Americana. This huge text database from Readex includes printed books: Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 and Series II: Shaw & Shoemaker, 1801-1819 which, taken together, allow searching and browsing in over 75,000 books, pamphlets, broadsides, and other items printed in the present U.S. from the first item printed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639 through the year 1819. These are supplemented by Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, from the Library Company of Philadelphia. In addition to these printed books, it also includes these newspaper collections: America's Historical Newspapers, African American Newspapers 1825-1995, California's Historical Newspapers 1850-1922, and Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980; two collections of government documents: American State Papers 1789-1838 and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set; and African American Periodicals 1825-1995..  

American Drama, 1790-1915. Texts of more than 1500 plays written or performed from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. A section of Literature Online (LiON). Click here for a separate LibGuide devoted to the Literature Online database.

American Periodicals Series Online. APS contains over 1,100 periodicals that first began publishing between 1740 and 1900, including special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children’s and women’s magazines, and many other historically-significant periodicals


Confederate Broadside Poetry Collection at Wake Forest University

Mark Twain Papers and Project. Contains the private papers of "Mark Twain" that he provided to his official biographer, plus Twain-related manuscripts and other material collected by the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. 

North American Women's Drama. Still being built, this database currently contains 1,517 plays by 330 playwrights from all centuries, together with detailed, fielded information on related productions, theaters, production companies, and more.

Periodical Archives Online. An archive of hundreds of journals and magaszines published in the arts, humanities and social sciences from the last two centuries. Includes many nineteenth century American periodicals, both literary and general interest as well as some technical, professional, and early scholarly journals. Links to the articles in this database are provided by UCeLinks from databases such as MLAIB.


Useful Websites

19th Century American Literary, Cultural, and Historical Studies

Emily Dickinson Archive. Searchable digital editions of Dickinson's manuscripts located at Harvard's Houghton Library and in other libraries.

 Original manuscript of Whitman's The Bible as Poetry


Secondary Bibliographies & Surveys of Research

Make sure to use the resources under the "Secondary Bibliography" tab on the top row of this guide.  Others that are specific to U.S. literatures are:

American Literary Scholarship: An Annual.  Duke University Press, published since 1965 covering the years 1963-present. A selective, evaluative and authoritative survey by established scholars of important studies, editions, biographies, and reference works. There are separate chapters for several individual authors, each by an established scholar (Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson Thoreau Fuller and the Transcendentalists, Twain, James, Whitman and Dickinson, Wharton and Cather, Pound and Eliot, Faulkner Fitzgerald and Hemingway) and chapters on literature before 1800, early nineteenth, and late nineteenth century literature.

The Year's Work in English Studies. Oxford University Press for The English Association, 1919/20-present. Since volume 35 (for the year 1954), YWES has included a one-chapter survey of the scholarship in U.S. literature.  

 America: History and Life. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1964-present.  The principal article database for scholars of U.S. history and culture, it is very useful for its indexing of articles and dissertations from history and related disciplines.

The following printed books, although dated, are still useful for their annotations and their coverage of periods that are not well indexed by online databases.

Chielens, Edeward E. The Literary Journal in America to 1900: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research, 1975. Geisel Reference PN 4877 .C57 1975

Harbert, Earl N. and Robert A. Rees, eds. Fifteen American Authors before 1900: Bibliographical Essays on Research and Criticism. Revised edition. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Kopley, Richard, ed. Prospects for the Study of American Literature: A Guide for Scholars and Studies. New York: New York University Press, 1997. Request from SRLF through the Melvyl record.

Myerson, Joel. The Transcendentalists: A Review of Research and Criticism. NY: MLA, 1984. Geisel stacks B 905 .T7 1984

Parker, Patricia L. Early American Fiction: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984. Request from SRLF using the Melvyl record.

Scheick, William J. and JoElla Doggett. Seventeenth Century American Poetry: A Reference Guide. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1977. Request from Annex from the Roger record. Updated (through 1979) in the journal Resources for American Literary Study, v. 10 (1980), pp. 121-45 (Geisel stacks).

