To access Early English Books Online (EEBO), click on the image above.
What is EEBO?
"From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this incomparable collection contains over 96,000 titles -- 230 years of English printing -- listed in Pollard & Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing's Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection.
Early English Books seeks to be a comprehensive collection of all books, pamphlets and broadsides published in the English language in any country from earliest times through 1700."
*Note: EEBO contains only printed books; therefore, you will not find usage prior to 1473 (unless the printed books were written much earlier). Thus if your first hits on a word are in the 1470s or 1480s, this does not mean this is when the word first came into English.
Do you have any tips for searching this database?
Absolutely! It's possible that you discovered a couple of different spellings for your word when you were using the OED. Be sure that the "Variant Spellings" box is checked on the basic search screen; this will do some of the work for you and is a great feature of EEBO. You can also experiment with the "Variant Forms" option if you are having trouble getting results.
If you think your word has been used in a famous phrase but you can't remember the exact wording of the phrase, there are a couple of search tricks that you can use. I will use "murder most foul" as an example. If I did a search for murder near.2 foul, my search would retrieve any books in which murder and foul appear within 2 words of each other. However, many results will not be in that exact order (i.e. murder before foul). If I want the database to retrieve results in which foul follows murder within 2 words, I can do a search for murder fby.2 foul. (fby = followed by)
Note: This database searches the texts using a human transcription. (This means that a person sat down with the text and wrote it out word for word.) The margin of error is much smaller with this type of transcription.
I did a search and have a results list in front of me. I'm not sure what I should do next, because it looks different from other databases that I've used.
On the results page, you'll notice that there is a drop-down box next to the word "Sort." For this assignment, you will want to sort by "Earliest publication first."
The results list will give you some basic publication information (if available) about the text, as well as examples of how it is being used. (That's what the blue squiggly pictures mean.) In order to view the full text of one of the results, click on the blue hyperlinked title. Once you have done this, you will want to view both the transcription (which is easier to read) and the original image (to be sure that there were no errors in the transcription).
I've looked through the results, and there are a few that will be helpful. I have to go to class though and would like to look at them later. Can I save or print these?
You do have a couple of options, but it isn't quite as easy in EEBO as in other databases. Each text will have a button for a "Printable Version," which will be a transcription of the entire text. Please keep in mind that, depending on your text, the printout could get quite lengthy. You could also highlight certain sections of the text (including the citation information!) and print that selection. (After you are in the printing dialogue box, there will be a radio button next to the word "Selection.") You can also save or print the original images of the text using the "Download TIFF file" or "Adjust view & print" links.
In the results list, you will notice that each text has a check box to the left of the author information. If you find a text that you would like to access later, you may click on that check box (you may do several at a time) and then click on the "Marked List" link in the upper right corner of the screen (between "Home" and "Search History"). From this screen, you will be able to print, email or download the marked records (not the full text!).
This is one of the only databases from which you will be able to copy and paste text. You could take advantage of this by copying and pasting text into a Word document or email, as save, print, or email.