VRW: Printed Sources

Victoria Research

Printed Sources: Libraries, Serials, Books

Research Guides and Works of Reference

Sharon W. Propas's Victorian Studies: A Research Guide (second edition, 2006; republished by Routledge, 2017), provides valuable descriptive listings of many reference resources, including specialist bibliographies, from a cross-disciplinary perspective. Aimed at helping graduate students plan their research projects, the Propas guide updates and supplements Lionel Madden's classic How to Find Out About the Victorian Period (Oxford: Pergamon, 1970). One of the best starting-places is Sally Mitchell, Editor, Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland, 1988), which contains articles on a wide range of topics, each of which lists suggested books for further reading. Good reference books for literary topics include John Sutherland's incomparably witty and erudite Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction (Stanford: 1988) and Blackwell's (now Wiley's) Companion to Victorian Literature (New York, 1998), edited by Herbert Tucker. The past ten years have seen a boom in the publication of other "companions" and "encyclopedias," most of them devoted to individual authors (Dickens, Trollope, Carlyle, etc.) These volumes are often of very high calibre, indeed, with articles by experts that draw upon a wide range of recent scholarship.

Two pioneering Victorianists, Sally Mitchell and Rosemary Van Arsdel, contributed research guides to this site years ago, and although they are obviously outdated in some respects, there remains much in them that is useful. In Doing Research in Victorian Fiction: Historical, Critical, and Reference Sources Professor Mitchell put this extensive bibliography together for her graduate course in women's fiction for the period 1875-1900. In addition to its specific sections on women and fiction, the guide provides helpfully annotated entries for reference sources of essential importance to all researchers in Victorian history and culture.  Aids to Research in British Victorian Periodical Literature: A Selected Bibliography, from Professor Van Arsdel,  lists biographical sources, histories of individual periodicals, and critical commentaries.

Prominent among essential reference resources is of course that monument to Victorian industry, the Dictionary of National Biography. In 2004 appeared the long-awaited Oxford DNB, which brings online 55,000 specially commissioned new entries as well as revised editions of all original entires (which remain, however, readily available), and including a great many illustrations. Searchable in all sorts of useful ways, this magnificent resource should any Victorianist's first stop for biographical information.

The task of editing and annotating a 19th-century text usually means tracking down allusions and quotations by the score. Some electronic resources, like the subscription-only English Poetry from ProQuest (formerly English Poetry Full-Text Database) and the free online version of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable can be a big help. But printed sources are still essential to the task, and a fine guide to those sources can be found in George Thomson's bibliography of resources for identifying quotations and allusions, which he has generously made available exclusively to the VRW as an aid to fellow scholars.

Parliamentary papers are a world unto themselves, but one that can yield very useful results to the determined researcher. Do not neglect Hansard, which is now available for free online, and entirely searchable, though clumsy to navigate.  "Blue Books," or the reports of Parliamentary committees investigating various social problems, are among the most revealing of all products of Victorian culture. The Hansard at Huddersfield site offers a very useful way to explore these records from a variety of angles.  Also be sure to check out The Victorian Commons, which features research about the careers of MPs who served between 1832 and 1868. 

For information about selected research guides that deal primarily with the manuscript holdings in libraries and other places, please refer to the listings in the "Archival Sources" section of VRW.


Not all material of 19th-century interest, of course, has been catalogued. Various projects have been begun in Britain in recent years to catalogue rare materials from many libraries. The 19th-Century British Pamphlets Project, for example, first created in 2007-09, incorporates digitized version of 26,000 pamphlets from seven major collections, while now also compiling some 180,000 catalog records for pamphlets held within 21 research libraries. The site also features Laurel Brake's introductory essay and bibliography.

