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EEBO (Early English Books Online): Home

What is EEBO?

Early English Books Online (EEBO) features page images of almost every work printed in the British Isles and North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere from 1470-1700. Over 200 libraries worldwide have contributed to EEBO. From the first book printed in English through to the ages of Spenser, Shakespeare and of the English Civil War, EEBO's content draws on authoritative and respected short-title catalogues of the period and features a substantial number of text transcriptions specially created for the product.

Beginning with the very first book published in English, EEBO draws from four authoritative bibliographical resources – both Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) in their revised versions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) and the Early English Books Tract Supplement – to present more than 146,000 titles and over 17 million scanned pages of content.

Libraries possessing this collection find they are able to fulfill the most exhaustive research requirements of graduate scholars in many subject areas, including English literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

Searching Early English Books Online (EEBO)

EEBO contains the quartos and First Folio of Shakespeare, so you can view the original published versions of his plays.  It has a "Variant Spelling" option (checked by default) which allow you to use modern spelling of words.

Below is an example of how to use EEBO to find different quarto editions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, a play that was first performed in 1600-1601 and later published in various forms before the First Folio in 1623. 

Fill in the Author box with "Shakespeare" and enter "Hamlet" for Document Title.  To search for quartos that appeared before the publication of the First Folio in 1623, select "Before this date..." from the publication date dropdown menu and enter "1623" for the year. Click the Search button.

A screenshot from Early English Books Online, illustrating the use of Shakespeare as author term, Hamlet, as document title, and publication date of before the year 1623.

Your results page is reproduced below.  #2 on the list is the 1603 first quarto of Hamlet called the "bad quarto" because it is a shortened version of the play (probably reconstructed from memory by some of the actors); note that is is only 66 pages long.  The 1604 second quarto (result #4 on the list) is called the "good quarto" and has much more complete and authoritative text of the play.  #3 in the list is the third quarto from 1611, and there are also additional other quartos as well not displayed here.

Screenshot of search results for Hamlet quartos in Early English Books Online.

You can click on options for either image or PDF fulltext.  The details button will provide additional bibliographic and publishing information. Some documents allow you to search within the full text of the item.

One final note on searching for editions of Shakespeare in EEBO: the First Folio's actual title is Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies Published according to the true originall copies, so search for it with those title keywords, or search for Shakespeare as the author and 1623 as the publication date.

EEBO Tutorial