Early American Literature (to 1800)

Many works in section Q: American Literature/General are important to research in early American literature.

Research Methods


Courtney, Angela. Literary Research and the Era of American Nationalism and Romanticism: Strategies and Sources. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2008. 251 pp. Lit. Research: Strategies and Sources 2. (Updates appear at http://www.literaryresearchseries.org.) PS217.R6 C68 [PS153.J4] 80.9′002072.

A guide to research strategies and reference sources for the scholar working with literature of the early republic (1790–1860). Following an admirably clear explanation of the basics of online searching are chapters on general literary reference sources (including some devoted to individual writers); library catalogs; print and electronic bibliographies, indexes, and annual reviews (again, with some devoted to individual writers); scholarly journals; contemporary reviews and literary magazines; contemporary journals and newspapers; microform and digital collections; manuscripts and archives; and Web resources. The last two chapters demonstrate how to use many of the works and strategies previously discussed to develop a research plan and address how to find definitions of terms (using “nationalism” as an example). An appendix lists sources in related disciplines. Indexed by titles and subjects. Describing fully the uses of kinds of reference tools, providing illuminating examples in discussions of key individual resources, detailing techniques for finding kinds of information (including primary works), and illustrating research processes, Literary Research and the Era of American Nationalism and Romanticism admirably fulfills its intent: “to serve as a guide to best practices for the researcher . . . through the potentially confusing and constantly changing milieu of literary research on the literature of the Early Republic.”

Guides to Reference Works

For a selective overview of World Wide Web resources for the study and teaching of early American literature and culture, see Joanna Brooks, “New Media’s Prospect: A Review of Web Resources in Early American Studies,” Early American Literature 39.3 (2004): 577–90.

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Blackwell Companion to the Enlightenment (M2218).

Guides to Primary Works


Alden, John, and Dennis Channing Landis, eds. European Americana: A Chronological Guide to Works Printed in Europe Relating to the Americas, 1493–1776 [i.e., 1750]. 6 vols. New Canaan: Readex, 1980–97. Z1203.E87 [E18.82] 016.97.

  • Vol. 1: 1493–1600. 1980. 467 pp.

  • Vol. 2: 1601–1650. 1982. 954 pp.

  • Vol. 3: 1651–1675. 1996. 682 pp.

  • Vol. 4: 1676–1700. 1997. 711 pp.

  • Vol. 5: 1701–1725. 1987. 597 pp.

  • Vol. 6: 1726–1750. 1988. 852 pp.

  • ———, eds. European Views of the Americas, 1493–1750. EBSCOhost. EBSCO, 2013. 13 Sept. 2013. <http://www.ebscohost.com/archives/general-archives/european-views-of-the-americas>. (This is a free database.)

A chronological guide to separately published works and editions thereof printed in Europe and related to the Americas (here defined as North and South America, Greenland, and the Caribbean islands). Based on the holdings of important North American and European collections and listings in several bibliographies, European Americana includes in vol. 1 many literary and other works with only incidental references to the area; in later volumes, the scope narrows to exclude most works that have only a passing mention of the New World. Users must consult the Guide to Use in vol. 4 to find the fullest discussion of scope and editorial principles. Organized alphabetically within each year by author, corporate author, or title of anonymous work, entries provide title, imprint, final page number, format, a note on American content if not clear from the title, references to standard bibliographies, and locations. Users must remember that much information is taken unverified from other sources and that titles and imprints are frequently edited rather than exact transcriptions. Additions are printed in vol. 1, pp. 261–66, and vol. 2, pp. 526–27. Each volume has three indexes: geographic index of printers and booksellers; alphabetical index of printers and booksellers; authors, titles, and subjects. The Alden-Landis European Americana supersedes Henry Harrisse, Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima: A Description of Works Relating to America Published between the Years 1492 and 1551 (New York: Philes, 1866; 519 pp.) and Additions (Paris: Tross, 1872; 199 pp.), and, for the volumes published, represents a major improvement in coverage, organization, and accuracy over Sabin, Eames, and Vail, Bibliotheca Americana (Q4015); for example, supposedly fewer than one-quarter of the entries in volumes 3–4 also appear in Sabin. Although such a work cannot be comprehensive and inevitably perpetuates many of the errors of its sources, its coverage, organization, and indexing make European Americana the indispensable source for studying the impact of the Americas on Europe. Reviews: (vol. 1) David B. Quinn, Renaissance Quarterly 34.4 (1981): 570–72; (vols. 1–2) J. A. Leo Lemay, Resources for American Literary Study 13.1 (1983): 26–32; Edwin Wolf II, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 78.1 (1984): 91–95.

European Views of the Americas, 1493–1750 gives the best access to the information in European Americana through a modified EBSCO interface (I512) that in Advanced Search allows searches to be limited by date, format, document type, and location of copy.


Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639–1800. NewsBank Info Web. Readex, n.d. 30 Dec. 2014. <http://www.readex.com/content/early-american-imprints-series-i-evans-1639-1800>.

Early American Imprints, Series I: Supplement from the Library Company of Philadelphia, 1670–1800. NewBank Info Web. Readex, n.d. 30 Dec. 2014. <http://www.readex.com/content/early-american-imprints-series-i-ii-supplements-library-company-philadelphia-1670-1819>.

