Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker provides a clearinghouse for students and scholars of the long eighteenth century to discover and share links to freely-available digital facsimiles of eighteenth-century texts.
Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker provides a clearinghouse for students and scholars of the long eighteenth century to discover and share links to freely-available digital facsimiles of eighteenth-century texts. Over the last decade, a number of fantastic digital collections have appeared, making a wealth of eighteenth-century material available beyond the walls of the rare books rooms of elite research libraries. Those resources, though, are typically priced beyond the reach of smaller institutions, and generally arent available at all to individual subscribers. That means the possibilities for teaching and research that access to a rich archive of primary materials opens up have remained largely out of reach for people who arent affiliated with institutions that can afford expensive proprietary databases.
More recently, several large-scale digitization projects have begun to make a great deal of eighteenth-century material available at no cost. Unfortunately, these projects generally dont handle their materials with the kind of bibliographical care that scholars rely on to do their work: distinctions among editions arent always apparent, for instance, and connections among the volumes in multi-volume works are frequently lost. So far, these resources have been less useful for serious scholarship than they could be.
This site aims to address both problems by enlisting interested scholars and students in the task of identifying eighteenth-century texts available freely online. Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker provides a central location for registering the links that its users find in the course of their scholarly work. By collecting and preserving these otherwise fugitive discoveries, the site will build a repository of eighteenth-century primary materials for use by teachers, students, and scholars everywhere.
It was this thinking that inspired the sites choice of logo, taken from the title page of an early number of The Gentlemans Magazine (nearly all of which you'll find here, incidentally). Like that periodical, this site attempts to gather into one place a broad range of materials most of interest to its users: it selects the flowers of eighteenth-century material from the broader fields of the internet and presents them to users in a tidier bouquet than theyll find elsewhere.
Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker is what one might call a meta-database: rather than providing any content of its own, the site offers a coherent interface for directing users to materials available elsewhere. The site doesnt allow for full-text searching à la ECCO, but if you know that you'd like to see an eighteenth-century edition of, say, Alexander Popes The Rape of the Lock, you may well find a link to what youre looking for here. Think of Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker as an under-construction library catalogue for the internet.
(If you want to discover eighteenth-century texts that use a particular word or phrase and don't have access to ECCO, youre better off proceeding directly to Google Books. Given the challenges that eighteenth-century print presents to optical character recognition software, you might want to have a look at this screencast on tips for gaming the search system in order to turn up more results. The sites administrator tries to be sure that the links to volumes at Google Books that are submitted to the database all get added to his own Google Books Library. You can search Bens library—in effect, a growing eighteenth-century subset of Google Books—here.)
The database at Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker contains two kinds of entries. On the one hand, there are bibliographical records describing distinct editions of a work (these are modeled on—and, in many cases, draw directly on—the entries of standard bibliographies and union catalogues like the English Short Title Catalogue or OCLC's WorldCat). On the other hand, there are individual records describing links to facsimile versions of eighteenth-century primary texts on line (what we might call copy records). Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker makes it possible to connect these records to one another. The entries for individual volumes can be linked to the appropriate bibliographical record in order to provide a positive bibliographical identification. (Individual volumes can be linked to more than one bibliographical record—which comes in handy when were dealing with a scan of a volume in which multiple volumes are bound together.) Bibliographical entries display information about all of the copy records that have been linked to them. When you search or browse the site, you're seeing bibliographical records that have one or more links associated with them. You can see at a glance what volumes have been identified, where those volumes came from (that is, the holding library and shelfmark of the copy scanned).
You can get more out of this site by installing the Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker bookmarklet. The bookmarklet allows you to query the sites database while youre browsing Google Books or the Internet Archive. When you see a text that interests you at one of those sites, clicking the bookmarklet will open Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker in a new browser window. If the text you were looking at has been identified in the sites database, youll get a quick positive identification, which can be very useful when dealing with a text with a complicated publication history. In the case of multivolume works, this identification can also make it much easier to find other volumes from the text.
Of course, not every text youll find at Google Books or the Internet Archive has been added to the database at Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker. If the text you were looking at when you clicked the bookmarklet isnt in the sites database, youll be given the option of submitting the link in as little as two clicks. If youd like, you can also add additional information about the volume: the volume number and separate volume title (where appropriate); the holding library and shelfmark; and any copy notes that you think are worth remarking. If you dont have time or inclination to add that information, of course, you can simply scroll down to the bottom of the form and click Save. The sites usefulness will grow in proportion to the number of links it indexes and the Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker bookmarklet makes adding links to the sites database incredibly easy.
Anybody can search or browse the sites database, and anybody can use the Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker bookmarklet to identify texts at Google Books and the Internet Archive and to add links from those sites to the database. In the interests of quality assurance, certain other functions are restricted to registered users of the site. (Becoming a member is absolutely free, and is as simple as setting up an account, which you can do here.) Registered users can identify links, either by matching them to existing bibliographical entries or by creating new bibliographical entries and then matching to those. Registered users can also connect scans of volumes from multivolume works to their parent copies (that is, entries related to the particular copy of a text at a given library, regardless of their edition—an important consideration where hybrid copies are concerned).
For more information on using the site, visit the Tutorials page.
Eighteenth-Century Book Tracker aims, above all, to direct students and scholars to facsimiles of primary works relevant to the study of the eighteenth-century. We link only to materials that we believe to be legitimately available at no cost to all users.
Our preference is to link to materials that are available for users to download conveniently in .pdf format, rather than to materials that have to be read on screen, or that can only be downloaded with difficulty. On occasion, though, you may find links to other kinds of resources when they serve to provide access to material they couldnt otherwise get. There are a number of links, for instance, to reproductions at The Thomas Gray Archive. While several of these can be downloaded in .pdf format, others can be read on screen; individual page images can be downloaded by right-clicking on the page image.
The site is open to indexing links to books in any language and on any subject, but the emphasis is on books, rather than texts: at this time, the site doesnt link to digital editions of eighteenth-century texts, but rather to page-image reproductions of printed books. Generally speaking, we seek to link only to reproductions of books published before 1800, since one aim of the site is to facilitate inquiry into questions of print culture and book history for students and researchers who may not otherwise have access to original texts (or even their digital surrogates).
Because the aim is to as many eighteenth-century books as possible, the site doesnt screen out duplicate copies of eighteenth-century editions—indeed, it encourages them. By linking copy records to bibliographical records, links to multiple copies of an edition are consolidated for users' convenience. Google Books, for instance, offers two copies of the second edition of Colley Cibber's An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber: both links are presented in the same entry so that those so inclined may compare copies, and those who just want to see a copy of Cibber's work can pick whichever one they want. (Incidentally, one of those copies of Cibbers Apology has fairly extensive marginalia, at least some of which seems to be contemporary to the texts original publication.)
The site also links to reproductions of eighteenth-century primary texts that werent initially published until after 1800 (as, for example, The Diary and Letters of Madame DArblay), as well as to reproductions of later editions of pre-1800 works when those editions are of interest in their own right (as, say, Sir Walter Scotts edition of the novels of Daniel Defoe), or when they offer access to texts to which we are not otherwise able to direct users (as is the case for Ernest A. Bakers 1905 edition of The Novels of Mrs. Aphra Behn). Obviously, volumes like that dont figure directly in the study of eighteenth-century print culture or book history, but they do provide access to texts that might not otherwise be available. The database differentiates between pre- and post-1800 editions, however, so that users who seek only eighteenth-century editions can restrict their searches to the materials that interest them.