Renaissance/early modern research guide

This guide has been designed as a starting point for research involving the Renaissance and Early Modern time period.

If you need help, please contact Ivana Niseteo, Liaison Librarian for English, French, French Programs (FASS), Humanities, Linguistics, and World Languages & Literatures at 778.782.6838 or or Ask a librarian.

A useful starting point is the book Literary research and the British Renaissance and early modern period : strategies and sources.

Reference sources

Literary Encyclopedia
An expanding global literary reference work written by over 2000 specialists from universities around the world, and currently provides more than 5100 authoritative profiles of authors, works and literary and historical topics.

Searches and displays word-entries from monolingual English dictionaries, bilingual lexicons, technical vocabularies, and other encyclopedic-lexical works, 1480-1702
Online versions of 100 general reference works plus material in language, science and medicine, humanities and social sciences, business, and professional areas.
An all-purpose online encyclopedia, including an online atlas, dictionary, and select journal articles.

Encyclopedias and companions

Key concepts in Renaissance literature [print]

Encyclopedia of Renaissance literature [print]

A new companion to English Renaissance literature and culture [print]

The Oxford handbook of Tudor literature, 1485-1603 [print]

A companion to Renaissance drama [print]

The Blackwell companion to the Bible and English literature [print]

A companion to Shakespeare [print]

The new Cambridge companion to Shakespeare [print]

The Cambridge companion to Spenser [print]

Dictionary of literary and dramatic censorship in Tudor and Stuart England [print]

Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry: A Students' Guide [print or online

Search for more by including the words encyclopedia OR dictionary OR handbook OR companion OR manual in your KEYWORD search (e.g. Marlowe AND companion)

Dictionaries and literary terms

Covers words from across the English speaking world. It also gives etymological analysis, variant spellings, and pronunciation using IPA.

The Oxford dictionary of literary terms 

The Penguin dictionary of literary terms and literary theory [print]

The Bedford glossary of critical and literary terms [print]

A glossary of contemporary literary theory [print]

Shakespeare's language : a glossary of unfamiliar words in Shakespeare's plays and poems [print]

Shakespeare's bawdy 

Dictionary of literary-rhetorical conventions of the English Renaissance [print]

Classical myths and legends in the Middle Ages and Renaissance : a dictionary of allegorical meanings [print]


The Oxford chronology of English literature [print]

The Hutchinson chronology of world history 

BBC History Timelines
Interactive timelines for topics in archeology, British history and the World Wars.

Handbook of British chronology [print]

A Milton chronology [print]

A Sidney chronology, 1554-1654 [print]

A Christopher Marlowe chronology [print]

State Papers Online
When you log in choose "Research Tools" and then click on the Chronologies link.

Many of the companion handbooks also include a Chronology section; check the catalogue record of each companion to confirm the inclusion of a chronology/timeline section.

Biographical information

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
An illustrated collection of 50,000 specially written biographies of the men and women who shaped all aspects of Britain's past, from the fourth century BC to the year 2000.

Biographical and critical essays on the lives, works, and careers of the world's most influential literary figures from all eras and genres.
Biographical and writing career entries on over a thousand writers, more than eight hundred and fifty of them British women. It also includes selected non-British or international women writers, and British and international men, whose writing was an important, sometimes a shaping, element in a particular writing climate.


Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 

Longman guide to Shakespeare quotations [print]

Shakespeare's wordcraft [print]

Roget's thesaurus of the Bible [print]

The Figurative language of the tragedies of Shakespeare's chief 16th-century contemporaries [print]

Open Source Shakespeare: Concordance of Shakespeare's Complete Works  [George Mason University]

Literary criticism

Contains scholarly articles on English literature, linguistics, language and folklore.
A searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources.
Index to Medieval and Renaissance journals and books.
All issues of the Shakespeare Survey, a yearly publication since 1948 which publishes the best of international Shakespeare scholarship

World Shakespeare Bibliography
Annotated entries for all important books, articles, book reviews, dissertations, theatrical productions, reviews of productions, audiovisual materials, electronic media, and other scholarly and popular materials related to Shakespeare and published or produced between 1964 and early 2005.