Evans, Charles. American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets, and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America from the Genesis of Printing in 1639 down to and Including the Year 1820 [i.e., 1800] (Evans). 14 vols. (vols. 1–12) Chicago: Privately printed, 1903–34; (vols. 13–14) Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1955–59. (Vol. 13 is by Clifford Shipton; vol. 14, by Roger Pattrell Bristol.) Z1215.E92 015.73.

A bibliographical database and digital archive based on Evans, American Bibliography, and Bristol’s Supplement (see below) that reproduces the c. 37,000 works in the original microprint and microform version of Early American Imprints along with 1,080 additional titles; the Supplements add nearly 2,000 titles. Users can view digitized facsimiles of pages as well as search ASCII text generated by Optical Character Recognition scanning. In the basic search mode, documents can be searched by citation, full text, title, subject (i.e., Library of Congress subject headings), genre, author, place of publication, publisher, document number (i.e., Evans number), and date of publication; the advanced search mode allows users to combine up to two fields with full text and date. Given the treatment of attributions of authorship, users should search for an author in both the Author and Citation Text fields. Because of the spelling practices in the period covered and because of scanning errors in the ASCII text underlying the digital images, users must read the discussion of spelling under Hints/Elongated S and Background/Historical Materials and OCR on the Help screen before attempting a keyword search. Users can also browse by author, place of publication, history of printing (with separate lists of publishers, printers, and booksellers), language, and selected genres and subjects.

A search returns records in Evans number order (i.e., chronologically—but see the discussion below of problems with the chronological sequence in Evans); an individual record reformats the enhanced cataloging copy created for the microform version of Early American Imprints (which cites Evans number along with other standard bibliographies, albeit in abbreviated forms that will mystify the majority of users). The original Evans entry (along with identification of the copy reproduced) is hidden under a Document Source link at the end of the Table of Contents.

Copies can be downloaded as PDF or TIF files (file transfer can be slow, and a maximum of 75 pages can be downloaded at a time), printed, or saved to a personal collection for later access.

Inevitably, many of the images are only partly legible because of flaws in the underlying copy or problems with the original filming, and thus keyword searches of the full text frequently return false hits (e.g., in a search for Macbeth, three of the first ten records show false hits on teacheth or toucheth), but this resource brings to the computer screen the text of thousands of rare volumes and, because of the search capabilities, makes possible studies that would otherwise be unfeasible because of the time it would take to identify and acquire the necessary books. Review: Norman Desmarais, Charleston Advisor 6.2 (2004): 15–17; 23 Dec. 2012; <http://www.charlestonco.com>.

While Early American Imprints vastly improves access to information hidden away in Evans (especially anonymous works), it replicates silently many of the limitations and quirks of its progenitor. Thus a thorough familiarity with American Bibliography is a prerequisite for informed use of the digital archive. And the user of any digital archive must be aware that a copy reproduced may have leaves supplied from another copy, be of an edition that is extant in more than one issue or state, or be incomplete.

American Bibliography is a preliminary retrospective national bibliography of printed works (excluding tickets, invitations, circulars, and forms designed to be completed in manuscript). Organized by year of publication, then alphabetically by author, corporate author, or title of anonymous work, the 39,162 entries typically cite title, imprint, pagination, size or format, locations, and contemporary auction values. A few are accompanied by bibliographical, biographical, or historical notes.

Each volume has two indexes (authors and anonymous titles; subjects). However, the author and title indexes are superseded by the Index (vol. 14), which lists pseudonyms, corporate authors, and authors; includes titles (as well as running titles and half titles recorded by Evans); and adds names of people, ships, and Indian tribes mentioned in titles. Because of inconsistencies in the treatment of main headings for some kinds of works, erroneous dating, and incorrect attributions of authorship, the Index frequently offers the only convenient way to locate unsigned publications. The History of Printing tab in Early American Imprints offers far better access to individuals in the book trade than do the lists of printers and publishers in vols. 1–12 or in Bristol, Index of Printers, Publishers, and Booksellers Indicated by Charles Evans in His American Bibliography (Charlottesville: Bibliog. Soc. of the U of Virginia, 1961; 172 pp.). Items in Evans and Early American Imprints containing printed musical notation are indexed in Donald L. Hixon, Music in Early America: A Bibliography of Music in Evans (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1970; 607 pp.).

To make effective use of Evans, researchers must be aware of its major deficiencies:

  1. Because of numerous typographical errors and because much information is copied without verification from secondary sources—including other bibliographies, advertisements, and booksellers’, auction, and library catalogs—as many as 30% of the entries are inaccurate, especially in recording titles, publication information, and date. Particularly vexing is Evans’s practice of supplying descriptive titles based on advertisements. Although Evans does not identify secondhand entries, Shipton encloses within brackets titles not seen or “described by a careful bibliographer” and derives entries from booksellers’ or auction catalogs only when a title page is reproduced.

  2. Anonymous works are difficult to locate because Evans frequently misattributes authorship, place, publisher, or date or lists such works under inconsistent or peculiar corporate author headings without supplying title cross-references. Only vol. 13 identifies attributions (within brackets) and cross-references titles of anonymous works. By utilizing more accurate, consistent corporate headings and listing short titles, the Index (vol. 14) allows for the location of many anonymous publications.

  3. Regardless of the number of copies extant, Evans typically locates only one or two and sometimes omits locations to save an additional line of type. (Vol. 13 provides more locations.) To decipher Evans’s location symbols, see John C. Munger, “Evans’s American Bibliography: Tentative Check List of the Library Location Symbols ,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 40.8 (1936): 665–68. (In Early American Imprints, this information is hidden away at Help/Background/Owning Sources Abbreviations.)

