☛Here is a metalibrary of libraries on line. We have a strong bias in favor of collections that make no intellectual-property claims to transcriptions or images of public-domain works, so most of the works in these collections can be used without restriction; but check each site’s terms and conditions, because we have included some libraries (like the Vatican Library) that do claim some sort of copyright, but have interesting works not otherwise easily available.
These are the most useful collections; if a scan is well done, it is as useful for research as having a copy of the physical book. Our Eclectic Library is based mostly on the Internet Archive and Google Books.
☛We have arranged this section in order of most to least useful in our own biased opinion.
Internet Archive Texts. The best page images can often be found in this huge collection, although many lower-quality scans are taken from Google Books.
Google Books. A huge library. Most of the scans are black and white, not greyscale, and in fax-like resolution, but perfectly legible. Google may be a little more sophisticated at dealing with the text inside the book than the Internet Archive is. You may find it useful to begin at the Advanced Book Search page.
Hathi Trust. Another huge library. Some books that are not accessible otherwise may be accessed with a login from a partner college or university.
Gallica. English access to the digital collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The reader is a little clumsier than the ones in the other three libraries above, but it works, and millions of treasures are here—many in English.
Vatican Library. Someone in the Vatican brain trust decided it was worthwhile to mutilate every page image in the otherwise excellent scans with a huge round “ALL RIGHTS RESERVED” watermark. If you know what you are looking for, you may be able to find it, but the site is not designed for casual browsing.
Biodiversity Heritage Library. A huge collection of well-scanned volumes, from ancient herbals to modern government publications.
Nietz Collection of 19th-Century Schoolbooks. Scanned copies from the collection at the University of Pittsburgh.
Intratext Digital Library. “Full-text Digital Library offering books and corpora as lexical hypertexts on Creative Commons License. Committed to accuracy, accessibility and touch-oriented cognitive ergonomics.” Whatever that means. The site looks ancient, and it has not been updated since the end of 2011, but there are many unusual things here in a number of different European languages.
Oxford Text Archive. “A repository of full-text literary and linguistic resources.” To give us some idea of the scope of the collection, there are 4,029 items under the heading “Sermons, English.”
Perseus Digital Library. A strange collection of collections: Greek and Roman classics, an Arabic collection, a Germanic collection that is almost exclusively Icelandic and Old Norse, a big 19th-century American collection, a collection of “Humanist and Renaissance Italian Poetry in Latin,” and transcribed issues of the Richmond Daily Dispatch from the Civil War era.
Project Gutenberg. Tens of thousands of books available in EPUB, Kindle, HTML, or plain text. The files are proofread by teams of volunteers, so they have fewer scanner errors than the files from many other online text libraries.
If you find an error in one of the texts, you can
correct it. This is the most attractive feature of
this huge and rapidly growing collection.
Bibliotheca Augustana. A large collection of Latin authors from every age.
Lacus Curtius. A collection of Latin texts, mostly transcribed by typing them in, on a site that will make you nostalgic for 1996 (though it is still being updated).
The Latin Library. Hundreds of Latin texts, including some medieval and Renaissance writings, carefully transcribed in simple HTML.
Perseus Collection Greek and Roman Materials. Hundreds of classical writers, and a few mostly nineteenth-century studies and reference works about classical Greece and Rome.
Topos Text. Translations of ancient Greek literature with special reference to the places mentioned in the text. For example, the text of Aristophanes’ Frogs “has 50 tagged references to 43 ancient places.” This is the sort of research project for which the Internet was invented.
Vicifons. The Latin version of Wikisource, with a huge selection of ancient, medieval, and modern Latin writers.
Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. A large collection of Middle English texts. Last updated in 2006, so the site is a bit archaic, but then so are the texts.
Early English Books Online. Thousands of early printed English books transcribed and released unambiguously into the public domain. It was a partnership between the University of Michigan and Oxford, and the results are available on both sites:
At the University of Michigan.
At Oxford: Phase 1, Phase 2.
The Oxford site make more file formats available, including the original TEI-encoded files, which may be converted to standard document files with the OxGarage converter. The Michigan site, on the other hand, is easier to browse.
Eighteenth Century Collections Online. A continuation of the Early English Online project that extends it into the 1700s. It digitized about 3000 books before it petered out.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library. From early Church Fathers to twentieth-century inspirational writers, in formats for ebook readers or in standard HTML.
Early Church Fathers—Additional Texts. Translations of Church Fathers not included in the famous Ante-Nicene Fathers and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series.
Early Church texts. Texts in original languages and in translation.
Internet Sacred Text Archive. A huge collection of every kind of text to do with any sort of religion, mythology, occult practice, or weird stuff (it includes the complete works of Charles Fort). There is a strong bias toward books from the 1890s through the early 1900s.