An important tool for Victorianists, but one that must be used with caution, is the Nineteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue (NSTC), Series I & II, 1801-1870, and Series III, 1871-1919, a union catalogue of titles published during this period in Britain, its colonies and the USA held in the British Library, the Bodleian, the University Library, Cambridge, the National Library of Scotland, Trinity College Library, Dublin, the University Library in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Harvard University Library and the Library of Congress. The database includes over 1,200,000 records. Originally available on CD from its creators, Avero Publications, it is now offered through Chadwyck-Healey, which is owned by ProQuest. Essential reading for scholars wanting to use the NSTC to arrive at conclusions about the quantity of particular types of books published during the 19th century is Simon Eliot's influential two-part analysis published in the journal Publishing History in 1997-98: Simon Eliot, `Patterns and Trends and the NSTC: some initial observations' Part I, Publishing History, XLII (Autumn 1997), 79-104; and Simon Eliot, `Patterns and Trends and the NSTC: some initial observations' Part II, Publishing History, XLIII (Spring 1998) 71-112.

The British Library

The British Library in its splendid modern quarters in St. Pancras lies at the center of many researchers' plans, and with good reason--its collections are incomparable. Advance preparations for your visit, especially if you haven't used the BL before, will help you to make the most of the experience. Access to the collections requires that you present a "reader pass" (what for a century and a half or so was called a "reader's ticket") for admission to any of the Reading Rooms. This includes manuscripts; unlike in the old Reading Room, you no longer need a separate pass for working with archival material. Obtaining a reader pass is a fairly straightforward process. Simply follow the signs in the lobby to the registration office (off to your right as you enter the lobby), fill out the application form, and join the queue. You must demonstrate that the materials needed can only be obtained at the British Library, a process that entails being interviewed by Library staff. Faculty and graduate students ("postgrads," in British parlance) need to bring a recommendation letter on their university's stationery from "someone in authority" there confirming the name and status of the applicant and briefly outlining the reasons for needing to use the BL. Bring your student ID if you have one, but in any case you'll need two current forms of identification--recent utility bills with your name and address seem to be the preferred method--to apply for your first pass or to renew an old one. The reader pass you'll wind up with (pink, with a magnetic strip, a photo that they'll take right there in the office, and a number you'll need to use to order books with) is good for up to three years. Enquiries about obtaining reader passes can be made by e-mail to Reader Admissions.

If you're primarily interested in looking at manuscripts, here's an additional precaution: try to bring a recommendation letter from someone (colleague, advisor) that specifically mentions the manuscripts or at least the manuscript collection that you need to see. Although you can't tell this ahead of time, some mss. turn out, when you order them, to be classified in such a way that your reader pass alone won't allow them to be brought to you, and only a note from some other scholar will suffice.

The most powerful tool available to BL users around the world is the new British Library Integrated Catalogue, a web interface to all of the library's catalogues that allows across-the-board searches as well as ordering of photocopies. In preparing to visit you can write in advance to request that as many as six items from the collection be held for you on the date you arrive. With so much material still stored offsite, requesting materials in advance can save valuable time. In making up your request, be sure to include all relevant pressmarks and identification numbers for each item, exactly as listed in the catalogue. You must also tell the librarians which reading room you will be using. Many Victorianists will be obliged to divide their time between the Humanities Reading Rooms, at which you can get post-1851 books, and the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, where you must go to read pre-1851 monographs. (Pre-1851 periodicals will for the time being be available at either room.) Finally, include the number of your reader pass. Enquiries can be sent by e-mail to Reader Services or by post or fax to:

Readers' Enquiries
The British Library
96 Euston Road, St. Pancras
London NW1 2DB
United Kingdom
tel: +44 171 412-7676
fax: +44 171 412-7609

The Library's reading rooms are open from 10:00 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Monday, 9:30 to 8 Tuesday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. til 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; the Manuscripts Reading Room closes at 5 p.m. M-S. It's a good idea to get there early--with the new rules allowing admission to undergraduates, seats fill up quickly, especially during holidays like Easter vacation. Arriving at the front of the building that faces Euston Road, enter the library by crossing the plaza dominated by the muscular naked man who is bent over double (aka Blake's "Newton") and going through the quick security check of your bag. Once inside, nip around downstairs to the right to deposit any bags or coats in the cloakroom. Your own bags are not allowed in the reading rooms, so you'll have to carry your notebooks and pencils loose in your hands or else pick up one of the clear plastic "British Library" bags stacked on a ledge across from the cloakroom. (If there aren't any plastic bags left, request one from the cloakroom attendant.) Laptop computers can be brought in, of course, and the new facilities have many electrical outlets for them. Use your reader's ticket to go through the automatic gates and proceed upstairs to the "Humanities One" Reading Room or the Rare Books and Music Reading Room.