  4. Several works are listed out of chronological sequence because they were discovered after publication of the appropriate volume. And many undatable publications are grouped under “1800.”

Not surprisingly, there are numerous ghosts and duplicate entries. Also, many works or editions identified in studies and catalogs as “not in Evans” are actually there but difficult to locate.

The following works supplement Evans:

  • “American Bibliographical Notes.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 82.1 (1972): 45–64; 83.2 (1973): 261–73; 87.2 (1977): 409–15; 88.1 (1978): 90–119; 88.2 (1978): 327–28; 89.1 (1979): 155–57; 93.1 (1983): 197–221. A series of variously authored notes and lists that provide numerous additions and corrections to Evans.

  • Bristol, Roger P. Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography . Charlottesville: UP of Virginia for Bibliog. Soc. of Amer.–Bibliog. Soc. of U of Virginia, 1970. 636 pp. Collects from a variety of sources some 11,200 additions, with locations and entry numbers for those reproduced in the Readex microfilm series. Addenda appear on pp. 631–34. Separately indexed as Index to Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography (Charlottesville: UP of Virginia for Bibliog. Soc. of U of Virginia, 1971; 191 pp.). Review: J. A. Leo Lemay, Early American Literature 8.1 (1973): 66–77.

  • Federal Copyright Records, 1790–1800. Ed. James Gilreath. Comp. Elizabeth Carter Wills. Washington: Lib. of Congress, 1987. 166 pp. A transcript of surviving records for the period.

  • Shipton, Clifford K., and James E. Mooney. National Index of American Imprints through 1800: The Short-Title Evans. 2 vols. Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc. and Barre, 1969. An index to the microform version of Early American Imprints that makes numerous corrections to Evans and in some instances cites the sources of his errors. It is particularly useful for identifying duplicate entries. Review: J. A. Leo Lemay, Early American Literature 8.1 (1973): 66–77.

American imprints are also included in the Short-Title Catalogues (M1377, M1990, and M1995), which are typically more thorough and accurate than Evans. Book catalogs are more thoroughly covered in Winans, Descriptive Checklist of Book Catalogues (U5410).

Despite its manifold deficiencies and incompleteness, Evans and its supplements currently offer the fullest record of early American imprints; provide an invaluable resource for investigating the intellectual milieu of works, surveying publishing trends, identifying works and editions by standard reference number, and locating copies; and form the basis for a fuller, more sophisticated and accurate retrospective bibliography. Only because of this preliminary bibliography has it been possible to make readily available in digital form a majority of works printed before 1801 in the United States. Scholars should also search the North American Imprints Program database (Q4010), which will eventually supersede Evans and its supplements.

The chronological record is continued by Shaw and Shoemaker, American Bibliography (Q4125), and Shoemaker et al., Checklist of American Imprints (Q4130).

Bibliography of American Imprints to 1901, 92 vols. (New York: Saur, 1993), conflates entries from the American Antiquarian Society catalog and RLG Union Catalog into a title list with separate author, subject, place, and date indexes; it is notable only for the amount of shelf space it wastes.


North American Imprints Program (NAIP). American Antiquarian Society. Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 2011. 30 Dec. 2014. <http://www.americanantiquarian.org/naip>.

A machine-readable union catalog whose goal is to record all extant books, pamphlets, and broadsides (but not periodicals, newspapers, and engraved materials) printed through 1876 in what is now the United States and Canada. Entries for works examined by NAIP staff contain a full transcription of title page and imprint, detailed statement of pagination, collation, notes, and references to published bibliographies. Descriptions based on reports by cooperating libraries, Early American Imprints (Q4005), or published bibliographies are less detailed. Records are being incorporated into the ESTC (M1377) database and can be searched through the American Antiquarian Society’s OPAC (http://catalog.mwa.org), which supports special indexes that allow searching by genre, series, illustrator, printer, publisher, bookseller, place, language, and date. Eventually the database will supersede Tremaine, Bibliography of Canadian Imprints (R4615), and Evans, American Bibliography and its various supplements (Q4005) and continuations.


Sabin, Joseph, Wilberforce Eames, and R. W. G. Vail, eds. Bibliotheca Americana: A Dictionary of Books Relating to America, from Its Discovery to the Present Time (Sabin). 29 vols. New York: Sabin, 1868–1936. (Originally issued in parts.) Z1201.S2 015.73.

A bibliography of publications related to the political, governmental, economic, social, intellectual, and religious history of the western hemisphere since 1492. Until vol. 21 (1929–31), Sabin includes potentially anything even remotely touching on the Americas published up to the date of publication of a part (except that post-1800 newspapers and broadsides are generally excluded); in succeeding volumes, both scope and coverage are substantially reduced. With vol. 21, the cutoff date becomes 1876; with pt. 130 (in vol. 22 [1931–32]), the cutoff date is 1860 (earlier for certain kinds of publications—e.g., 1800 for most literary works, but 1830 for those “of historical importance”); with pt. 141 (in vol. 24 [1933–34]), virtually nothing published after 1840 is included. Researchers must be certain to read the explanation in vol. 29, pp. x–xi, of the successive narrowing in scope and coverage.

