Early Modern Women Writers


Sharp, Jane (1724). Frontispiece from the complete midwife's companion: or, the art of midwifery improved. Directing child-bearing women how to order themselves in their conception, breeding, bearing, and nursing of children… CC BY-SA 3.0


Research Guide

Welcome! This page highlights key resources for conducting effective  research for Early Modern Women Writers.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarian:
Vani Natarajan
208C Lehman


Finding Books and Other Materials


  • Go to CLIO and use the Catalog search to find books, journals (but not articles in journals), links to online journals, and other materials in the Barnard and Columbia libraries, including the Health Sciences Library.
  • For a known item, search by Title, Author, standardized Library of Congress Subject HeadingISBN, etc.
  • For an All Fields keyword search, "use quotes" for a phrase, and * for truncation (to find variant endings of a word), e.g. feminis* finds feminism, feminist, feminists, etc.
  • For a complex search, use Boolean Keyword searching:
    • AND finds records which have all the search terms you entered;
    • OR finds records which have one of the search terms you entered, as well as records which have more than one of the terms. OR finds MORE.  Use parentheses to group terms, e.g. “Renaissance England” AND (sex* OR gender).

Worldcat: search for items in libraries worldwide.

BorrowDirect: borrow books directly from the libraries of Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, the University of Chicago, and Yale, in addition to select libraries of Harvard and MIT. Items requested through BorrowDirect typically deliver in 3 to 4 business days, with a 6-week loan period + one 6-week renewal.

Interlibrary Loan: borrow books, articles/book chapters, music scores, and selected audiovisual items (i.e. maps or films) that are not currently available at Columbia University Libraries. ILL has a larger scope of participating institutions than Borrow Direct.


English Dictionaries

Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME) is a historical, searchable database of "monolingual, bilingual, and polyglot dictionaries, lexical encyclopedias, hard-word glossaries, spelling lists, and lexically-valuable treatises surviving in print or manuscript from the Tudor, Stuart, Caroline, Commonwealth, and Restoration periods."

OED Online provides a complete historical record of the English language. It's the largest dictionary of the English language, containing 615,000 word forms with 139,900 pronunciations, 219,000 etymologies, and 2,436,600 quotations, along with timelines and historical thesauri.

Oxford Historical Thesaurus presents a "taxonomic index of language history" by tracing the changing uses of language around specific concepts and meanings across time. You can conduct searches for words or headings, or you can browse entries in a thesaurus tree.


Other Reference Sources

Start here for biographical and bibliographical background research. When available, electronic resources are linked. Check links to CLIO for locations of print sources (most found in Butler Reference).

Cambridge Collections Online  gives full text access to collections of accessible introductory essays in a variety of subject and topic areas, among them Aphra Behn, Early Modern Philosophy, and Feminist Theology.

Companion to Early Modern Women's Writing brings together the work of 24 scholars in the field of Early Modern English Literature, with a focus on women writers. The book covers individual texts and their contexts, examining genre, theory, history, historiography, and more.

Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture  collects essays on key texts and themes related to English Renaissance literature and culture, and how key developments in culture influenced literary production. The book's final section considers debates around feminism, sexuality, and race in Renaissance Studies.

Companion to the Reformation World brings together 29 scholarly essays on "the workings of religious reform in all areas of Latin Christendom and beyond to include Eastern as well as Western Europe, Asia, and the Americas," spanning the late fifteenth to the middle of the eighteenth centuries.

Companion to Tudor Britain collects essays by a range of scholars on political, geographical, economical, social, intellectual, and religious themes and debates  in the history of the British Isles in the Tudor era, from 1480 to 1603.

Companion to Stuart Britain collects essays by a range of scholars on political, geographical, economical, social, intellectual, and religious themes and debates in the history of the British Isles in the Stuart Era, during the "long seventeenth century" from 1603-1714.

Renaissance and Reformation: A Biographical Dictionary covers religios leaders, musicians, writers, scholars, artists, scientists, and other prominent figures in the European Renaissance and Reformation period, with a time span from 1500-1620.

Oxford Reference Online offers full text of 100 searchable reference tools, including subject dictionaries and mythology dictionaries.

Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers (PN481 .E5 1991) provides biographical and bibliographical content on women writers from Europe, as well as some critical commentary, in a two volume set, with conributions from over 200 scholars. 

Encyclopedia of European social history from 1350 to 2000 (Online) (Reference HN373 .E63 2001) includes thoroughly researched entries (with bibliographies) on a wide range of topics, including Childbirth, Imperialism and Gender, Kinship, and Witchcraft.

Encyclopedia of Renaissance Literature (Reference R803 C772) covers literary works, writers, and concepts of the period spanning the years 1500 to 1700. Over 600 entries examine literature of Africa, Americas, China, Europe, India, the Islamic World, Japan, the Jewish Diaspora, and elsewhere. Additional features include a bibliography, chronology, and list of writers arranged by language of composition.

Encyclopedia of the Renaissance (Reference CB361 .E52 1999) gathers, in six volumes, nearly 1200 entries on numerous aspects of Renaissance history and culture, spanning the time period from the mid fourteenth to the early 17th centuries. Conceived and produced in association with the Renaissance Society of America, the encyclopedia includes some color illustrations, as well as maps, bibliographical references, and an index.


Finding Articles

Search these databases for articles in journals, magazines, and other periodicals.

Arts and Humanities Citation Index features citations and abstracts for articles from leading journals in the arts and humanities, with some related content from sources in the social sciences and sciences. Coverage spans the early 20th century to the present. Results feature e-links to quickly search CLIO for electronic and print copies.