Once in the Reading Room, the first thing you need to do is locate a seat, make a note of the number, and somehow mark it to show that it's occupied while you go in search of an unoccupied catalogue terminal. Readers no longer write up slips to order books and, conversely, Library staff no longer deliver books to one's desk. Instead, sit down at a terminal and order your selections via the online catalogue; as part of this process you will need to key in your ticket number and seat number. Return to your seat, and wait for the light to come on indicating that your books have arrived; this waiting period is why it's a good idea to order some materials in advance of your visit.

The BL is aiming for a 30-minute wait on books, but many will take much longer to arrive. Last call for requests is an hour before closing. Queue up at the Issue Desk to get your books (no more than six at one time); when done, queue up at the Issue Desk to return them. You don't get any kind of receipts for the books you turn in, so make your own record of them if you need one; up to six books at a time can be held for you overnight. The Library's Manuscripts Reading Room follows a very orderly set of procedures: after consulting the catalogue on a terminal, you fill in slips with the citation and your seat number and place them in the basket at the front desk. The manuscripts are then brought to your table. It is at this point that you may be told that the manuscript you have requested requires special clearance; have your letter from an advisor or colleague ready to show. Up to three manuscripts can be ordered in advance of your visit.

Among the many pertinent collections of the British Library, Victorianists will take special interest in the British Printed Collections, 1801-1914 that include online collections of newspapers, periodicals, and ephemera. The library has long been engaged in an ambitious project to reproduce its rarest 19th-century materials on microfilm, now in association with ProQuest. More than 28,000 19th-century titles are now on microfiche, divided into such subject areas as women writers, colonization, and publishing. A new website enables scholars to search the catalogue of the collection.


"In the case of the nineteenth century," wrote Richard Altick, "one cannot possibly understand the spirit of the age without being saturated with the spirit of its periodicals." As John North has written, "Most of the eminent poets, novelists, and essayists were primarily known through the periodical literature of the time. The newly-literate classes found their reading material in this medium, such that periodicals (whether religious, political, mercantile, professional or scholarly) became a primary source of entertainment, instruction, information, and news, and an important means of social bonding." Rosemary T. VanArsdel's Selected Bibliography, while dated, is prefaced by a helpful overview and history of research in this vital area of study. A more detailed and up-to-date bibliography is compiled and published by the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals.

The Victorian Periodicals Review has long been the journal of record in this exciting and rapidly expanding field of study. The VPR has published the RSVP bibliography for many years, first annually and, more recently, every two years; the installments since 1999 are already accessible in digital form, and others are planned.  Since 2009, the VPR has been published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and is available through Project Muse. All serious students of 19th-century media should consider joining RSVP, which offers an impressive assortment of grants and fellowships to support research in this field, and sponsors a lively annual conference. RSVP also hosts a Facebook Group open to anyone interested in the 19th-century press.

The indispensable source for the study of the major Victorian magazines and reviews is, of course, the venerable Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 (5 volumes, Toronto, 1966-89), one of the 20th century's great feats of collaborative scholarship. The intensive research that went into the Wellesley revealed the identities of thousands of the men and women who wrote for some of the most prominent magazines, for the first time matching articles with their authors. Most research libraries will have a copy of this five-volume masterpiece in their reference rooms. In 1999, Routledge created a searchable CD-ROM version of the Wellesley that has long since been supplanted by a more versatile (but still somewhat clumsy) online version available from ProQuest. The working documents left behind in the Wellesley College Archive by the Wellesley Index's team of scholars remain a treasure-trove of unpublished information; see the finding guide here.