Entries are listed alphabetically by author or, for anonymous works, by title, locale, or subject. An entry includes title; publication information; size or format; pagination; occasional notes on content, editions, related titles, scholarship, reviews, other works by the author, or references to booksellers’ or auction catalogs; and locations (more consistently and fully in the later volumes; location symbols are listed in vol. 29, pp. 299–305). References in the notes more than double the 106,413 numbered entries.

Users must be aware of the deficiencies of Sabin: there are numerous omissions; the volumes through 13 (1881) admit many works that can hardly be classified as Americana, but with Eames’s editorship (beginning in pt. 83 [1884]), standards defining coverage are tighter; many errors exist because of Sabin’s reliance on unsound secondary sources and frequent use of wrappers as sources for titles (accuracy improves under Eames’s editorship); entries are not standardized and there are several duplicate entries.

John Edgar Molnar, comp., Author-Title Index to Joseph Sabin’s Dictionary of Books Relating to America , 3 vols. (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1974), remedies many of the difficulties in locating works in Sabin by indexing authors, editors, compilers, illustrators, corporate authors, main titles, series titles, and selected subtitles and alternative titles, as well as by identifying several anonymous and pseudonymous authors.

Despite its incompleteness and manifold deficiencies, Sabin remains the single most extensive bibliography of early works related to the western hemisphere.

Many works in Sabin are included in the digital archive Sabin Americana, 1500–1926 (http://gdc.gale.com/products/sabin-americana-1500-1926/). Basic Search allows users to limit keyword searches of full text, authors, subjects, or titles by publication date; Advanced Search allows users to search by document number (MARC, Sabin, or Thomson Gale number) or to limit combined searches of keywords, authors, titles, full text, front matter, main text, subjects, persons as subjects, geographic subjects, publishers, source libraries, and places of publication by date, subject area, language, serial title, number of pages, and kinds of illustrations. Advanced Search also allows for fuzzy searches—an especially valuable feature for searching documents published before spelling became normalized. Users can also browse lists of authors and titles. Images (which vary in quality and legibility as expected in archives produced from microfiche) can be saved as PDF files or printed. The breadth of coverage and the powerful search engine make possible numerous studies that heretofore would have consumed years of research or would have been simply untenable.

For more thorough coverage of European imprints through 1750, see Alden and Landis, European Americana (Q4000); some areas are more fully treated in bibliographies devoted to a region or country (consult Besterman, World Bibliography of Bibliographies [D155], and Bibliographic Index [D145]).

Lawrence S. Thompson, The New Sabin: Books Described by Joseph Sabin and His Successors, Now Described Again on the Basis of Examination of Originals, and Fully Indexed by Title, Subject, Joint Authors, and Institutions and Agencies, 10 vols. and cumulative index (Troy: Whitston, 1974–86), is misleadingly titled. Rather than a revision of Sabin, the work is merely a set of separate lists of and indexes to large-scale microform collections (including Wright, American Fiction [Q4180]). The entries consist of information taken from catalog cards prepared for the collections (and not from the compiler’s personal examination of original copies). Cumulatively indexed by subjects, titles, joint authors, and corporate bodies. Although restricted to publications available in microform collections, awkwardly organized, and lacking cross-references to Sabin, New Sabin adds as well as corrects numerous entries and offers useful, but limited, subject access to works about the Americas.

See also

Boswell, Check List of Americana in A Short-Title Catalogue (M1990a).

English Short Title Catalogue (M1377).

Pollard and Redgrave, Short-Title Catalogue, 1475–1640 (M1990).

Wing, Short-Title Catalogue, 1641–1700 (M1995).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Surveys of Research


American Literary Scholarship (Q3265): chapter on literature to 1800.

Harbert and Rees, Fifteen American Authors before 1900 (Q3280).

Serial Bibliographies


ABELL (G340): English Literature/Seventeenth Century and Eighteenth Century sections.

ECCB: The Eighteenth Century Current Bibliography (M2245).

MLAIB (G335): American Literature division in the volumes for 1922–25; American III: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1607–1815) in the volumes for 1926–28; American III: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in the volumes for 1929–40; American II: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in the volumes for 1941–80; and American Literature/1600–1699 and 1700–1799 (or any larger chronological section that encompasses either century) in volumes after 1980. Researchers must also check the headings beginning “American” and “Colonial” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

“Some Current Publications,” Restoration (M2250).

Other Bibliographies


Rubin, Bibliographical Guide to the Study of Southern Literature (Q3625).

Wages, Seventy-Four Writers of the Colonial South (Q3625a).

Theses and Dissertations


Montgomery, Michael S., comp. American Puritan Studies: An Annotated Bibliography of Dissertations, 1882–1981. Westport: Greenwood, 1984. 419 pp. Bibliogs. and Indexes in Amer. Hist. 1. Z1251.E1 A54 [F7] 016.974′02.

An annotated bibliography of 940 dissertations accepted through 1981 by American, Canadian, British, and German universities on American Puritanism from c. 1620 to c. 1730. Besides literature and language, this work encompasses philosophy, psychology, politics, history, geography, religion, recreation, economics, sociology, law, education, music, art, science, medicine, and military affairs. Arranged chronologically by date of degree, entries record author, title, degree, institution, and pagination. The typically full annotations cite ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (H465); identify full, partial, or revised publication as a monograph (but not article); and note when a dissertation is not extant. Descriptions, which consist largely of quotations from introductions or abstracts and/or a list of contents, are derived (in order of preference) from published versions, printed abstracts, or the dissertations themselves, and frequently note parts not appearing in a published version. Four indexes: authors; short titles; institutions; subjects. American Puritan Studies is valuable for its compilation and indexing of entries in the standard national lists of dissertations, annotation of numerous works not abstracted elsewhere, and identification of published versions. For dissertations after 1981, see section H: Guides to Dissertations and Theses.

Related Topics


Gephart, Ronald M., comp. Revolutionary America, 1763–1789: A Bibliography. 2 vols. Washington: Lib. of Congress, 1984. Z1238.G43 [E208] 016.9733.

A selective, yet extensive, bibliography of primary and secondary works (through December 1972) related to the Revolutionary period. Although journal articles, theses, and dissertations are included, selection is limited to holdings of the Library of Congress. The 14,810 entries are organized alphabetically by author or title of anonymous work in most of the 12 extensively classified divisions: bibliographies and reference works (with sections for subject bibliographies, catalogs of eighteenth-century imprints, and guides to manuscript collections); general studies; the British Empire and the American Revolution; the colonies on the eve of independence; the West; the war, 1775–83; loyalists; diplomacy and other international aspects of the Revolution; confederation and consolidation of the Revolution; the Constitution, 1787–89; economic, social, and intellectual life (with sections on printers, newspapers, books, and libraries; literature; and fine arts); and biographical sources. Fewer than 40% of the entries are accompanied by descriptive annotations that frequently cite related works. The work is indexed by names and some subjects, but users must study the explanation of indexing procedures on p. 1,469 before searching the index. Restricting coverage to Library of Congress holdings and works published before 1973 results in the omission of some important studies, especially in the sections related to literature, and the inclusion of several works of dubious value; even so, Gephart provides an important guide to scholarship and primary materials that range well on either side of the period 1763–89.

See also

Pargellis and Medley, Bibliography of British History: The Eighteenth Century (M2260).

Biographical Dictionaries


Levernier, James A., and Douglas R. Wilmes, eds. American Writers before 1800: A Biographical and Critical Dictionary. 3 vols. Westport: Greenwood, 1983. PS185.A4 810′.9′001.

A collection of biographical-bibliographical-critical essays on 786 representative writers. Each essay consists of four parts: a list of major works, biography, critical estimate, and list of selected studies (to c. 1982). Concluding the work are a chronology (1492–1800) and three appendixes (lists of writers by year of birth, place of birth, and principal residence). Indexed by persons and subjects; entrants are also indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Although the essays are uneven in quality, several incorporate recent discoveries. Overall this is a generally trustworthy compilation of information, especially for minor writers; for authors in common, the Dictionary of Literary Biography (J600) volumes on the period are generally superior. Reviews: Norman S. Grabo, Eighteenth-Century Studies 19.1 (1985): 130–35; J. A. Leo Lemay, Early American Literature 19.2 (1984): 215–17.

See also

Dictionary of Literary Biography (J600).

Todd, Dictionary of British and American Women Writers (M2265).


Guides to Primary Works


Brigham, Clarence S. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820. 2 vols. Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1947. Z6951.B86 016.071.

———. ““Additions and Corrections to History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 ”.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 71.1 (1961): 15–62. E172.A35 973′.0519.

Lathem, Edward Connery, comp. Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690–1820: Being a Tabular Guide to Holdings of Newspapers Published in America through the Year 1820. Barre: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1972. 131 pp. Z6951.L3 016.071′3.

A bibliography of 2,120 newspapers published through 1820 in what is now the United States. Organized alphabetically by state, then by original title (with cross-references for later ones), entries include notes on the date of establishment and cessation, frequency, title changes, printer(s), and publisher(s), followed by a list of holdings; both the notes and locations are generally fuller than those in United States Newspaper Program National Union List (Q3405). Concludes with lists of libraries and private owners. Two indexes in vol. 2: titles; printers, publishers, and editors. The Chronological Tables, which includes Brigham’s additions, is organized by state, then city, then newspaper. A monumental work, Brigham is still the best general source for information about and locations of early American newspapers, which remain understudied by literary scholars. For other holdings, see WorldCat (E225).


Kribbs, Jayne K., comp. and ed. An Annotated Bibliography of American Literary Periodicals, 1741–1850. Boston: Hall, 1977. 285 pp. Reference Pub. in Lit. Z1219.K75 [PS1] 016.81′05.

A bibliography of 940 periodicals of “distinctly literary interest,” excluding dailies, almanacs, and gift books. Entries are organized alphabetically by original title, with cross-references for subtitles and later titles. The amount of detail varies depending on available information, but a full entry cites title, date of first and last issue, frequency, editor(s), publisher(s), and up to two locations. (For a more complete list of locations, see section K: Periodicals/Union Lists and WorldCat [E225].) Most entries conclude with a summary of literary content organized by genre and noting representative poets, types of prose works, subjects of biographies, titles of fiction and plays, and miscellaneous topics. Five indexes: chronological index of periodicals; geographic list of periodicals; editors and publishers; literary authors; titles of fiction and plays. Some information is taken from Union List of Serials (K640a) and other standard sources rather than personal examination of runs. Although Kribbs’s work is not comprehensive, cites publication information incompletely, and is highly selective in recording contents, it is nevertheless an important pioneering effort that is especially valuable for the access its indexes offer. Review: Benjamin Franklin Fisher, IV, Literary Research Newsletter 5.3 (1980): 149–52.


Index to Early American Periodicals to 1850. Ed. Nelson F. Adkins. New York: Readex, 1964. Micropaque.

A reproduction of a card index to some 340 American magazines published between 1730 and 1850. The cards are divided into six parts:

  1. general prose, with separate alphabetical sequences for authors and titles of anonymous works

  2. fiction, also with sequences for authors and anonymous works

  3. poetry, with alphabetical lists of authors, titles, and first lines

  4. book reviews, with sequences for authors of books reviewed and titles of anonymous books

  5. songs, with lists for authors, composers, titles of anonymous works, and first lines

  6. subject index to pt. 1

A card typically records author, title, periodical, publication information, and an occasional note on content. The illegibility of many of the handwritten cards and poor quality of the reproduction, incomplete coverage of many periodicals, numerous inconsistencies in recording information, a multitude of inaccuracies, and uneven, idiosyncratic indexing render the volume an exasperating work to consult. Yet as the only index to many of the periodicals, it remains a useful source of American literary and cultural history. A major desideratum is an index similar to the Wellesley Index (M2545).

Many of the periodicals covered by the Index are included in American Periodicals Series Online, 1740–1900 (Q4050), whose search interface offers superior access to contents.

Text Archives

American Periodicals Series Online, 1740–1900. ProQuest. ProQuest, 2013. 13 Sept. 2013. <http://proquest.umi.com/login>.

A digitized collection of more than 1,100 periodicals that were microfilmed for the American Periodicals microform collection. For an evaluation of the ProQuest search interface used by the archive, see entry I519. Users must remember to search for variant spellings. As is true of any text archive, the digital images vary widely in legibility, but the ability to search by keyword such a large amount of text will save searchers years of reading through bound printed volumes.

Selected records can be searched through C19: The Nineteenth Century Index (M2466).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism


Chielens, Literary Journal in America to 1900 (Q4145).


Most works in section Q: American Literature/General/Genres and some in L: Genres are important to research in early American literature.


Most works in section Q: American Literature/General/Genres/Fiction and some in L: Genres/Fiction are useful for research in early American fiction.

Histories and Surveys

Petter, Henri. The Early American Novel. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1971. 500 pp. PS375.P4 813′.03.

A descriptive, critical survey of American fiction (excluding that published in magazines) from the 1780s to 1820. Organized by subject matter (didactic, satiric, or polemical fiction; love stories; novels of adventure), the discussions of individual works typically incorporate lengthy synopses. Additional summaries are printed in an appendix. Concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary works (although the latter is superseded by Parker, Early American Fiction [Q4065]). Indexed by persons and titles. The standard survey of early American fiction, Petter is more valuable for its description of works than for critical commentary. Reviews: Alexander Cowie, American Literature 43.3 (1971): 485–86; John Duffy, New England Quarterly 45.1 (1972): 133–34.

Guides to Primary Works

Pitcher, Edward W. R., comp. Fiction in American Magazines before 1800: An Annotated Catalogue. [Rev. ed.] 3 vols. Lewiston: Mellen, 2002. Studies in British and Amer. Magazines 17-18. Z1231.F4 P58 [PS375] 016.813′108005.

A catalog of fiction (broadly conceived) of more than 500 words in 77 American magazines before 1800. Organized alphabetically by story title, entries cite publication information and typically include notes on authorship, source, reprints, related works, content, and scholarship. (Users must be certain to check the supplementary notes [book 1, pt. 2: 727–45].) Concludes with an index of authors, pseudonyms, and a few subjects; a register of fiction by magazine; and chronological lists of fiction by American authors and of translations. Based on extensive research on sources and authorship, Fiction in American Magazines before 1800 is an indispensable catalog that will make feasible and encourage studies of a neglected area of early American fiction.

See also

Wright, American Fiction, 1774–1850 (Q4180).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Parker, Patricia L. Early American Fiction: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1984. 197 pp. Reference Guide to Lit. Z1231.F4 P25 [PS375] 016.813′2.

A descriptively annotated bibliography of studies (through 1980, with a few as late as 1982) on American fiction before 1800. Entries are listed by year of publication within divisions for general and thematic studies, anonymous works, and 28 individual authors (excluding Brown, who is the subject of her Charles Brockden Brown: A Reference Guide [Boston: Hall, 1980, 132 pp.; Reference Pub. in Lit.]). Reprints are needlessly given separate entries; dissertations actually read by the compiler appear under date of acceptance but others, incongruously, under the year an abstract was published in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (H465). Although several works receive multiple listings, users should check the name index to locate all studies treating an author. Annotations are adequately descriptive. Two indexes: names; titles and subjects. The fullest guide to scholarship on early American fiction.

See also

Holman, American Novel through Henry James (Q4185).

Kirby, America’s Hive of Honey (Q4190).

Drama and Theater

Most works in section Q: American Literature/General/Genres/Drama and Theater and some in L: Genres/Drama and Theater are important to research in early American drama and theater.

Guides to Primary Works

Hill, Frank Pierce, comp. American Plays Printed, 1714–1830: A Bibliographical Record. Stanford: Stanford UP; London: Oxford UP, 1934. 152 pp. Z1231.D7 H6 061.812.

A bibliography of original plays and translations written and published between 1714 and 1830 by American authors, either resident in the country or abroad, and foreigners living in America. Although admitting a broad range of works, Hill excludes dialogues with fewer than three characters and grand opera libretti. Entries, listed by author or title of anonymous work, include title, publication information, pagination, size, locations (restricted to the holdings of 10 United States libraries), and occasional notes (on, e.g, productions, sources, authorship, and dedicatee). Works not located are listed separately on pp. 117–20. Two indexes: titles; dates of publication. Although it includes several inaccurate descriptions, much unverified information, and many works that can hardly be considered plays or are not by Americans or foreign residents, Hill remains the standard guide. It must be used with the extensive corrections and additions recorded in four articles by Roger E. Stoddard: “Some Corrigenda and Addenda to Hill’s American Plays Printed, 1714–1830,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 65.3 (1971): 278–95; “Further Corrigenda and Addenda to Hill’s American Plays Printed, 1714–1830,” 77.3 (1983): 335–37; “Third Addenda to Hill’s American Plays Printed, 1714–1830,” 93.4 (1999): 519–20; “United States Dramatic Copyrights, 1790–1830: A Provisional Catalogue,” Essays in Honor of James Edward Walsh on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, [ed. Hugh Amory and Rodney G. Dennis] (Cambridge: Goethe Inst. and Houghton Lib., 1983) 231–54.

Although superseded in its listing of published plays, Oscar Wegelin, Early American Plays, 1714–1830: Being a Compilation of the Titles of Plays by American Authors Published and Performed in America Previous to 1830, ed. John Malone (New York: Dunlap Soc., 1900; 113 pp.), remains useful for its attempt to cover all plays, published or not.


Johnson, Odai, and William J. Burling. The Colonial American Stage, 1665–1774: A Documentary Calendar. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson UP; London: Assoc. UP, 2001. 519 pp. PN2237.J64. 792′.0973′09032.

A calendar of performances by professional or amateur theatrical companies and solo performers in the British American Colonies and British West Indies between 1665 and 1774. Depending on the available information, a typical entry for a performance includes date; venue; title of play(s), afterpiece(s), or entertainment(s) performed (in bold print for the first known performance); author(s); cast; theatrical company; benefits; details from advertisements or reviews; source of information; ticket prices; and related financial or legal information. Other entries provide details of building contracts and financial records, moral opposition to the theater, laws governing theatrical activity, and the formation and movement of acting companies. Three indexes: persons; subjects and places; titles and authors of theatrical works (the lack of running heads makes it difficult to identify an index).

In consolidating, correcting, and adding substantial new data from an impressive array of published and primary resources, Colonial American Stage is an indispensable source for research on stage and theater history, acting careers, repertory, theater personnel, reception history, and trends in theatrical taste—in short, on every aspect of the theatrical life of colonial America.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

For a survey of scholarship (through the mid-1980s) and suggestions for future research, see Carla Mulford, “Re-presenting Early American Drama and Theatre,” Resources for American Literary Study 17.1 (1990): 1–24.


Meserve, American Drama to 1900 (Q4200).

Wilmeth, American Stage to World War I (Q3525).


Some works in section L: Genres/Poetry are useful for research in early American poetry.

Guides to Primary Works

Jantz, Harold S. ““The First Century of New England Verse”.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 53.2 (1944): 219–508. Also separately published: Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1944. 292 pp. PS312.J3 811.109.

A historical survey, anthology, and bibliography of early New England verse, including fragments and epitaphs from gravestones. The bibliography lists all known verse, printed and manuscript, by New England writers born up to the 1670s, by immigrants before their arrival in the colonies, and written in or about New England by transients. Under each author, individual poems or collections are listed by composition or publication date; a chronological list of anonymous verse through 1700 follows the author section. An entry typically provides title, first line or descriptive heading, number of lines, publication information, location of manuscript or a particularly rare printed work, reprints, and occasional notes on textual or bibliographical matters. See Leo M. Kaiser, ““An Addendum to Jantz from Cotton Mather’s Paterna”,” New England Quarterly 55.1 (1982): 110–12. Although in need of revision and updating, Jantz remains an essential guide to identifying and locating early American verse.


Lemay, J. A. Leo. A Calendar of American Poetry in the Colonial Newspapers and Magazines and in the Major English Magazines through 1765. Worcester: Amer. Antiquarian Soc., 1972. 353 pp. Z1231.P7 L44 016.811′1′08.

A chronological list of American poetry (that is, English-language poems of five or more lines by American residents as well as poems about the country by foreigners) published in 52 periodicals between 1705 and 1765. Because of difficulties in establishing authorship, as many as 20% of the 2,091 entries may represent poems by foreign writers. A typical entry provides date and publication information, first line, title, number of lines, author or pseudonym, and notes (including a list of reprints, biographical information, or commentary on subject matter). Four indexes: first lines; names, pseudonyms, and titles; subjects and genres; periodicals. Because of its numerous attributions of authorship and the access to subject and genre it provides, the Calendar is the indispensable guide to the previously uncharted body of early American poetry.

Separately published verse is recorded in Stoddard, A Bibliographical Description of Books and Pamphlets of American Verse Printed from 1610 through 1820 (Q4085).


Stoddard, Roger E., comp. A Bibliographical Description of Books and Pamphlets of American Verse Printed from 1610 through 1820. Ed. David R. Whitesell. University Park: Penn State UP for Bibliog. Soc. of Amer., 2012. 809 pp. Penn State Ser. in the Hist. of the Book. Z1231.P7 S745 [PS312] 016.811′1.