Online index to bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation with a bibliographical essay on sources.
Online annotated bibliography of material by and about Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser.
Full text access to six major Gale literary criticism series, covering literature from 1400 to the present.
Full text access to the back files of Humanities and Social Science Journals; Good English Literature content.
Full text access to the back files of Humanities and Social Science Journals; Good English Literature content. Note content in JSTOR is 3-5 years old.

Primary sources

A library of over 100,000 individual titles from 1473-1700. Online digital images are available for every page.
A resource for the study of Early Modern Britain and Europe. It reproduces original historical manuscripts in facsimile, linking each manuscript to its corresponding fully-searchable Calendar entry. Available parts include: Part I: The Tudors, 1509-1603: Domestic and Part II: The Tudors, 1509-1603: Foreign

British Literary Manuscripts: Part 2: British Literary Manuscripts Online: Medieval & Renaissance
Offers students and researchers unprecedented online access to 565,000 pages of rare manuscripts from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, c.1100 to 1660. Researchers and students can explore online a rich tapestry of letters, poems, stories, plays, chronicles, religious writings and commonplace books through searchable catalogue records.

Digital Scriptorium
Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts [Columbia University]

Maps the streets, sites, and significant boundaries of late sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century London (1560-1640). The project links encyclopedia-style articles, scholarly work, student work, editions, and literary texts to the places mentioned therein [University of Victoria].
Unparalleled holdings of over 30,000 ballads in several major collections. The original printed materials range from the 16th to the 20th century. The Broadside Ballads project makes the digitized copies of the sheets and ballads available to the research community.

English Broadside Ballad Archive
Website dedicated to early ballads in English, especially 17th-century broadside ballads; provides full transcriptions and images of the originals, search facilities, sung versions of ballads, and background essays [Early Modern Center, University of California-Santa Barbara].

The Shakespeare Quartos Archive
A digital collection of pre-1642 editions of William Shakespeare's plays.

Treasures in Full: Shakespeare in Quarto
See copies of the 21 plays by Shakespeare printed in quarto before the 1642 theatre closures [British Library].

Internet Shakespeare Editions
One of the web's widest varieties of Shakespeare-related resources, including fully annotated texts of his plays and poems, exciting multimedia materials and records of his plays in performance, and thousands of searchable pages devoted to the history, arts, politics, society, and stage of Shakespeare's world, as well as biographical details of his life [University of Victoria]

Images & film

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art [print]
A repository of over one million digital images and related data.
Reference resources on all aspects of visual arts. Sources include Grove Art Online, Oxford Companion to Western Art, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics & Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms.
A digital library of prints and book illustrations from early modern Britain. It offers various resources aimed at furthering our knowledge and understanding of them.
Explore over 160,000 portraits from the 16th Century to the present day.

Folger Digital Image Collection
Offers online access to over 40,000 images from the Folger Shakespeare Library collection, including books, theater memorabilia, manuscripts, art, and more.

Licensed for non-theatrical public performance on campus at Simon Fraser University.
For sound recordings and performances available on video/DVD at the library, search the SFU Catalogue for the title of the work, and limit to the appropriate material type using the drop down menu to the right of the search box.

Related topics


Handbook of European history, 1400-1600 : late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation [print]
Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance [print or online]
Encyclopedia of the Renaissance [print]
The Renaissance : a sourcebook [print]
Routledge encyclopedia of Tudor England [print]
The Routledge companion to the Tudor age [print]
English historical facts, 1485-1603 [print]
Historical dictionary of Tudor England, 1485-1603 [print]
A survey of London by John Stow [print or online]
An authoritative guide to what has been written from the Roman period to the present day.
Indexes journal articles, book reviews, dissertations on the history of the world outside of Canada & the United States.
Contains some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles.



