Digital American Literature Collections

This page is devoted to American Literature Collections that gather a wide range of electronic texts. No author-based archives are included in this list.

  • Making of America Books–The cooperative agreement between the Mellon Foundation, Library of Congress, and University of Michigan and University of Cornell. Michigan holds the books. It currently contains “9,900 books with 19th century imprints.” Texts include uncorrected OCR transcriptions, such as they are, and digital images of microfilm. Texts include provenance, the source for the transcription.
  • Wright American Fiction, 1851-1875–This collection, in which there are “currently 2,887 volumes included (1,763 unedited, 1,124 fully edited and encoded) by 1,456 authors” is all fiction. Most transcriptions are uncorrected OCR, but some have been corrected. Most texts include transcriptions and digital images. Texts include provenance, the source for the transcription, typically the first edition.
  • University of Virginia Early American Fiction–The EAF covers 1789-1875. Many of these texts are literary. The free sub-set includes 158 volumes by 58 authors. Many texts include color digital page images. The Chadwyck-Healey set, available through library subscriptions, includes 886 volumes by 136 authors. Texts include provenance, the source for the OCR transcription, typically the first edition.
  • Documenting the American South at UNC–This collection, which includes over 1,000 titles, includes a helpful thematic guide. Texts are of varying types, including sermons, reports, autobiographies, fictional monographs, poetry, etc. Texts include provenance, the source for the OCR transcription, typically the first edition.
  • Project Gutenberg–This collection, which includes almost 1,500 titles in its American Literature section, includes much fiction and poetry from the 19th Century. No images. The quality of the transcriptions is uneven. Information on provenance is typically not included.
  • The Internet Archive–A cooperative agreement between California, Canadian, and British Universities and a collection of technology companies including Yahoo! and Adobe, the Internet Archive provides OCR for a wide range of texts. This is a rapidly expanding resources.
  • Google Books–A cooperative agreement between Google and a big pile of libraries, Google Books provides OCR for a wide range of texts. This is a rapidly expanding resources.
  • Oxford Text Archive–A major source for texts from multiple languages and literatures. The American literature is thin versus British, but a number of classic nineteenth-century works are present, among them Washington Irving, the James brothers, Horatio Alger, Louisa May Alcott, Ambrose Bierce, Federalist Papers, Benjamin Franklin, D. H. Lawrence, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, Edith Wharton, and Mark Twain. The text is usually based on a reputable edition. The quality of textual transcriptions is probably higher, and multiple versions may be available. This site has a spare user interface because texts are deposited for interest of scholarly researchers (if text is in XML, write your own stylesheet to display in HTML!). Women writers, African American writers, and other recent emphases in the canon of American literature are poorly represented. For example, one won’t find texts by Zitkala Sa, Charles W. Chesnutt, Frederick Douglass, Pauline Hopkins, Susan Warner, or Fanny Fern.

For a more comprehensive survey of digital literature collections, see the survey of Digital American Literature from CLIR.

Should you trust these sites? See another of my pages, Reliability of Electronic Texts.

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One Response to Digital American Literature Collections

  1. Pingback: The Digital Archive and Literary Scholarship: Textual Collation for Dummies « Wesley Raabe’s Blog

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