If you want to explore the most important British literary works written between 1100 and 1900, British Literary Manuscripts Online is the database to use. This digitized collection of manuscripts by British authors contains poems, plays, novels, diaries, journals, correspondence, and other papers from major library collections, covering the Medieval period through the Victorian era. Thousands of writers from Thomas A’Becket to Richard Zouche are represented by the hundreds of thousands of page images. The original manuscripts are held in collections at major libraries, research universities, and museums around the world including the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Huntington Library, Princeton University, and others.
In addition to its great value for literary scholars, since this primary source collection includes more than just the actual literary works themselves it is invaluable to researchers exploring the historical, cultural, social, and religious context of the eras in which these materials were written.
Shown below, a heavily edited excerpt from an 1845 manuscript of Charles Dicken’s The Chimes, In Four Quarters from the collection of the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum shows the evolution of this work in Dicken’s own hand with large areas crossed out and altered.
The database is divided into two parts which can be searched separately or together: Medieval & Renaissance covering 1100-1660, and the 1660-1900 collection.