Many corrections and additions to the Wellesley Index have come to light since the last volume of the Index appeared in 1989. The Curran Index was the first online compilation and continuation of attribution research carried out by the late Eileen Curran. Since 2013, under the guidance first of Dr. Gary Simons and then of Drs. Lars Atkin and Emily Bell, the Curran Index has made the latest discoveries about Victorian periodical authorship available in readily searchable database form. The Curran Index has expanded enormously in recent years, and now incorporates many titles not covered by the original Wellesley volumes, including such mainstays of Victorian middle-class reading as weeklies like Punch, Saturday Review, Athenaeum, and Once a Week, while also including attributions to poetry, which was not part of the Wellesley. As of 2021, the Curran Index had documented 168,000 periodical contributions by over 3300 authors, 1800 of whom did not appear at all in the Wellesley. It also includes listings for over 10,000 poems that had appeared in Victorian periodicals, and over 1,000 identified writers of verse. Unlike the online Wellesley Index, the Curran Index, which is supported by RSVP, is completely free to use. If you are trying to find out who wrote something in a Victorian periodical, or trying to find out what a particular author may have written for periodicals, the Curran Index should be at the top of your list (along with the Wellesley if you can find it) of places to check.

Professor Curran, part of the original Wellesley team of scholars, also made use of her extensive research notes and ongoing scholarly detective work to bring us "Biographies of Some Obscure Contributors to 19th-century Periodicals", which sought to shed new light on some of the darker recesses of Victorian authorship. New entries will be added in the future from notes that Professor Curran left behind, and from contributions volunteered by other scholars

Another vital and monumental resource in this area is the Waterloo Directory of English, Irish, and Scottish newspapers and periodicals published between 1800 and 1900, a vast ongoing project. Created, edited, and published by John North, the directory offers incomparably extensive bibliographical information to researchers. For anyone who needs to know when a 19th-century magazine or newspaper was published, what copies survive, and who published, edited, and wrote for it, the Waterloo Directory should be the first port of call. The third series now features no fewer than 73,000 entries, and is available in both print form (20 volumes) and in an online edition. This enormous storehouse now includes, among its 68,000 personal names, the names of all persons in the original DNB or Modern English Biography who were in any way associated with periodicals, as well as scans of some 23,000 title pages. Alas, like so many important resources, it is currently available only through institutional subscriptions.

To locate copies of many of these titles, North American researchers will also want to consult Richard D. Fulton's Union list of Victorian serials; a union list of selected nineteenth-century British serials available in the United States and Canadian libraries. (Garland, 1985). See also Richard Altick's elegant 1952 essay about the Newberry Library's extensive collection of Victorian periodicals. 

Poole's Index to the contents of 19th-century American and British periodicals has long been an idiosyncratic but essential reference tool for locating articles on particular subjects. There is of course a subscription version by the ubiquitous ProQuest (check with your nearest research library), but digital facsimiles of the original volumes, and their supplements, can be found on HathiTrust and Internet Archive. Many scholars will find useful Michael Hancher's listing of British periodicals to 1850 at the University of Minnesota library.

For scholars working on the perennially fascinating topic of the publication and reception of fiction in 19th-century periodicals, the Victorian Fiction Research Guides, under the guidance of the estimable Andrew King, are a key resource. In addition to indexes devoted to authors who published much of their work in periodicals, the guides include indexes to fiction in such titles as:

The Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism (2009) follows in the honored tradition of ambitious, collaborative reference works in this field, with hundreds of entries on titles, editors, contributors, and other aspects of the Victorian press. Edited by Alexis Easley, Andrew King, and John Morton the Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-century Periodicals and Newspapers represents a huge step forward for Victorianists everywhere in our study of this burgeoning field.

The digital revolution, part 1

Indices and listings are essential research tools for studying Victorian periodicals, but what about direct access to the texts themselves? The pioneering Internet Library of Early Journals project created a digitized, searchable collection of portions of selected 18th- and 19th-century periodicals, freely accessible via the Web. Notes and Queries, 1849-58, and Blackwoods, 1843-51, and The Builder, 1843-1852, were the Victorian titles available in this way. The site is now archived and inoperative, though with links to other resources.  Although the project was limited in scope, the newfound ability to search the texts of thousands of articles in these periodicals represented an important step forward. The ILEJ's larger U.S. counterpart, the "Making of America" collection of 19th-century periodicals (many of which contain excerpts from British magazines) also demonstrated how useful uncorrected OCR texts of these sources, linked to page-images, could be.

With such projects as prologue, access to 19th-century periodicals have in the past ten years made a revolutionary advance. Gale Cengage has been digitizing complete 19th-century runs of hundreds of titles, modeled on their pioneering Times Digital Archive, offering institutional subscribers access to the full text of the London Times. This stunningly ambitious project, called 19th Century U.K. Periodicals Online, has enormous potential for the future of Victorian Studies. The project is comprised of five series covering many genres and themes; the first installment of the series, for example, covering women, satire, empire, and children, includes such titles as the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, Punch, Tomahawk, the Northern Star, and the Boy's Own Paper, along with many less familiar ones, the whole comprising some 1.2 million pages.

A similar initiative came from ProQuest, Gale's arch-rival as publishers of digitized primary sources and works of reference. ProQuest has digitized hundreds of British periodicals published between the 17th and the early 20th centuries, as part of its British Periodicals collection. Among the first titles included in British Periodicals II have been such influential Victorian periodicals as Bentley's, Temple Bar, the Fortnightly, the Athenaeum, and Blackwood's;recent additions include the Saturday Review and the Westminster Review. The Victorian titles are included in a new compendium called C19: The Nineteenth-Century Index, which includes the subject index to the Parliamentary Papers (themselves available from ProQuest as a standalone full-text collection), the Nineteenth-Century Short-Title Catalogue, the Wellesley Index, the Curran Index, and the Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism ; the DNCJ is also available in a hardcopy edition.

Non-profit initiatives, meanwhile, continue to forge ahead in this area. The Nineteenth-Century Serials Project has digitized six influential and representative periodicals -- Monthly Repository, Northern Star, Englishwoman's Review, Leader, Tomahawk, and Publishers' Circular -- in fully encoded, annotated, and complete editions (multiple editions of each title, for example, are included) that will allow extremely sophisticated kinds of searching unavailable to most mass digitization projects. This project made its debut in the spring of 2008.

Digitized volumes of many titles are now available online through a combination of Google Books, HathiTrust, Internet Archive, and various curated collections.  This still-growing list of open-access 19th-century periodicals has been  gathered together using the list of serials generated by John Mark Ockerbloom and his team at Penn. 

In 2012 Dickens Journals Online at the University of Buckingham was completed, in time to celebrate the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth. This project offers free access to a searchable text of two journals famously "conducted by" Dickens: Household Words (1850-59) and All the Year Round (1859-1870). All of the OCR'd text in this edition has been manually corrected by a crew of dedicated volunteers to ensure maximum accuracy in digital searching, while of course the page-images are available for browsing, as well. This project, still adding features and soliciting feedback from users, is a boon to all students of Dickens and of Victorian periodicals. The 2015 discovery of a marked set of All the Year Round has raised hopes that its trove of information about the authorship of contributions to that important journal will ultimately be made available through DJO.

Victorian magazines and newspapers that have survived to the present day have often resisted licensing their old numbers to companies like ProQuest and Gale Cengage for inclusion in digital databases. A few of these, like the Scotsman (see below), have done the job themselves and charged a fee for access. The venerable Spectator, founded in 1828, whose back numbers are available by subscription in ProQuest's Periodicals Archive Online, digitized its trove of past issues into a well-designed online database published in the summer of 2013 as The Spectator Archive. In a disaster for 19th-century scholarship, the office book that recorded the authorship of unsigned Spectator's articles, to which scholars like Malcolm Woodfield and Robert Tener once had limited access as recently as the 1990s, has since been lost.

Digitized collections of specialist periodicals are well worth seeking out.  The IAPSOP archive, for instance, contains the full text of dozens of Spiritualist, occult, and reformist papers, while the Museum of Freemasonry offers a fabulous collection of Masonic periodicals.

All students of the period will want to follow the development of these digitization projects very closely, including those involving 19th-century newspapers. Their implications for the future of Victorian research methods -- and, more importantly, their promise for deepening our understanding of the period -- can scarcely be exaggerated.

In 2009, the late Sally Mitchell published a magisterial overview of the field that has continuing relevance today: "Victorian Journalism in Plenty". Her call for the creation of a "union list" of all digital facsimiles of 19th-century periodicals and newspapers remains an elusive goal. Published in 2016, the Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-century Periodicals and Newspapers, edited by Alexis Easley, Andrew King, and John Morton, represents a huge step forward for Victorianists everywhere in our study of this essential element of Victorian life.

A range of free online sources for periodical study include the following:


Until recently, nineteenth-century newspapers were a vast terra incognita of Victorian research. Out of thousands of titles and millions of copies, many did not survive, those that did survive were not easily available, and the prospect of creeping through the bewilderingly diverse wilderness of closely printed prose via unindexed volumes on microfilm daunted many a hardy researcher. 

The digital revolution of the 21st century has changed all this, and researchers, many of them working in teams, are sifting through millions of pages of newspaper text and imagery in increasingly sophisticated ways. There has never been a more exciting time to explore the world of the nineteenth century, and the enormous treasure-trove represented by Victorian newspapers is one important reason why this is true.  No student of the period can afford to ignore the opportunities afforded by this kind of research.

Yet amid this plenty, intractable barriers to access persist, as well as formidable methodological puzzles.  Many collections remain behind pay walls, available only to those who have access to a major research library with an institutional subscription.  Once access has been obtained, the individual researcher will still want to proceed with caution, armed with the knowledge that even seemingly thoroughgoing digitized collections of titles will still have omissions and gaps that may have profound consequences for a project.  The British Library's British Newspaper Archive, for instance, offers individual subscriptions at a modest price, and all researchers can be grateful for its growing inclusion of provincial papers, and its easily navigable interface. And yet the BNA does not include such hugely important newspapers as the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Manchester Guardian, or the Scotsman.  For these, and other titles, one must look elsewhere.  Every collection has omissions like these, and before planning your research project it's a good idea to look carefully not only at the list of available titles for  each collection but at which years are covered by each title. One important attempt to begin to come to grips with some of the issues surrounding the proliferation of different databases is the Atlas of Digitised Newspapers, which gathers metadata on a substantial sampling of digital collections around the world.  The Atlas's introductory explanation may be somewhat opaque to those not conversant with digital humanities lingo, but editors Emily Bell and M. H. Beals give an accessible introduction here.  Or you can go straight to the chart of Database Histories.  

The Waterloo Directory remains a helpful guide to finding out about individual titles.  With the demise of the venerable British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale, the center of such research at the British Library is now The Newsroom, a dedicated reading room on the second floor. Many 19th-century newspapers have not been (and some will never be) digitized, so this is the place to order microfilm and, if that is not available and the materials are not too fragile, original hardcopies of newspapers. 

Also online is a short Union List of 19th-c. newspapers in New York libraries. You can begin to get a feel for what manuscript materials are available by having a look through the National Register of Archives information sheet on sources for the history of the press in Britain; similarly worth consulting is David Linton and Ray Boston, editors, The newspaper press in Britain: an annotated bibliography (1987). Note that some reference material described above under the heading of periodicals applies to newspapers as well, as periodical publications, including some portions of Rosemary VanArsdel's selected bibliography.