A bibliography of separately published editions of “poems written in what is now the United States . . . [and] printed before 1821,” along with notes on reprints published before 1900. Excluded are broadsides and leaflets (for which, see Wegelin, below). The 1,318 entries (arranged chronologically by date of publication of the edition described) include author, title page transcription (not quasifacsimile), agents or shareholders, authorship attribution, printer attribution, collation, pagination, dedication, engraved plates, copyright statement, misprints in signatures and pagination, bindings, notes on issues, subscription books, advertisements, watermarks, later editions, citations to standard references, copies located, copies examined, and provenance. Eight indexes: place of publication; printers and publishers; artists and engravers; signed or attributed bindings; dedicatees; provenance; subjects; authors and titles. In addition, the front matter includes chronological lists of printed dedications, subscription books, recitations, publishers’ bindings in paper, cuts and engravings, and a conspectus. For the most part American Verse supersedes Oscar Wegelin, Early American Poetry: A Compilation of the Titles of Volumes of Verse and Broadsides by Writers Born or Residing in North America North of the Mexican Border, [1650–1820], 2nd ed., rev. and enl., 2 vols. (New York: Smith, 1930), and Stoddard’s series of addenda and corrigenda:

  • A Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets Unrecorded in Oscar Wegelin’s Early American Poetry, 1650–1820. Providence: Friends of the Lib. of Brown U, 1969. 84 pp. (Reprinted from Books at Brown 23 [1969]: 1–84.) Review: J. A. Leo Lemay, Early American Literature 8.1 (1973): 66–77.

  • “Further Addenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 65.2 (1971): 169–72.

  • “More Addenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 88.1 (1978): 83–90.

  • “Progress Note on a Bibliography of American Poetry Printed 1610–1820 and Some Corrigenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Early American Literature 13.3 (1978): 299–301.

  • “Fourth Addenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 90.2 (1981): 387–90.

  • “A Provisional List of U. S. Poetry Copyrights, 1786–1820, and a Plea for the Recovery of Unlocated Copyright Registers.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 75.4 (1981): 450–83.

  • “Lost Books: American Poetry before 1821.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 76.1 (1982): 11–41.

  • “Poet and Printer in Colonial and Federal America: Some Bibliographical Perspectives.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 92.2 (1983): 265–361.

  • “Fifth Addenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 100.1 (1990): 251–53.

  • “Sixth Addenda to Wegelin’s Early American Poetry.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 107.2 (1997): 389–93.

Based on personal examination of multiple copies and replete with detail and new discoveries and attributions, American Verse richly deserves its place among the monumental bibliographies.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Scheick, William J., and JoElla Doggett. Seventeenth-Century American Poetry: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1977. 188 pp. Reference Guides in Lit. 14. Z1227.S3 [PS312] 016.811′1.

Rainwater, Catherine, and William J. Scheick. ““ Seventeenth-Century American Poetry: A Reference Guide Updated”.” Resources for American Literary Study 10.2 (1980): 121–45. Z1225.R46 016.81.

An annotated bibliography of scholarship through 1979 on poetry by American immigrants or transients born before 1680. Excludes bibliographies and general literary histories. Following a division for general and thematic studies, literary influences, and aesthetics are sections for individual authors and almanacs; broadsides, ballads, and anonymous verse; and elegies. Within each division, works are listed by publication date under separate headings for books, shorter writings (including parts of books), and dissertations. (As in other early Hall Reference Guides, these headings are repeated even when no book, shorter writing, or dissertation appears in a year.) Entries are accompanied by full descriptive annotations. Although many works are given multiple entries, users should consult the index to locate all studies of a writer or type of verse. An asterisk marks the few works not seen. The index of persons and selected topics is difficult to use because of the abbreviations identifying the section in which an entry appears. Despite the omission of bibliographies and general literary histories, Seventeenth-Century American Poetry is an essential compilation for identifying scholarship on early American verse.

See also

Donow, Sonnet in England and America (L1250).

Kuntz and Martinez, Poetry Explication (L1255).

Ruppert, Guide to American Poetry Explication, vol. 1 (L1255a).


Most works in section Q: American Literature/General/Genres/Prose and some in L: Genres/Prose are important to research in early American prose.

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

Yannella, Donald, and John H. Roch. American Prose to 1820: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale, 1979. 653 pp. Amer. Lit., English Lit., and World Lits. in English: An Information Guide Ser. 26. Z1231.P8 Y36 [PS367] 016.818′08.

A selective bibliography of studies and editions through 1975 (but with some works as late as 1978) of nonfiction prose. Yannella and Roch emphasizes twentieth-century scholarship but excludes most dissertations and foreign language studies. Entries are organized alphabetically by author in five divisions: general studies and reference works (with sections for printing and publishing, anthologies and collections, bibliographies and checklists, genres and rhetoric, studies in period criticism, studies of periodicals and newspapers, African American slave narratives, and Indian captivity narratives), colonial period, Revolutionary and early national period (both with sections for literary and cultural studies, anthologies and collections, and bibliographies and checklists), principal authors (with separate lists of editions, bibliographies, and biographical and critical studies under each), and other authors. Indexed by persons, titles, and selected subjects. The guide is a useful starting place for research on early prose, even though it is selective, lacks a clear explanation of criteria governing selection, and is awkwardly organized (with many sections unnecessarily split into books and articles).