This is a list of the major, freely accessible, digital libraries holding significant quantities of British printed material of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (or at least those I know of). These collections are of very variable levels of quality, transparency and curation; they hold material from other periods and places; some are more organized and thematic, some more a random selection from the shelves.
Additionally, there are two indexing projects at the end of the list, the C18th Book Tracker and Penn’s Online Books, both of which provide better metadata than found in Google Books and the like.
Please notify me in the comments for anything I have missed.
Two and a half million items, including a fairly considerable number of English language items. Interface in German, English and Italian.
Biodiversity Heritage Library
3,867 c18th titles at the time of writing (25 August 2020), and several hundred journal articles, on all aspects of natural history. Includes many non-British titles; the whole collection holds over one hundred thousand volumes.
Many digitized books are available from the national library, but it’s difficult to know what is available. There’s no complete manifest, but there is a beta function to search only for digitized material. Many of these items were digitized by Google, and will be found there as well.
Broadside Ballads Online
Thousands of broadsides from the Bodleian library. Very good site.
Given that the Bodleian broadside collection is very good, I am completely boggled at how incomprehensible this site is. There’s stuff here, good luck navigating it.
Digital Quaker Archives
From Earlham School of Religion, over 500 works on Quakers, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (and a few from the nineteenth). Clunky interface, but fully transcribed texts.
English Broadside Ballad Archive
9,352 early modern broadside ballads, as of mid May 2020. A truly excellent website, rich, useable and even featuring recordings of the songs.
English Crime and Execution Broadsides
Circa 600 broadsides, mainly nineteenth century, but some eighteenth as well.
Probably the biggest digital library in the world, probably the biggest library of digitized eighteenth century material, probably really good, but so opaque who can tell. There is no way of knowing how much is in there, no list of titles to analyze, no way of conducting any sort of bulk investigation beyond Google’s own ngrams, granular search is absurdly complicated and limited given that search is Google’s metier, and the metadata continues to be a train-wreck.
A great deal of material viewable, but little of it freely downloadable without an American university subscription or a very helpful and morally just tool.
A colossal amount of material in general, some digitised under its own auspices, some scraped from elsewhere (especially Google Books), some uploaded by the general public. Easily the most open and accessible of the archives, everything is available for downloading, even in bulk, but the metadata sometimes erroneous and the OCR is generally poor. As of 23 August 2020, their search returns 271,351 texts dated 1700 – 1799.
120 texts, fully transcribed, spanning 1640 to 1740. Also available in the Oxford Text Archive.
Occasionally mis-curated, sometimes poor quality images, frequently awful OCR for the eighteenth century, but generally an invaluable archive of the official state newspaper, a very rich yet under-used source.
Interregnum newsbook, “characterised by a mixture of ribald reports of debauchery, crude humour, and (superficially) fantastical or whimsical nonsense-stories and poems.” An absolute scream.
National Library of Scotland
Crawford Collection: https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides-from-the-crawford-collection/archive/144782273
English Ballads: https://digital.nls.uk/english-ballads/archive/
The Word on the Street: https://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/index.html
The NLS has a variety of digitized material, not easily browsable as it is split into separate parts. The three collections linked here are all of broadsides and ballads; well curated, but I’m mystified why they are separate, and don’t know if there is any overlap in content.
Nearly 12,000 digitizations, including a significant number of c18th publications, focussed on Ireland and British state documents. Includes the Dublin Gazette for the 1700s. Horrible, clumsy interface but quality copies.
Old Bailey Online
Old Bailey Proceedings: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?dir=sessionsPapers
Ordinary’s Account: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?dir=ordinarysAccounts
Although best known for its excellently transcribed and curated manuscript material, OBPO also has runs as complete as possible of the Ordinary’s Accounts and the Old Bailey Proceedings.
Oxford Text Archive
Circa 7,000 c18th texts, and much more besides, the majority open and publicly accessible. Clean layout, easy to use. Contains most, if not all, of the TCP texts.
Popish Plots Collection
93 items concerning the supposed ‘Popish plots’ of Restoration England, from the University of Melbourne.
Text Creation Partnership
Transcribing the EEBO and ECCO collections, and making them freely available. Vast collection, with more to come in January 2021.
U.K. Medical heritage Library
Thousands of works, spanning nearly 500 years, on medicine in the widest sense of the term. Volumes digitized from numerous U.K. libraries, and hosted on the Internet Archive.
University of Virginia 1828 Library Project
Recreating the first law library at the University of Virginia, with full digitizations of 336 of the 375 legal volumes therein.
Problematic in many ways, but hundreds of transcribed texts, some to a very high standard.
Eighteenth Century Book Tracker
An index to freely-available digital facsimilies of eighteenth century works on Google, Interenet Archive, Hathi Trust etc. Not complete – an impossible task! – but a very useful and useable interface. Also collates various series of c18th periodicals.
Online Books at Penn
Massive collation of links to openly available books. Not easy to browse by date, but searching is easy.
Large, and growing, database of open texts from many archives, including some of those above. The ‘Advanced Search‘ allows sifting by date of publication.