Early Printed Books on the Web


Siân Echard, Department of English, University of British Columbia

The list below is intended to offer quick access to various digitization projects related to early print on the web: clicking the project title will take you directly there. Listings are alphabetical by country, (province or state), city, and originating institution. Some items are full digitizations, while others are exhibitions, or databases - some of books, and some of related materials such as bindings, engravings, watermarks and so on. For many institutions, I have included the landing pages that give overviews of digital projects (not all of which, of course, are related to early print), and sometimes have offered a few more specific examples of what is to be found there. Note that these are by no means exhaustive; the landing pages are included so that users can find other materials as well.

When I began this list many years ago, there were very few such sites on the web. There are now so many that the list below is nowhere near comprehensive. I hope to add to it over the course of this year. “Early” has also become a rather broad designation: while I began limiting myself to the seventeenth century and before, the list now sometimes includes later material, if I happen to have stumbled across it.

If you are interested in digitizations of medieval manuscripts, you can consult a similar list I have developed for that subject, Medieval Manuscripts on the Web.

This list is very much a work in progress. I am always happy to hear about projects I might have missed, as well as about broken links: please feel free to e-mail me at sian@mail.ubc.ca

Last updated March 6, 2018



British Columbia


University of British Columbia

UBC Library Digital Collections includes early material, such as Andrew McCormick Maps and Prints and Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era



University of Toronto

The landing page for the University of Toronto Local Digital Special Collections includes such early material as Anatomia 1522-1867: Anatomical Plates from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and the Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection


Kongelige Bibliotek

The Royal Library has digitized many rare books in their collection: the landing page Digital Facsimiles of Rare Books in the Royal Library has links to the full facsimiles: note that there are separate landing pages for Danish books and for foreign books

The Wayback machine currently (March 2018) allows access to the Danish-language only collection of Danish bookbindings, Danske Bogbind



Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, includes early books (as well as later print, manuscripts, photographs, sound recordings...) It can be searched from the home page, or you can use the overview landing pages; Livres (French language only) is a good place to start for early print



Gutenberg Digital is an older site offering access to a complete digitization of the Göttingen copy of the Gutenberg Bible


Munich Digitization Centre

The Munich Digitization Centre has many ongoing digitization projects. For early books, go to Old Printings. From this point, most of the text is in German. There are links to the Start Page of each project described; again, you will find that most of the text is in German, but there are many full-text digital facsimiles available through these various projects. One is a collection of Blockbooks


National Diet Library

Incunabula: Dawn of Western Printing is a useful basic overview of the development of print, with images



The National Library of Wales

The Digital Gallery: Printed Material landing page connects to full digitizations of many early printed Welsh books, including Yny lhyvyr hwnn (1546), the first printed Welsh book, and the Welsh Bible of 1588


Cambridge University Library

The Cambridge Digital Library includes some earlier printed material, such as a collection of Spanish Chapbooks

St John’s College

The Highlights from the Collections landing page includes images from early printed books, organized chronologically


Edinburgh Napier University Library

The Edward Clark Collection illustrates the development of the printed book, from the 15th century onwards

Edinburgh University Library

Ars Anatomica: Imaging the Renaissance Body, focuses on the Anatomy of Vesalius and its influence. The image galleries are accessed via LUNA

Incunabula is a LUNA collection of images from early printed books in the University collection

The Shakespeare collection includes images from early editions, again organized through LUNA

National Library of Scotland

The Digital Gallery includes links to many digital projects featuring early printed material. See, for example, First Scottish Books, which features full facsimiles of the Chepman and Myllar prints, the 9 earliest books printed in Scotland; or the Morall Fabillis of Esope, printed in 1571; or Scottish Decorative Bookbinding, which is organized by date rage

The Scottish Booktrade Index does not have pictures, but it is very useful to researchers working on the history of print in Scotland


University of Glasgow Library Special Collections

Alciato at Glasgow links to full digitizations of 22 editions of the emblem-books of Andrea Alciato (1492 - 1550)

French Emblems at Glasgow links to full digitizations of 27 sixteenth-century French emblem books

The Glasgow Broadside Ballads site includes images and sound files. Note that this is quite an old site

The Virtual Exhibitions page includes links to many exhibitions related to The History of the Book


British Library

The British Library Database of Bookbinding is a searchable database with thousands of images of bindings from the BL collection

The Collections Care blog often contains information about projects relating to manuscripts and early printed books

The Maps and Views blog includes maps from manuscripts and early printed books

Treasures in Full: Caxton’s Chaucer includes full digitizations of the 1476 and 1483 printings of the Canterbury Tales

Treasures in Full: The Gutenberg Bible offers access to complete digitizations of two copies of this text