The archival records -- correspondence, ledgers, indices, etc. -- retained by two of today's newspapers are a marvelous and under-utilized resource for historians of the press. The Times's fabulously extensive archive of manuscript material, a major source for Victorian journalistic and political history, is available to researchers by appointment. So, too, is that of the Manchester Guardian going back to 1821. In its modern incarnation, the Guardian has established Guardian News and Media Archive in London, a center devoted to the paper's history.

The digital revolution, part 2

The Times of London was, of course, the most powerful Victorian newspaper, and although its prominence has led to a neglect of other London papers and, most significantly, of the very different perspectives to be found in the provincial press, the paper remains a key resource for students of the period. Palmer's Index, an idiosyncratic but indispensable key to the paper's contents, is available by subscription from ProQuest.  Some libraries even retain the hardcopy volumes, which are, by the way, great fun to browse -- check out one or more of these digitized volumes on HathiTrust. (Also Internet Archive.) One might think that an old index like Palmer's would be obsolete in an age of full-text searching (see below), but in fact it is an indispensable compendium of Victorian journalistic usage that enables the researcher to target a search by focusing on the language in which various events would have been reported. If you are doing a lot of work with the Times it is worth looking for a major research library in your area that has a subscription to the Times Digital Archive.  

Individual papers offer access to their archives under a variety of schemes. Gale offers institutional subscriptions to the Telegraph Historical Archive, 1855-2016 contains over a million pages from this hugely important paper, known in Victorian times (and long after) as the Daily Telegraph. The Scotsman offers a searchable digitised version of its entire 19th-century run, for which you must register. The website includes a helpful short account of the newspaper's long history.  The Manchester Guardian has now followed suit with its own archive, which reaches back to 1821.

The National Library of New Zealand and the National Library of Australia have each pushed forward with projects to digitize a wide range of 19th-century newspapers, making the results freely available to users.  The New Zealand papers currently run from the 1830s to 1920, the Australian papers from 1803 to 1954.  The Australian collection  includes a revolutionary feature allowing users to correct the results of automated OCR (optical character recognition), thereby increasing the accuracy of searching for subsequent users.  In both cases, scholars will want to seek out the "Advanced search" module.

The future of scholarly work on the contents of old newspapers is clearly in digitized editions, accessed remotely online. In 2004, JISC and the British Library announced a joint partnership to digitize entire runs of dozens of newspapers published between 1800 and 1900 to create the 19th Century British Library Newspapers collection. The project was later joined by Gale, a leading creator and marketer of digital collections, and made its welcome debut in 2008. The collection did not originally include several important papers that are still publishing -- like the Guardian and the Telegraph and the Inverness Courier--online access to entire 19th-century runs of major newspapers like the Morning Chronicle and the Daily News, as well as to provincial papers and working-class papers, in fully searchable form, was a huge boon to researchers everywhere. Like many of the forthcoming periodical projects mentioned above, this ambitious undertaking marks a decisive change in scholars' access to -- and, ultimately, our understanding of -- the vast print culture of 19th-century Britain.  The BL's 19th-century newspaper database has been made available in libraries all over Britain through JISC, but in the U.S., access can be made through major research libraries.  See historian Martin Conboy's March 2009 review of the collection for the Institute of Historical Research.

On November 30, 2011, in a landmark development for Victorianists around the world, the British Library announced a partnership with Brightsolid to digitize a great many more newspapers (many of them provincial papers, dating from the 18th century to the early 1900s) and to make these digital facsimiles accessible by anyone on a pay-as-you-go basis as the British Newspaper Archive. With this new website, the searches are free, and then you pay for a period of time, from 48 hours to a month to a year, during which you can explore the full search results -- up to a certain capped monthly number of page-views. One feature of this new archive that I am extremely happy to see is a mode that allows users to see the underlying, uncorrected text and then submit corrections. Some of us have been pressing the big vendors for the inclusion of this feature for years and years, and I'm delighted to see that the British Library has gone in this direction. Bob Nicholson wrote a very useful review of the promise and the drawbacks of this important resource, and since that review appeared the BNA has made improvements that obviate many of his criticisms.

