This post is part of a series of “Resources and Services” posts from the Faculty of Cowles Library.
Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) includes primary source content from over 200,000 books, pamphlets, essays, broadsides, and other documents:
- printed from 1701 to 1800;
- printed in the British Isles, Colonial America, the United States of America (1776-1800), Canada, or British territories, in all languages;
- printed in any other part of the world, wholly or partly in English or other British vernacular.
The foundation of ECCO comprises publications from the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalog (ESTC) project. In 1977, the British Library and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies began a joint project whose aim was “to create a machine-readable union catalogue of books, pamphlets and other ephemeral material printed in English-speaking countries from 1701 to 1800.”  The project was later expanded to digitize and include publications dating back to 1473 (and was renamed the English Short Title Catalog), but the ECCO database contains the ESTC content from 1701-1800.
ECCO presents content as images of original book pages. You can search the text of these pages and download up to 250 pages as PDF files. ECCO contains content supporting research in literature, history, music, religion, medicine, law, linguistics, fine arts, and more.
Like most databases, ECCO provides a Basic and Advanced search. The Basic Search allows you to search for terms in the Keyword, Title, Subject, and Author fields, or within the pages of the documents themselves. You can enter a date limit and choose from one or more subject areas.
The Advanced search allows you to do all of the above, as well as combine terms from different fields, specify additional search fields (e.g., Publisher, Place of Publication), limit by Language, limit by Illustration type, and apply a “Fuzzy Search” option. Fuzzy Search looks for near matches and variant spellings of your search terms. Because of the variant spellings often found in historical documents, as well as the possibility of scanning errors during digitization, we recommend setting Fuzzy Search to at least Low.
Research Tools in ECCO
Be sure to consult ECCO’s Research Tools to explore detailed and carefully crafted Historical Contexts. These documents are essentially entries from reference works on a topic (e.g., French Revolution, War of American Independence, Slavery and the Slave Trade, Enlightenment) that present an overview of the topic within the context of the eighteenth century.
The Key Documents section provides an overview of what you can expect to find on a given topic in ECCO, where the collection’s strengths lie, and a list of important works (including links) in that subject area. Here, for example, is an excerpt from the “History and Geography” Key Document overview:
The history and geography collection, although rich in titles on English life and history, spans the world as it was known to eighteenth-century historians and travelers. It is particularly strong in ancient history, including many editions of Edward Gibbon’s masterpiece, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The user will also find numerous histories of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the nations and states of Europe (with particular strength in histories of the Scandinavian countries), as well as histories of Russia. The collection is strong in titles on the French Revolution, particularly English responses to it.
If you have questions about how to use Eighteenth Century Collections Online, reach out to a librarian.