Posted on Dec 21, 2007

Schaffer Library from Humanities Building

Raoul LeFèvre’s Recueil des Histoire de Troye (Recounting of the History of Troy), published by William Caxton around 1474, is widely regarded as one of the most important formative works in the development of English literature and poetry.

But getting a look at original editions could take weeks at best. Until now.

Schaffer Library at Union College has just added 250,000 volumes to its collection through two on-line databases: Early English Books Online (EEBO) and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO). The databases, available to those on the Union network, contain searchable facsimiles of printed books, documents, pamphlets, musical scores and similar materials.

Together, the databases cover the beginning of printing to the end of the 18th century, around the founding of Union College.

“These two collections make available to faculty and students resources that no single library in the world contains, and many of which are available in only a handful of institutions ,” said Thomas G. McFadden, College librarian, who in recent months coordinated the acquisition with Head of Collection Development Courtney Seymour.

EEBO contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473 to 1700, from Caxton’s book through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War.

ECCO contains every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed between 1701 and 1800 in the United Kingdom, along with thousands of important works from the Americas.

Stephen Sargent, professor of history, used EEBO to prepare for Scientific Revolution, a course he is teaching over winter term. He said he found that he could hypertext through EEBO to evaluate works cited by an author of a book on 16th-century science and magic.

“This kind of hypertexting has been impossible until recently, since to get hold of a treatise, you had to order the microfilm in [Interlibrary Loan], make a copy on the microfilm reader, and take it back to your office to read,” he said. “The process could easily take two weeks. Now it takes less than a minute.”

EEBO and ECCO may be accessed through the Union network at the following URL: