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Nearly Thirty Years of Work

British Library to Allow Free Access to Database of English Language Documents

Searchable information gathered over nearly 30 years by UC Riverside scholars will benefit researchers, historians and genealogists

(October 30, 2006)

Henry Snyder speaks at a conference held at the National Library of Australia.Enlarge

Henry Snyder speaks at a conference held at the National Library of Australia.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( -- The English Short Title Catalogue, the product of a partnership between the University of California, Riverside, the British Library, and the American Antiquarian Society, will be made available for searching via the World Wide Web starting Oct. 30 at

Founded in 1976 as an Anglo-American cooperative project, work began on it at the British Library in 1977. Professor Henry L. Snyder, now at UCR, inaugurated the American counterpart in 1978. The English Short Title Catalogue is an essential resource for historians, literature scholars, and even genealogy hobbyists. It provides bibliographic records for all surviving letter press material in the British Isles and North America before 1801, held by the British Library and over 2000 other institutions worldwide.

A conference to mark the release of the catalogue on the Web will be held Oct. 30 at the British Library. Speakers will include Snyder and UCR Executive Vice Chancellor Ellen Wartella.

Major funding for the project has come from the National Endowment for the Humanities and American foundation; the principal leadership has come from Snyder, director of the Center for Bibliographical Studies at UC Riverside. Before now it was searchable only on a subscription basis through a California-based bibliographical utility. This will be the first time it has been accessible to everyone free via the World Wide Web.

“A project like the ESTC can only be made possible by a large-scale and continuing commitment of major funding agencies,” said Snyder, “It is only because we have great national agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Department of Education, and equally great philanthropic foundations such as Andrew W. Mellon, Ahmanson, and Pew Charitable Trusts that it has all come to pass.”

The project documents all types of printed material including letterpress books, pamphlets, newspapers, serials, advertisements, election handbills and a variety of other printed material. The coverage extends to items printed in all languages in the British Isles and beyond, to Colonial America, United States of America (1776-1800), Canada, or territories governed by Britain before 1801. It covers Portuguese printing from India, German printing from North America, Gaelic printing from Scotland, and French printing from both France and the Netherlands. It also includes false ‘Londres’ imprints, for material printed surreptitiously in France and the Netherlands. Engraved music, maps and prints are excluded from the catalogue but atlases and texts which are wholly engraved are in the ESTC.

“The British Library is delighted to have been able to open up the catalogue to a global audience and share the riches of such a comprehensive bibliography which is an essential tool to scholars and antiquarian book dealers and collectors,” said Clive Field, Director of Scholarship and Collections at the British Library.

The ESTC is an international venture with two editorial offices, one at the British Library and the other based at the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research at the University of California, Riverside.

”As people explore the immense resources of the ESTC ever more widely, so we understand ever more fully the significance of printing to all aspects of the English-speaking world between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries,” said David McKitterick, University of Cambridge. “As a resource it is simply matchless.”

Snyder, a professor emeritus of history, said that a project of this size would not be possible without support from these great national funding agencies and private foundations.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library’s collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilization. It includes: books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Further information is available on the British Library’s website at

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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