Woodress, James, Ed. Eight American Authors: A Review of Research and Criticism. Revised ed. NY: W.W. Norton, 1972.  The 8 are Emerson, Hawthorne, James, Melville, Poe, Thoreau, Twain, and Whitman. Request from SRLF using the Melvyl record.

Yanella, Donald, and John H. Roch. American Prose to 1820:  A Guide to Information Resources. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979. Available from SRLF; use Melvyl to request.


Bibliographies of Primary Sources

Bibliography of American Literature (BAL). Jacob Blanck, compiler, completed by Michael Winship and Virginia L. Smyers. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955-1991. 9 volumes. BAL describes in physical detail the works of America's most important literary writers from the time of the Revolution to 1930. More than 37,000 works are listed, essentially the complete printed record of American literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Authors are included only if they died before 1931.

Facts on File Bibliography of American Fiction, 1866-1918. Ed. James Nagel and Gwen L. Nagel. NY: Facts on File, 1993. Geisel Reference PS 377 .B46 1993. A companion volume (published in 1994) for fiction published through 1865 is not available at UCSD but can be obtained on interlibrary loan from UC Irvine or consulted in the Reference Collection at Love Library, SDSU.   

Literary Writings in America: A Bibliography. Millwood, NY: KTO, 1977. A reproduction of the card file compiled by the Works Progress Administration that cataloged creative works and reveiws published by Americans between 1850 and 1940.

Davis, Gwenn and Beverly A. Joyce. Poetry by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers. NY and London: Mansell, 1991.

Davis, Gwenn and Beverly A. Joyce. Personal Writings by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.  

Davis, Gwenn and Beverly A. Joyce. Drama by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers. London: Mansell, 1992.

Davis, Gwenn and Beverly A. Joyce. Short Fiction by Women to 1900: A Bibliography of American and British Writers. NY & London: Mansell, 1999.  NOT AVAILBLE AT UCSD; available from Irvine or Riverside on interlibrary loan.

Hill, Frank Pierce, comp. American Plays Printed, 1714-1830: A Bibliographical Record. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1934; reprint: NY: Blom, 1968. Request from SRLF using the record in Melvyl.

Pitcher, Edward W. R., comp. Fiction in American Magazines Before 1800: An Annotated Catalogue. Rev. ed. Lewiston NY: Edwin Mellen, 2002. Request through interlibrary loan using Melvyl.

Arksey, Laura, Nancy Pries, and Marcia Reed. American Diaries: An Annotated Bibliography of Published American Diaries and Journals. Detroit: Gale, 1983-87. 2 volumes.  Volume 1 covers 1492-1844; volume 2 covers 1845-1980.  Sets in Geisel Reference and on the 7th floor.

American Literary Magazines: The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Ed. Edward E. Chielens. New York: Greenwood, 1986. Brief essays about the most important periodicals, with publishing history and library locations of some copies.  Geisel Reference PS 201 .A43 1986  

Dictionary Catalog of the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays, Brown University Library.  Boston: G.K. Hall, 1972. 13 volumes + 1 supplement.  UCSD has First Supplment only (request from Annex).  Request the base set from SRLF using the record in Melvyl.  A separate, 5 volume catalog of the Broadsides of American verse in the same library was published in 1986. At the annex; request at the Reference Desk in Mandeville Special Collections Library. 

Wegelin, Oscar. Early American Poetry: A Compilation of the Titles of Volumes of Verse and Broadsides by Writers Born or Residing in North America North of the Mexican Border [1650-1820]. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. NY: Smith, 1930. 2 volumes.  Request from Annex.

Wright, Lyle H. American Fiction, 1774-1850: A Contribution toward a Bibliography. 2nd rev. ed. San Marino: Huntington Library, 1969. Geisel Reference PS 371 .W7 1969.