Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Thesis Topics: Ready-Made



SOME THIRTY YEARS AGO the Library began to acquire in micro film the texts of books recorded in A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 by A.W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave. Each year a shipment of additional titles was received. To that period was added the microfilmed copies of books listed in Donald G. Wing's Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641-1700. Both of those bibliographies have since appeared in new editions, one complete and the other still in process. The filming of the books for the earlier period was completed in 1988.1 The Wing period coverage is still ongoing.

To be noted is that for the Wing period there is also a microfilmed copy of the Thomason Tracts, which documents the period of the English Civil War, 1642-1649, the Commonwealth and Protectorate period, 1649-1660, and the Restoration period, 1660-1688.2 A unique feature of this resource is the inclusion of many newspapers. At present we do not have all of the set that has been filmed but will acquire it as funds become available. Indexes are in both the Reference Room and the Jones Microtext Center.

With the acquisition of these filmed resources scholars and students alike have access to materials in a variety of subjects including literature, history, economics, science, religion, law, and government -- the editions of Shakespeare, husbandry manuals, cookery, works on falconry, religious tracts -- whatever concerned people of those hundreds of years ago.

The Library is now adding materials for the eighteenth century. Both the printed guides and the microfilm have been given the title The Eighteenth Century. Copies of the guide are located in the Reference Room and the film so far received is in the Jones Microtext Center. The latter is being acquired gradually as money becomes available for it; at this writing the first eight units are here, though the guides list publications far beyond that. 3

For the three periods of time, 1475-1640, 1641-1700, and 1701-1800, the great lack in the printed aids is for good, detailed subject access. One can locate material by using bibliographies, scholarly studies, and the like, but this still leaves something to be desired. The publishers of the Wing-period film have improved the situation by issuing an index, including subjects, to the first thirty-two units issued of the film and have just issued a new edition of that index carrying coverage still further, but since the Wing project is still progressing there will be further updating needed.4 For the new eighteenth-century material there are guides issued as filming goes forward. The subject coverage included is by large category only: religion and philosophy, history and geography, social science, law, literature and language, and science, technology, and medicine -- not an easy arrangement and one that requires considerable scanning when looking for items of specific interest.

Scholars and students alike now have a vast reservoir of early material at their fingertips. When one takes stock as well of other source materials in the Library that document English civilization, there is a realization of how vast this is. With these filmed sets, not only do we find things published in Great Britain but those published, in English, abroad; and of foreign language texts published in Great Britain. In addition to these filmed sets there are other resources available that document the eighteenth century or English history in other ways.

Examples of these are the printed sets of the sessional papers of both the Commons and House of Lords. For many years the Library has had, and continues to receive, the British Sessional Papers, House of Commons, whose coverage begins with 1731.5 More recently two other sets were acquired in printed form. One is the Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century of the House of Commons, edited by Sheila Lambert.6 The Library has nineteen volumes running through 1760 and relies on later coverage to be picked up by the British Sessional Papers, above. There is an index to the Lambert set in the Reference Room. The other collection is for the House of Lords, Sessional Paper, Session 1714-1805,7 and for this there is an index both in the stacks and in the Reference Room.

Anyone interested in the eighteenth century might also be interested in a continuing bibliography for that period, The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography.8 Once appearing in the Philological Quarterly, this listing tends (despite its title) to be somewhat late in appearing (1984 coverage was published in 1989). But its content extends much beyond literature and there are sections on the fine arts, philosophy, science, and religion, as well as on historical, social, and economic studies. This set is in the Reference Room.

Despite the shortcomings of the subject access through the printed indexes to the microfilm collections described above, computers have opened up a new horizon and it is within immediate grasp through the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). The Eighteenth Century microfilm described above is based upon and selected from the ESTC. The items listed in the ESTC are entered into the RLIN data base. RLIN is the online catalog of the Research Libraries Group of which Dartmouth is a member. The facilities of the computer allow a variety of searching techniques impossible to utilize in non-automated records. These are daily demonstrated to users of the Library's online catalog and to those who are familiar with Dialog and BRS (BRS Information Technologies) searching of scores of data bases via librarians or in doing their own searching through systems such as Knowledge Index or BRS After Dark. Library patrons who pass the Information Desk in Baker's main hall see there copies of The Research Libraries Group News: a recent issue (No. 22) contains an article describing how faculty at several universities have searched for topics of their interest on the online ESTC. At the present time Dartmouth has little direct searching by library patrons but anyone interested in searching ESTC should speak to a reference librarian.

Note also that there is a journal, Factotum, Newsletter of the XVIIIth Century STC, which is full of accounts of research on materials discovered through the ESTC.


1. The first edition of Pollard and Redgrave was published in 1926. The second edition is not yet complete, two volumes so far being received. The first volume appeared in 1976 and the set is bring published in London by the Bibliographic Society. The three-volume first edition of Wing was published between 1945 and 1951. The second edition was completed in three volumes and was published between 1972 and 1988 in New York by the Index Committee of the Modern Language Association of America. These Volumes are in the Reference Room. The film for 1475-1640 is complete and can be found in the Jones Microtext Center with the call number 475r. The latest, 1641-1700, period has the call number 474r.

2. Thomason Tracts [microform] Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International. 1977+. The call number is 4304r.

3. The Eighteenth Century: A Guide to the Microfilm Collection. Woodbridge, Conn.: Research Publications. 1984+. The Eighteenth Century [microfilm] collection, based on the British Library's Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ES7C) consisting ofapproximately 200,000 items selected from the 500,000 titles printed in Great Britain and its colonies or printed in English anywhere rise in the world from 1701-1800. the call number for the film is 4314r.

4. University Microfilms International. Accessing Early English Books l640-1700: A Cumulative Index to Parts 1-32 of the Microfilm Collection. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1981.

5. Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. British Sessional Papers, House of Commons (New York: Reader Microprint [Corporation]). In Microprint 6b for 1731-1979 and in Microfiche 1457f for 1979/80+.

6. Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons. Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century. (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1975)

7. Great Britain. Parliament. House of Lords. Sessional Papers, Sessions 1714-1805. Ed. F. William Torrington. (Dobbs Ferry,N.Y.: Oceana, 1971-1986). 61 V; A General Index to the Sessional Papers Printed by Order of he House of Lords or Presented by Special Command, 1714-1805. (Dobbs Ferry,N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1986).

8. (Philadelphia: American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, 1978+)