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American Historical Review Digital Primary Sources

A list from the American Historical Review of open access databases containing digitized primary sources for historical research.

Europeana EAGLE Project (Europeana; Various respositories)
The Europeana network of Ancient Greek and Latin Epigraphy (EAGLE) provides “a single user-friendly portal to the inscriptions of the Ancient World.” The catalogue includes over one and a half million images and other digital objects related to Greek and Roman inscriptions, with content pages offering translations and other historical information regarding geography, era, and materials; visitors can search for inscriptions by category or enjoy a virtual museum exhibition.
Regions: Europe; Greco-Roman World
Dates: prehistory-late antiquity

Greek and Roman Materials, Perseus Digital Library (Tufts University; Various Repositories)
Contains hundreds of textual sources that cover “the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman World.” The collection contains texts from dozens of authors, presented in transcription of their original Latin or Greek along with English translations, as well as images of buildings, coins, and other artifacts.
Regions: Europe; Greece; Rome
Dates: 700 B.C.E.-500 C.E.

Ancient Coins (Dane Kurth)
This numismatic resource provides high-quality images and detailed information on ancient and medieval coins, featuring Roman, Greek, Byzantine, Celtic, and English coins. Visitors may browse the collection by region, by era, by maker, or by other historical tracking data like minting and serial numbers; in addition to photographs, the site offers text descriptions identifying the figures and imagery on the coins.
Regions: Europe; Greco-Roman World
Dates: 650 B.C.E.-1887 C.E.

Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Various repositories)
“The Epigraphic Database Heidelberg contains the texts of Latin and bilingual (i.e. Latin-Greek) inscriptions of the Roman Empire. The epigraphic monuments are collected and kept up to date on the basis of modern research. With the help of search functions specific queries can be carried out—e.g. a search for words in inscriptions and/or particular descriptive data. The search results are often displayed together with photos and drawings. The geographic focus is provided by the provinces of the Roman Empire. The total number of records rises continuously.”
Regions: Europe; North Africa; West Asia
Dates: 509 B.C.E.-830 C.E.

Parthian Source Online (Jake Nabel; Cornell University)
"Assembles and translates the precious few pieces of documentary evidence that survive from Parthian territory. It includes texts in Greek, Latin, and (most importantly) Parthian."
Regions: Mediterranean; Middle East; Iran
Dates: 148 B.C.E.-262 C.E.

Fourth-Century Christianity (Wisconsin Luthern College; Asia Lutheran Seminary)
Promotes "the study of the Church and its environment in the Fourth Century."
Regions: Europe; Middle East
Dates: 250-450

The Index of Christian Art, soon the Index of Medieval Art (Princeton University)
"In addition to the 200,000 medieval image and data records available by subscription, the Index offers subscription-free access to approximately 40,000 digitized slides of several personal research collections that are of significant medieval interest. These include historical photographs that document key European and Eastern monuments and notable works from a variety of periods and cultures."
Regions: Europe
Dates: 300-1700

Digital Scriptorium (Consortium of repositories)
"Digital Scriptorium (DS) is a growing organization of institutional partners with collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts ... As a digital image repository, the DS website allows users to verify with their own eyes descriptive metadata about places and dates of origin, scripts, artists, and decoration."
Regions: Europe
Dates: 300-1900

Epistolae: Medieval Women's Letters (Various repositories; Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning)
A “collection of letters to and from women dating from the 4th to the 13th century.” The site contains transcriptions of hundreds of letters. Originally written in Latin, they “are presented with English translations and are organized by the women participating. Biographical sketches of the women and descriptions of the subject matter or the historic context of the letter is included where available.”
Regions: Europe
Dates: 300-1200

Parker Library on the Web (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; Stanford University)
“Parker Library on the Web [is] a digital exhibit designed to support use and study of the manuscripts in the historic Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The Parker Library is a treasure trove of rare medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, as well as early printed books. Almost all manuscripts in the Parker Library collection have been fully digitised and are available in this exhibit, along with associated bibliographic references and annotations made by scholars from around the world.”
Regions: Europe
Dates: 500-1799

Early English Laws (Institute of Historical Research; King's College London)
This collection consists of digitized manuscripts of early English laws. The database seeks to provide introductions, commentaries, and translations corresponding to each text. The site will also include introductory essays on issues of law, language, archaeology, paleography, and codicology; descriptions of all manuscripts holding legal texts; glossaries in Old English, Latin, and Anglo-Norman; and a regularly updated bibliography and guide to the literature.
Regions: England
Dates: 600-1215

Irish Script On Screen (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies)
Digitized Irish manuscripts; the majority of the collected materials are either medieval in origin or copies of medieval texts.
Regions: Ireland
Dates: 700-1900

Digital Medieval Manuscripts (Harvard University Library)
"The Houghton Library’s distinguished collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts represents a significant resource for the study of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Western Europe ... [T]his collection includes works in Latin, Greek, and most of the vernacular languages of Europe that are the primary sources for the study of the literature, art, history, music, philosophy, and theology of the periods."
Regions: Europe
Dates: 700-1600

Europeana Regia (Various repositories)
“With the collaboration of five major libraries located in four countries and the support of the European Commission, this project made it possible to digitise more than 1000 rare and precious manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. All of them were once part of three great royal collections that are currently dispersed and which represent European cultural activity at three distinct periods in history: the Bibliotheca Carolina (8th and 9th centuries), the Library of Charles V and Family (14th century) and the Library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples (15th and 16th centuries). These manuscripts are now fully accessible on the websites of the partner libraries and have also been included in Europeana.”
Regions: Europe
Dates: 700-1600

Manuscrits Médiévaux (Bibliothèque nationale de France; British Library)
“Thanks to the patronage of the Polonsky Foundation, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library have engaged in a partnership which aims to digitise, scientifically catalogue and showcase an outstanding collection of 800 medieval manuscripts produced between the 8th and 12th centuries . . . The manuscripts have been selected for their historical significance in terms of relations between France and England during the Middle Ages. They are also of unique artistic, historical or literary interest. Produced between the eighth and the end of the twelfth century, they cover a wide range of subjects, illustrating intellectual production during the early middle ages and the Roman period.”
Regions: France; England
Dates: 700-1225

Penn in Hand: Selected Manuscripts (University of Pennsylvania)
An ongoing project to digitize the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts; provides bibliographic information, digital facsimiles, and detailed description of provenance for a large volume of manuscript codices, folios, documents, and papers in a variety of languages from Europe, North Africa, India, the Middle East, and China.
Regions: World; Europe
Dates: 1000-1850

Digisig: Digital Sillography Resources (Center for Digital Humanities, Saint Louis University)
Digisig is a search tool for more than 30,000 medieval seal matrices and impressions that survive in repositories in the United Kingdom and the United States. Users can search all or individual catalogues and repositories by shelf mark and catalogue identifiers as well as by motifs, names, and places associated with individual seals.
Regions: British Isles; Western Europe
Dates: 1050-1600

Portuguese Early Music Database (Centro de Estudos de Sociologia e Estética Musical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Digitized manuscripts with musical notation in a variety of languages.
Regions: Portugal; Spain
Dates: 1100-1650

Digital Pilgrim Project (British Museum)
The Digital Pilgrim Project displays high-quality 3D models of "medieval pilgrim souvenirs and secular badges" that can be rotated for viewing from any angle. Each image is accompanied by a physical description and a brief exposition of the item’s historical context.
Regions: Europe; England
Dates: 1200-1600

The Icelandic Saga Database (Various repositories)
“The Icelandic Saga Database is an online resource dedicated to publishing the Sagas of the Icelanders—a large body of medieval Icelandic literature. The sagas are prose histories describing events that took place amongst the Norse and Celtic inhabitants of Iceland during the period of the Icelandic Commonwealth in the 10th and 11th centuries AD . . . The sagas focus largely on history, especially genealogical and family history, and reflect the struggles and conflicts that arose amongst the second and third generations of Norse settlers in medieval Iceland, which was in this time a remote, decentralised society with a rich legal tradition but no organized executive power. This website contains all the extant Icelandic family sagas, made available in a variety of open formats using modernized Icelandic spelling, with the Old Norse versions and translations into English and other languages made available where these exist in the public domain.”
Regions: Europe; Iceland
Dates: 1200-1400

Icelandic Saga Map (Emily Lethbridge)
The Icelandic Saga Map is an open-access online resource that helps readers navigate the geographical world of medieval Icelandic sagas and related material. To date, geo-referenced texts include all of Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) and Landnámabók (The Book of Settlements), part of the Sturlunga saga compilation, and a selection of nineteenth-century “saga pilgrimage” travel books (e.g., William Morris’s Icelandic journals). The interface encourages users to move between text (in which all place-names are hyperlinked) and map, giving them a feel for the geographical overlap between texts as well as for how individual narratives play out spatially. In addition to expanding the selection of texts, projected future work includes adding information about saga manuscripts and their geographical provenance, uploading English translations of all place-names in the database, and optimizing search options for specific types of places.
Regions: Iceland
Dates: 1200-1400