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Primary Sources | Secondary Sources

Primary Sources: Original Documents in Electronic Format

Ackermann's Repository, or "The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics" (40 volumes, 1809-1828) was an illustrated British periodical published by Rudolph Ackermann. It includes illustrations of furniture, interiors, architecture, fashion, sporting life, and more. The Internet Archive provides full text of the copy owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. See (1809) vol. 1, (1809) vol. 2, (1810) vol. 3, etc.

American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement, produced by the Wisconsin Historical Society, provides full text for over 150 books, manuscripts and travel narratives dating from 1000 to 1844. Images are searchable independently.

American Memory compiled by the Library of Congress National Digital Library, is a gateway to primary source materials regarding the history of the United States. Over nine million items are available through this project, and the ability to keyword search across all collections is available. Examples of specific collections follow. For broadsides and printed ephemera, see An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and other Printed Ephemera. For 19th century periodicals, see The Nineteenth Century in Print: The Making of America in Books and Periodicals. For over 100 pamphlets and books concerning the experiences of slaves in the American Colonies and the United States, see Slaves and the Courts: 1740-1860. The Library of Congress also has a number of online exhibitions.

Colonial Connecticut Records (1636-1776) provides access to the public records of the Colony of Connecticut, including wills and inventories.

Curtis's Botanical Magazine (1801-1920) and its predecessor The Botanical Magazine (1787-1800) are available online through the Biodiversity Heritage Library. In addition, the Rare Books Collection of the USDA National Agricultural Library provides selected plates online from Curtis and other early natural history publications.

Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture Electronic Facsimiles is a collection of digitized texts from the University of Wisconsin Libraries and the Chipstone Foundation. [BROWSE] [SEARCH] [ABOUT] [SUBJECT GUIDES]

Documenting the American South from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a collection of digitized primary source materials focusing on Southern history and culture. Although not specifically concerned with the decorative arts, this site is useful for the history and literature of the area.

Dominy Craftsmen Collection provides digitized archival documents (accounts, letters, receipts), along with articles, a videotaped symposium at the East Hampton Historical Society, and more, relating to the Dominy family of East Hampton, New York. Three generations of Dominys functioned as craftsmen from ca. 1760 to ca. 1850. Their work included producing tall case clocks and furniture, repairing thousands of pocket watches, and supplying agricultural tools to farmers in East Hampton township.

Eighteenth-Century E-Texts is a listing of publicly available electronic texts, maintained by Prof. Jack Lynch of Rutgers University. Browse list by author name.

Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers of Diderot and d'Alembert (1751-1772), the massive reference work of French Enlightenment knowledge in 17 volumes of text and 11 volumes of plates, is available in a searchable online version under the auspices of the ARTFL Project. To browse a list of all illustrations: (1) select "advanced search," (2) in the "type of entry" box type: plate_legend, (3) hit search. Alternatively, add additional French search terms, e.g. meubles (for furniture), for focused results. Some of the Encyclopedie is also available in English at a companion project in process. See the collaborative translation website.

Le Garde-meuble, ancien et moderne (Furniture Repository, Ancient and Modern) was a 19th-early 20th century French periodical consisting entirely of illustrations of designs for furniture, window treatments and room settings. This online document presents the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' nearly complete set of the early (1841-1851) issues.

Selections from Godey's Lady's Book are available via a University of Vermont website. UW-Madison researchers have access to a licensed version (Godey's Lady's Book 1830-55).

Excerpts from A Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones (London, 1856) are provided by James Rowan, Boston College. Also see the online full text version of a 1910 edition at: A second text by Owen Jones, "Examples of Chinese Ornament," is at

Historical Maps of Pennsylvania presents maps of Pennsylvania from the 16th through the 20th centuries. The quality of the digital images varies.

Internet Archive's Ebooks and Texts is a searchable database of digitized books dating as early as 1800, from libraries including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, and the Winterthur Museum. For example, see "The Footman's Directory and Butler's Remembrancer" (1823).

