Critique (Digital Archives)

Early English Books Online:
Strengths:  EEBO is a great resource for analyzing documents because it provides efficient tools for navigating through each text. EEBO’s search feature is one of the simplest to use and it clearly organizes and describes all search results, providing a picture of the first page, the title, the author’s name, the publishing date, and other relevant information. EEBO also uses various icons to help you search through results for certain information, providing icons for general information, for full-size images of the text, for illustrations within the text, and for thumbnails of each page. Furthermore, EEBO allows you to save pages for future reference.

Weaknesses: While EEBO is still an extensive digital archive, it pales in comparison to archives like the Folger Shakespeare Library, as it contains nearly 81% less texts (approximately 125,000 compared to 660,000). However, this is because EEBO exclusively only features texts from the early modern era, unlike Folger, which can be a disadvantage or advantage depending on the circumstance.

The Folger Shakespeare Library:
Strengths: The Folger Shakespeare Library is an enormous collection of nearly 660,000 books, manuscripts, playbills, prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, etc. from the birth of printing until present day. This database is particularly useful for finding early modern texts as well as Shakespeare-related works. It also provides high resolution images and helpful information for analyzing texts such as publishing info, physical descriptions, citations, and notes.

Weaknesses: Though this resource is vast, Folger’s collection is less accessible than EBBO’s and Project Gutenberg’s. The website can be difficult to navigate. It is difficult to find the actual database and lacks an organized method for browsing through search results.

The English Broadside Ballad Archive:                                               Strengths: EBBA is a great resources for finding high-quality facsimiles of ballads online. EBBA lists out all the rules of print transcription to help you decipher confusing words and letters, improving comprehension and facilitating research. This site is mostly comprised of 17th-century ballads, particularly black-letter ornamental broadside ballads. However, all extant 16th-century ballads (about 250) can be found on this site as well as a portion of 18th-century ballads.

Weaknesses: EBBA is not a complete ballad archive, as it lacks 41.25% of extant 17th-century ballads. It also provides a mere sampling of 18th-century ballads and only features ballads written between the 16th and 18th centuries. Furthermore, EBBA’s ballads often lack title pages, which provide beneficial information about the printer, author, and time period.

Project Gutenberg:                                                                         Strengths: Project Gutenberg contains over 45,000 free ebooks, making it a valuable resource for saving and printing texts. The database is comprised of both ancient and modern texts, all of which are available in different formats, such as HTML, EPUB, Kindle, and PDF, and can be downloaded straight to your computer or to Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. This makes files easy to access on a computer, cellphone, tablet, etc.

Weaknesses: While Project Gutenberg’s search process is simple, its simplicity can be detrimental. There is no advanced search option to help narrow down texts, limiting you to a search by key words. Furthermore, Project Gutenberg does not have tools to help you find dates, publishers, images, or other relevant information. Most importantly, the ebooks are not facsimiles, meaning they are typed transcriptions of documents instead of actual, scanned copies of works, which may contain marginalia and other clues about the society that printed, read, and shared each text.

The Map of Early Modern London:                                              Strengths: This database provides a very unique way to research early modern London. The “Agas map” interface allows you to explore the city in a visual, interactive way and links you to encyclopedia articles where textual information can be found. The four interconnected projects on this site work function together to clearly represent and describe the London of 1581.

Weaknesses: MoEML is an incomplete project that still requires much work. Many of the encyclopedia entries are empty or unfinished and thus only a portion of the stars on the map link you to full articles. Furthermore, the Stow project has yet to be completed, so only small excerpts of John Stow’s A Survey of London are available. Once the projects are finished, this will be an excellent resource for researching early modern London. However, this database is limited, by nature of its design, to a narrow timeframe and small location.

Internet Shakespeare Editions:

Strengths: This database successfully organizes all of Shakespeare’s works on one site and features not only the texts, but also the performances of his works throughout history. Here you can find costumes, set lists, and other items from Shakespeare productions, making this a valuable resource if you’re researching a Shakespeare-related topic.

Weaknesses: One issue with this website is technical as it has several broken links. Also, since it almost exclusively focuses on Shakespeare, its collection of non-Shakespearean works is minimal.

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