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Primary Sources | Secondary Sources

Primary Sources: Original Documents in Electronic Format

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 Botanical Magazine (1787-1807) is an online version of the first 26 volumes of this journal, presented by the National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA. This searchable site provides 1,048 plates and 1,456 pages of text.

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.

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 (in process of digitization) of primary source information on 80,000 artisans practising 127 trades in the early South. Only the index is currently available.

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.

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Secondary Sources: Journals and More

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

American Art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum includes full text or abstracts of the current issue, as well as indexes to past issues. Those with access to (licensed) JSTOR may have complete 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 1993-2000, and selected full text in recent issues. Additional online access is provided as permissions are obtained.

American Historical Review is the journal of the American Historical Association. Tables of contents and the most recent issue are publicly available. Full text of back issues is available in (licensed) JSTOR.

Antiques and the Arts Online is a newsletter for the arts and antiques market, primarily concerned with American art and decorative art. Articles, book reviews, a calendar of events and an on-line discussion forum are available through the site.

Ceramics in America, published yearly by the Chipstone Foundation, provides full text online for most articles from 2001-4, with selected full text more recently. Additional online access is provided as permissions are obtained.

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 provides selected articles 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. Recent issues display tables of contents. Issues from 1907-2003 are publicly available in full text through the Penn State University Libraries' digital collections. Full text is also available in (licensed) JSTOR.

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 browsable/searchable tables of contents for issues from 1968-present.

Studies in the Decorative Arts (1993-2009), from Bard Graduate Center, provides tables of contents online. This journal ceased and is being replaced by West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, beginning in 2011.

William and Mary Quarterly, a journal devoted to early American history to 1820, published by the Omohundro Institute, provides tables of contents online from 1999-present and full text of book reviews. Full text is available via (licensed) JSTOR.

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

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