The Oxford encyclopedia of the Reformation [print or online]

The age of Reformation : the Tudor and Stewart realms, 1485-1603 [print]

Renaissance and Reformation, 1500-1620 : a biographical dictionary [print or online]

Bible in English
A collection of 20 different versions of the English Bible from the tenth to the twentieth century, including 12 full Bibles, 5 New Testament texts, 2 versions of the Gospels only, and William Tyndale's translations of the Pentateuch, Jonah and the New Testament.

The Book of Common Prayer - 1559
Online version of the 1559 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.  Includes background information and links to other resources.

Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts
More than 1,200 works from the Reformation and post-Reformation eras, including the theological writings of more than 300 Protestant authors, as well as confessional documents, biblical commentaries, polemical treatises, and Bible translations.

Digital Library of the Catholic Reformation
Includes over 450,000 pages of primary-source material from the 16th and 17th Centuries, including all the key catechisms, scholarly treatises, papal documents, devotional works, and theological volumes that sparked and sustained the reform from within the Catholic Church.

ATLA Religion Database
Indexes journal articles on all aspects of religion and theology, including church and religious history.


English professional theatre, 1530-1660 [print]

English Renaissance theatre history : a reference guide [print]

The English stage : a history of drama and performance [print]

The Shakespearean stage 1574-1642 [print]

The Shakespeare Company, 1594-1642 [print]

Playgoing in Shakespeare's London [print]

The Shakespearian playing companies [print or online]

Staging in Shakespeare's theatres [print]

The Elizabethan stage [print]

Annals of English drama, 975-1700 [print]

Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP)
Contains early modern plays and playwrights with additional useful information, such as genre, dates of first publication and production.

Records of Early English Drama (REED): Patrons & Performances
Designed to include a wide range of data about professional performers on tour in the provinces – their patrons, the performance venues they used and the routes they took across the kingdom.

Early Modern London Theatres
Provides an abstract record of the relationship between primary (pre -1642 sources) and secondary (post-1642) materials discussing plays, theatre audiences, lives of players and the theatre buildings themselves that were built in and around London from 1567 to 1629.

Shakespeare's Globe
An international online resource dedicated to further the understanding of Shakespeare in performance.

Further sources

Early English Prose Fiction
More than 200 full text works which provide a representative view of prose fiction by writers from the British Isles from the period 1500-1700.

Project Gutenberg
Provides access to many thousands of downloadable e-books.

Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature
Provides information on medieval, renaissance, 17th and 18th century authors, with the full text of selected works, and additional materials including biographical sketches, book reviews, essays, and graphics.

Renascence Editions
An online repository of works printed in English between the years 1477 and 1799.

Early Modern Literary Studies Electronic Texts
Gathering of links to select electronic texts of fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth century materials which are on the Internet, as well as others which have bearing upon this time period.

Oxford Text Archive
Develops, collects, catalogues and preserves electronic literary and linguistic resources for use in research, teaching and learning.

Electronic Text Center - Modern English Collection
This heterogeneous collection contains fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, letters, newspapers, manuscripts and illustrations from 1500 to the present, arranged for browsing by author's last name or by category of interest [University of Virginia].

Perseus Digital Library Project - Renaissance Materials
Digital versions of primary and secondary sources in early modern English literature [Tufts University].

Representative Poetry Online
Includes 3,162 English poems by 500 poets from Caedmon, in the Old English period, to the work of living poets today. It is based on Representative Poetry, established by Professor W. J. Alexander of University College, University of Toronto.

Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830: A Gathering of Texts

Early Stuart Libels: An Edition of Poetry
Web-based edition of early seventeenth-century political poetry from manuscript sources. It brings into the public domain over 350 poems, many of which have never before been published.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Centre for Early Modern Studies

Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies

CERES, Cambridge English Renaissance Electronic Service

Voice of the Shuttle: Literature (In English)

Literary Resources -  Renaissance

Renaissance Sites and Elizabethan Resources

Early Modern Web

Shakespeare Studies: A guide for students and professors interested in the study of Shakespeare's life and works [NY University Library]