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FTS: Nero – Emperor, Artist, and Anti-Christ: Finding Primary Sources

Primary Sources Authors for Nero

Note: Translations of these three authors can be accessed in a variety of ways, both in print and online. One option is to search for them in the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University. We will also have scholarly translations of them as part of the Loeb Classical Library, housed in the PA section of the stacks. There are older translations available through a variety of online databases, some of which are listed in the boxes below.

Tacitus, Annals
Suetonius, Lives of the Roman Emperors
Cassius Dio


Primary Source Databases Online

Some databases include only the translated and transcribed text of the primary source documents. Others include scans of the original document (sometimes called a facsimile), which show the page layout and the typeface used. Some, like Britannica Original Sources, will show both views.

Both are acceptable to use, but you might prefer one over the other. Resources that have the text transcribed allow you to do a text search, and can be easier to read than some older typefaces. Those that show the original format allow you to see how the document looks, and imagine what it might have been like to read it during the time it was created.

Sometimes transcriptions will retain the original spelling of the document, which can be hard to read. Try reading the text out loud, it can take some time to get used to the differences from modern English.

Also, check our Guide to Primary Sources to find out how you can meet the primary sources "in person"!


WHO: ARTstor, a non-profit organization that builds and distributes the Digital Library, an online resource of more than 2 million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences.

WHAT: ARTstor Digital Library is a subscription database providing over 1.5 million digital images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences, with a suite of software tools for teaching and research. Includes material from international museums, photographers, libraries, scholars, photo archives, and artists and artists' estates.

WHY IS THIS USEFUL: ARTstor offers you access to digital scans of art works from across the centuries, including medieval and Renaissance artists and art works.

Early English Books Online (EEBO)

WHO: ProQuest, a large publishing company that used to produce a very "vintage" technology called microform for universities, and now owns and licenses access to many databases.

WHAT: Digital facsimile images of nearly 100,000 books in English printed between 1473 and 1700 - virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America, plus works in English printed elsewhere.

Texts range from the first book printed in English by William Caxton through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the English Civil War. Included are works by Malory, Bacon, More, Erasmus, Boyle, Newton, Galileo; musical exercises by Henry Purcell; novels by Aphra Behn; prayer books, pamphlets, and proclamations; almanacs, calendars, and many other primary sources.

WHY IS THIS USEFUL: Want to read a book from the 15th to the 17th centuries? (And not just the text, but images of the actual pages of the books) For most people, EEBO is the easiest and fastest way. The site lets you download a PDF of entire books, or a selection of a book.

1) ProQuest digitized straight from microform; think 1970s photocopier and you have an idea of the image quality.
2) You are looking at images of books that are hundreds of years old. Prior to the late 16th century, nearly all English books were printed in Gothic rather than Roman type. The spelling of English words was not standardized until the mid-17th century, and of course the meanings and usages of words have also changed over time.
3) Because the type is unusual, it is difficult to use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to create a machine-readable text.

A screenshotted image of the title page of a parliamentary announcement of laws during the reign of Henry VIII. The page features both Roman and Gothic style text which tapers to a point as it nears the bottom of the page.

Early English Books Online - Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP)

WHO: A consortium of universities that partner with ProQuest to produce machine-readable texts of early English books on EEBO.

WHAT: A database of machine-readable texts, with 34,963 texts digitized as of 2020. The consortium prioritized digitizing primarily those texts listed in The New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature.

WHY IS THIS USEFUL: Making the text machine-readable allows you to do a full-text search, among other things. You also don't need to be able to read gothic letters in order to read this.

OBSTACLES: The spelling/orthography of the text is as-is without any editing to modernize the spelling. Words will be spelled significantly differently than they are today. For example:

"Iohan Froyssart [...] Tra[n]slated out of frenche into our maternall englysshe tonge, by Iohan Bourchier knight lorde Berners." (link)

LUNA: Folger Digital Image Collection

LUNA is the home of the digital collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. The Folger Shakespeare Library contains one of the largest collections of manuscripts from early modern England outside of Great Britain. This is a great place to see letters, diaries, legal documents, recipes, and much more. You can also learn paleography -- the study of handwriting -- and volunteer to help the Folger transcribe manuscripts by participating in their monthly transcribathons.

Receipt book of Margaret Baker [manuscript] ca. 1675?.

About Special Collections and Rare Books (SCRB)

The Special Collections and Rare Books Room

Our Special Collections are housed on the second (main) floor, in the room next to the computer lab. Check with the reference librarian or the College Archives (third floor) for access to these materials, Monday-Friday, 8am-4:30pm. Although these items cannot be checked out, anyone is free to take a peek (or a long stare) at our collections. You can search the collection by adding "b8:special" to your catalog search.

Currently, there are approximately 1,000 cataloged items in Special Collections, ranging from the medieval period to political cartoons. The oldest item in our collection is a manuscript page from the 1100s. The main focus of our Special Collections is on works printed before 1850, although we have more recent items too. Some highlights from the collection include: illuminated manuscript pages from the 1100s, 1200s, and 1400s, the Gustav Vasa Bible, The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition, first and unique edition copies of numerous works, and signed copies from other authors as diverse as Richard Nixon and André Malraux.

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