Treasures in Full: Shakespeare in Quarto offers access to complete digitizations of 107 copies of 21 plays by Shakespeare printed in quarto

Turning the Pages includes pageable facsimiles (not all complete) of both manuscripts and printed books. Highlights from the world of print include The Diamond Sutra, which is the earliest printed book, printed in 868

King’s College London

The Special Collections Online Exhibitions page includes many exhibitions related to early printed books and the history of the book


The Rylands Collection in the University of Manchester includes many images from early printed books (as well as from manuscripts, maps, photographs and so on). The collection is presented using LUNA, and is not particularly easy to search - the results are often a hodgepodge, unless you know what you are looking for. You can click some of the sample searches on the landing page, but it is best to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the links to View the Rylands Collection using LUNA


Bodleian Library

The Broadside Ballads Online is a searchable database of thousands of ballad sheets, scanned from microfilm. The site uses the ICONCLASS system for image searching

Digital Images from the Bodleian Library Special Collections includes much early printed material, including Blockbooks



University of California at Santa Barbara

The UCSB English Broadside Ballad Archive currently contains images of over 6700 broadsides. This is an ongoing project


University of Colorado at Boulder

Once Upon a Time is a collection of images from the historical and illustrated fairytales collections


New Haven

Yale University, Beinecke Library

The Beinecke has a huge digital collection. You can search from the Beinecke Digital Collections landing page, which will also direct you to highlights. The Collections Highlights page allows you to filter by curatorial area. Highlights related to early print include the Cary Playing Card Database and an exhibition called Starry Messenger: Observing the Heavens in the Age of Galileo


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The Digitized Book of the Week archives from the Library includes several early books, as well as a great deal of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century material. Note that in most instances, the links will take you to Archive.org



University of Indiana at Bloomington

The Exhibitions landing page of the Lilly Library points to many exhibitions with content related to early books, as for example 4000 Years of Miniature Books

South Bend

University of Notre Dame

The Online Exhibits page points to several exhibitions with images from early books, including the now very old, but still very useful, Renaissance Dante in Print


National Library of Medicine

The Digital Collections include full digitizations of many early printed materials. Note that you can filter by date to quickly find early materials. Interesting objects include a 1494 printing of the Malleus maleficarum, an early treatise on witch-hunting

The Online Exhibitions landing page includes many exhibitions relating to early printed materials. See, for example, Historical Anatomies on the Web

Turning the Pages Online includes digitizations of several interesting early printed books, which can be viewed in pageable facsimiles or as image galleries. Note that this is an older collection, technologically speaking

New Jersey

Princeton University Library

The landing page for the Online Exhibitions associated with the Firestone Library includes several exhibitions related to early books; for example, see Hand Bookbindings is an exhibition of several hundred images from Special Collections

New York

The Jewish Theological Seminary Library

The Digital Collections landing page includes links to many projects to digitize manuscripts and printed books and pamphlets relating to the history of Judaism; see, for example, Rare Books in the Sylvia and Harry Rebell collection



University of Pennsylvania

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library Virtual Exhibits landing page points to many exhibitions featuring early print; see for example Reading Pictures: Sixteenth-Century European Illustrated Books; or Translation Necessarie: The King James Bible at 400

University Park

Pennsylvania State University

The Digital Collections landing page allows you to search or to browse the collections. Early print-related highlights include The English Emblem Book Project



University of Texas at Austin

The Harry Ransom Center has an online exhibition devoted to The Gutenberg Bible, including a pageable facsimile (this is an older exhibition, technologically speaking, so the images are quite small)


Southern Methodist University

The Bridwell Library Digital Collections landing page points to several items related to early print; see for example Fifteenth Century Printed Books (note that not all search results include images)

The Exhibitions landing page points to several exhibitions relating to early print, particularly with respect to the Bible; see for example The First Four Centuries of Printed Bible Illustration

Washington, DC

Folger Shakespeare Library

The Digital Collections offer thousands of images from materials related to Shakespeare, including early print, theatrical materials, and book bindings. This is a LUNA collection, and so can be difficult to search

Library of Congress

The Digital Collections includes images from old books and maps (as well as from newspapers, photographs, and manuscripts)

The Exhibitions landing page points to current and past exhibitions, some of which relate to early print, as for example A Heavenly Craft: The Woodcut in Early Printed Books

Smithsonian Institution

The Digital Library of the Smithsonian Libraries includes thousands of items. Books Online links to full digitizations of thousands of books, many of them old. The Digital Library: Natural and Physical Sciences page links to many wonderful exhibitions, some with videos as well as images. The Galaxy of Images page offers 15,000 images from the collections

┬ęSiân Echard. Not to be copied, used, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.