Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of sites for the Early Printed Book. Rather, it is my own list of sites I find interesting & that have been useful to me in my printing adventures.
EARLY ENGLISH BOOKS ONLINE (EEBO) might contend for the title of granddaddy of digitization projects (GoDP). Started in 1998 as a collaboration between ProQuest, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University, ProQuest states that “Early English Books Online now contains page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere between 1473 and 1700.” As the years went by, and the Internet matured (did it?) the EEBO interface had become cumbersome. Last year (2019) ProQuest migrated EEBO to a new platform and it is now a joy to noodle around in. You will need to hook up with a library to gain access to EEBO.
BROADSIDE BALLADS ONLINE from the Bodleian Library. OK. Let me let the Librarians from Bodleian lay it out for you why broadside ballads are the boss of the black art [after all, I am but a simple librarian out in the Township] … “Broadside ballads, printed cheaply on one side of a sheet of paper from the earliest days of printing, contain song-lyrics, tunes and woodcut illustrations and bear news, prophecies, histories, moral advice, religious warnings, political arguments, satire, comedy and bawdy tales. Sold in large numbers on street-corners, in town-squares and at fairs by travelling ballad-singers and pinned on the walls of alehouses and other public places, they were sung, read and viewed with pleasure by a wide audience, but have been handed-down to us in only small numbers.” Staring noodling. You won’t regret it.
If I was a cartoon character and you said ENGLISH BROADSIDE BALLAD ARCHIVE my ears would stand straight up, my eyeballs would spin in their sockets, and giant throbbing heart would pop out of my chest. I love EBBA! A project of the Early Modern Center in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, EBBA’s goal is to “archive all of the surviving ballads published during the heyday of the black-letter ornamental broadside ballad of the 17th century—currently estimated to stand at some 11,000 extant works.” Broadside ballads are some of way, way coolest things in early printing, a cross between the National Enquirer, News of the Weird, and an old fashion top ten pop chart. Combine the subject matter with woodcuts full of character and a mish-mash of type and you get a magical window into early printing.
HATHI TRUST DIGITAL LIBRARY Technically Hathi Trust is not an early early printed book site (then, I suppose, neither are the ballad sites listed above) but it is wonderful none the less. A joint endeavor of libraries and tech companies, it provides digitized books spanning the centuries. When I went hunting for raven folklore I found all sorts of gems, and of course my ultimate prize, Allan Cunningham’s 1825 version of “The Twa Corbies” published in The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern; with an Introduction and Notes, Historical and Critical, and Characters of the Lyric Poets. Long title. Good stuff.