  • Historical Abstracts offers citations and abstracts for publications relating to world history, excluding the US and Canada, from 1450 to the present.
  • Humanities and Social Sciences Index Retrospective covers a broad range of scholary sources in the humanities and social sciences, with publication dates from 1907 to 1984.
  • Humanities Full Text features citations and abstracts from scholarly sources in the humanities, as well as lesser known specialized magazines. Many of the entries are available in full text. Documents covered include articles, interviews, obituaries, bibliographies, original works of fiction, drama and poetry, book reviews, and reviews of performances, recordings, and films.

FRANCIS provides citations to articles from journals in a variety of subjects in the humanities and social sciences, including archaeology, ethnic studies, history of art, history of science, linguistics, literature, philosophy, prehistory, religions, sociology, and economics. Results feature e-links to quickly search CLIO for electronic and print copies.

Iter:Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance provides citations for scholarly journal articles and book reviews on the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700).

JSTOR includes page images of key scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences, with a particular strength in Languages and Literatures. Coverage spans the mid-19th century to the present.

Project MUSE provides full text scholarly journal articles, with citations and abstracts, from key sources in the humanities, with a special strength in literary studies. Content is updated daily, and coverage is extremely current. You can browse journals by title and discipline, and can also search articles by their assigned Library of Congress Subject Headings.


  • Arts and Humanities Full Text provides full-text access to articles from journals in diverse areas of the arts and humanities, including sources in ethnic studies, women's studies, and other related fields.
  • British Humanities Index offers access to citations from 320 internationally respected humanities journals and weekly magazines published in the UK and other English speaking countries, as well as UK newspapers. Topics covered  include architecture, archaeology, art, antiques, education, economics, foreign affairs, environment, cinema, current affairs, gender studies, history, language, law, linguistics, literature, music, painting, philosophy, poetry, political science, religion, and theatre.
  • MLA International Bibliography features citations and abstracts to scholarly articles on literature, language, linguistics, and folklore from around the world, with e-links to possible full text provided. Sources include periodicals, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations and bibliographies. Coverage spans 1923 to the present.
  • Periodicals Archive Online archives hundreds of digitized journals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.


Primary Sources: Early Modern England

CORSAIR is the online catalog of Pierpont Morgan Library (located in New York City). It is also the gateway to online research resources focusing on the Library's collections, comprising detailed descriptions and bibliographies of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and guides to the collections for researchers. 

Digital Public Library of America contains millions of items - photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others.

Early English Books Online contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere, from 1473-1700. Through the Text Creation Partnership, users can search the full text of these works, viewing transcriptions as well as the original page images. 

Europeana presents a searchable collection of image, text, sound, and video from libraries, museum, archives, and special collections in Europe.

Flickr Commons shares images from several public photography archives around the world, including the British Library.

The Making of the Modern World offers full-text and full-page-image access to books from the 1450-1850 period (and 1851-1914 in Part II) , and pre-1906 serials. The database has a special focus on all aspects of economics.

Medieval POC (Twitter)  and Medieval POC (Tumblr) share images of people of color in European art history, with a focus on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance---images that all too often go unseen, or erased, from museums, libraries, web collections, and other sites of cultural record. The historic focus is toward art dating from the fall of the Roman Empire until about 1650, though the site also plans to include Baroque and Early Modern pieces, as well as works from places other than Europe, Scandinavia and Asia.

NYPL Digital Collections acts as a living database of items digitized from the New York Public Library’s collections. New materials are added every day, among them prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, and streaming video. You can search images (with filters for date, genre, and other key features), or browse by collection.

Perdita offers full access to facsimile images of over 230 manuscripts written or compiled by women living in the British Isle during the 16th and 17th centuries. Contents include account books, advice, culinary writing, meditation, travel writing, and verse. Perdita manuscripts can be indexed by name, place, genre, and first lines of both poetry and prose. Also includes some biographical information on writers. 

(Example: A keyword search with the word "cookery" allows you to see actual cookery books used by early modern women).

Women Writers Online contains full-text editions of more than 100 texts by English and American women published between 1500 and 1830. All works included are searchable in full text. WWO includes introductory essays written by contemporary scholars about Renaissance women writers, their texts, and related topics. The site also offers links to other textual databases, and a collection of syllabi. A project of Northeastern University. 



MEMBD (Medieval and Early Modern Data Bank) makes accessible an expanding library of information in electronic format on the medieval and early modern periods of European history, circa 800-1815 C.E., specifically regarding currency and prices.

People in Place: Families, Households, and Housing in London introduces the methods and findings of a research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, focused on family and household in London in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Key findings, presented as data and narrative, cover such areas as Marriage and Family Formation, Housing and Accomodation, and Environment and Health. 


Writing and Citing

Cite Source from Trinity College Libraries shows you how to cite books, articles, tweets, podcasts, art works, blog posts, and more in th efollowing styles: ACS, APA, APSA, ASA, Chicago, and MLA.

The Craft of Research (ebook, University of Chicago Press, 2008) offers guidelines and tips on all stages of the research process, from turning topics and questions into research problems, choosing and engaging sources, assembling evidence, drafting, revising, and more.

OWL: Purdue University Online Writing Lab provides general and subject specific writing tips and techniques, along with research advice and detailed citation and formatting standards for the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles.

Zotero is a free, open source program that allows you to quickly save, organize, format, and share your bibliographic citations. For extensive tips on installing and using Zotero, consult our Zotero Guide or the Zotero User Guide created by the program's developers.