EEBO Tutorial: Books by printer + publisher

I wrote this tutorial, and another, for my English 411 (Seventeenth Century Literature) students to complete their EEBO Assignment, but both may be useful to others. The  instructions assume that you are logging in to Early English Books Online through your institution; mine is the University of Calgary Library.

Let’s say you want to find all the books by a certain printer or publisher in EEBO. Maybe you’re intellectually curious, or maybe you’re doing Part 2 of your EEBO Assignment for English 411. Either way, here’s how.

The first thing you need is an early printed book. In another tutorial I covered how to find one in EEBO, and used the example of Andrew Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems (1681):

Right at the bottom of the title page, it tells you that the publisher is one Robert Boulter.

But instead of using this example, consider a more complicated one. This is from the 1624 edition of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. Look closely at the bottom of its title page, below the heraldic shield and city of publication (Oxford):

It says, “Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps.” That means Cripps is the publisher, and Lichfield and Short the printers. (A rule of thumb to distinguish between printer and publisher is that if it’s printed “by” John Smith, he’s the printer; if “for” John Smith, he’s the publisher. But for this tutorial, the distinction is immaterial.)

It might make a difference in this assignment; let’s find out. Start from anywhere in EEBO:

On the banner, click Advanced to go to the Advanced Search page, which greatly expands the number of fields you can search:

The field you’re looking for is IMPRINT, about halfway down. Enter one of those three names, checking your spelling carefully:

Then (this is important) limit your dates to a five-year range with the date of your book somewhere in the middle. The Anatomy of Melancholy was published in 1624, so I’ll search for results between 1622 and 1627:

After you click the blue Search button, you’ll get a long list — “59 hits in 59 records” — of books in which anyone with the name of Lichfield appears in the imprint section. You’ll get a shorter list if you go back to the Advanced Search page and enter fewer years (e.g. 1623 to 1626). Item #5 is the book we started with:

We only found it quickly because Burton is near the beginning of the alphabet. Try re-sorting the results by date, if you need to; the default order is author surname.

So John Lichfield got us this list of 59 books, from which we can select a text to compare with ours. Searching for Short (the other printer) gets us many fewer results: 20 hits in 20 records. That means that between 1622 and 1627, James Short printed about a third the number of books than John Lichfield did. Searching for Cripps (the publisher) gets us far fewer: 9 hits in 9 entries.

Let’s see if that pattern repeats. Here are three more random entries from EEBO that contain both printer and publisher information. After each name, I’ve inserted the number of imprints it which it appears between 1622 and 1627:

  • Printed by Humfrey Lownes [57], for Robert Milbourne [66]
  • Printed by C. Boscard [27] for Iohn Heigham [28]
  • Printed by Thomas Dawson [48] for Andrew Hebb [6]

There’s no discernible pattern yet: some printers are more active than their publishers, and some publishers are more active than their printers. So the choice is yours.

What remains to be seen is what kinds of commonalities a printer’s output would have, in comparison to those a publisher’s output would have. That’s an investigation for another day.



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