Internet Library of Early Journals provides full text for large runs of 18th and 19th century British journals including the Annual Register, The Builder, Gentleman's Magazine and others.

Internet Modern History Sourcebook, edited by Paul Halsall of Fordham University, is a metasite for history documents. The site provides links to publicly available historical texts. The texts are not specifically concerned with decorative arts but are useful for historical perspective and context. Information on the Internet History Sourcebook Project is available at

London Lives 1690 to 1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis is a searchable edition of 240,000 archival manuscripts. The documentary material enables reconstruction of the lives of thousands of 18th century Londoners, including artisans and tradesmen. Browse biographies compiled from the data.

Making of America is a collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Cornell University to provide primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. Over 10,000 books are included.

MESDA Craftsman Database is a collection of primary source information on 85,000 artisans practising 127 trades in the early South.

Plymouth Colony Archive Project provides access to court records, colony laws, 17th century journals and memoirs, probate inventories, wills, town plans, maps, and more.

Probate Inventory Database, Gunston Hall Plantation provides transcriptions of over 300 Virginia and Maryland probate inventories between 1740-1810.

Winterthur Museum Library's online collection of trade and retail catalogs can be browsed by subject via the Internet Archive.

NOTE: UW-Madison students have access to many licensed sources. See the Material Culture at UW section of this site for suggestions of databases including 18th e-books, letters and diaries, more.

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Secondary Sources: Journals and More

African-American Archaeology Newsletter provides full text online articles for 1994-2000 issues.

American Art, published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum includes tables of contents online. Those with access to (licensed) JSTOR may get full text.

American Antiquity is the principal journal for the Society of American Archaeology. Tables of contents from 1995, with abstracts from 1999 to present, are available. Journal is included full text in (licensed) JSTOR.

American Furniture, published yearly by the Chipstone Foundation, provides full text online for articles from 1993-2001, with selected full text in recent issues.

American Historical Review (1895-present) is the journal of the American Historical Association. Tables of contents and some full text are publicly available. See the Archive of All Online Content. Also available in (licensed) JSTOR.

Antiques and the Arts is a weekly newsletter for the arts and antiques market, primarily concerned with American and decorative art. Selections from the newsletter and a calendar of events are available through the site.

Ceramics in America, published yearly by the Chipstone Foundation, provides full text online for most articles from 2001-7, with selected full text in more recent issues.

Common-Place, sponsored by the American Antiquarian Association, is an interactive journal for the exploration of early American life. Published quarterly. The "Object Lessons" subsection focuses on material culture.

Folk Art (formerly The Clarion), published by the American Folk Art Museum between 1971 and 2008, provides full text online for all issues.

Journal of American History, published by the Organization of American Historians, provides selected articles and other content online. Full text is included in (licensed) JSTOR.

Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts is published by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at Old Salem. This is a scholarly, refereed e-journal presenting new research about the decorative arts and material culture of the American South prior to 1860. Full text is available.

Journal of Material Culture contains tables of contents and abstracts from 1996 to current issue. Full text is available in UW-Madison licensed databases.

Maine Antique Digest is a print publication for the art and antiques market with an online supplement. Access to some information may require registration and/or a print subscription.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography is a scholarly journal published quarterly by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania since 1877. Full text issues from 1907-2005 are publicly available.

Resource Library, from the Traditional Fine Arts Organization, is a collection of online articles and essays dealing with American representational visual arts, including decorative arts.

Silver Magazine provides tables of contents for issues from 1968-present.

Studies in the Decorative Arts (1993-2009), from the Bard Graduate Center, provides tables of contents online. This journal ceased and was replaced by West 86th (see below).

West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, begun in 2011 by the Bard Graduate Center, consists of a print edition and an online version with selected content.

William and Mary Quarterly, a journal devoted to early American history, published by the Omohundro Institute, provides tables of contents online for issues from 1945-present. Full text is available via (licensed) JSTOR.

Winterthur Portfolio: A Journal of American Material Culture provides tables of contents online. Full text is available via (licensed) JSTOR.

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