The new availability of digitized Victorian newspapers is making possible a wide range of exploratory strategies. Paul Fyfe's Nineteenth Century Newspaper Analytics at North Carolina State, for example, is experimenting with innovative analysis of illustrated papers. Bob Nicholson's Victorian Meme Machine, a collaboration with British Library Labs, illuminates the structure and circulation of jokes in the Victorian press. Initiatives like the Viral Texts Project at Northeastern University and the U.S. News Map at Georgia Tech, although they mainly concern American papers, offer suggestive models for studying the geographical circulation of news and opinion.

In May, 2010, Gale completed and put online the Illustrated London News Historical Archive, 1842-2003, at last making the world's first illustrated newspaper available in searchable form. Accompanied by essays contributed by various experts on Victorian periodicals, this new database marks a major step forward for the study of the illustrated press. Those hoping to access, save, and print high-resolution copies of the ILN's marvelous wood engravings via this edition will be disappointed, however. For these one must still have recourse to the original volumes.

 Patrick Leary's 2005 essay "Googling the Victorians" (also available for download here in PDF) considered some of the implications of these digitization projects . Leary returned to the subject ten years later in "Search and Serendipity," as part of an anniversary roundtable for Victorian Periodicals Review. His 2013 essay, "How the Dickens Scandal Went Viral," demonstrates how digitized newspaper collections can be used to trace the circulation of individual rumors among and between British and American papers.

In the midst of all these riches, however, it is crucial to bear in mind the large number of newspapers and periodicals that remain in the "offline penumbra" of material that has not been (and may never be) available in digital form. Likewise, as Paul Fyfe reminds us in "An Archaeology of Victorian Newspapers" (Victorian Periodicals Review, Winter 2016, 546-577), it is crucial that scholars strive to make themselves aware, not only of what is missing from digital full-text collections, but how decisions made during the creation of those collections have shaped what texts are represented there, the forms in which they appear, and the limits of the methods by which the interface allows scholars to "search" and manipulate these complexly remediated facsimiles.

Photographs and illustrations

Many pictures of Victorian people, places, and things can be obtained, for a fee, from picture libraries and agencies; Hulton Getty Collection, Mary Evans Picture Library, and Francis Frith Collection are particularly rich in 19th-century images. The National Portrait Gallery's picture library supplies and licenses reproductions of the gallery's portraits.

The Documentary Photography Archive in Manchester is a major repository for Victorian photographs, while the Victoria and Albert holds some 300,000 photographs, many of them illustrating Victorian daily life. The London Metropolitan Archives (formerly the GLRO) has a large and well-indexed collection of photographs of London. The Print Room of the Guildhall Library, a prime source for London images and the source of much of what is on COLLAGE, has now closed, and its collection moved to the London Metropolitan Archives at 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB; enquiries can be sent to ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk. The City Gallery site offers a number of excellent resources created specifically for those researching 19th-century American and British photographs. Although much of its collection consists of 20th-century images, the new National Media Museum also has a great many from the 19th century, including the early Fox Talbot photographs that used to reside in the Science Museum.

The Courtauld Institute houses many thousands of photographs of artworks and buildings as part of its Witt and Conway Libraries; a similar service is provided by the National Gallery's picture library. The Images of England project of the National Monuments Record is accumulating an online library of images of 370,000 listed buildings.

Finally, a couple of resources for finding copies of paintings and drawings, especially for teaching purposes. If you're looking for a reproduction of a Victorian artwork, be sure to consult Kristine Garrigan's Victorian Art Reproductions in Modern Sources: A Bibliography (Garland, 1991). If it was published somewhere before 1990, chances are you'll find that reproduction listed in Garrigan. Online sources include John Malyon's Artcylcopedia, which features a search engine for individual artists that directs you to any online reproductions of their works that may be available. And a fine source for 18th- and 19th-century British engravings and paintings is the London Picture Archive, which features an image database of over 20,000 works from the London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery in London, helpfully organized by theme. You can order prints of these from the site.


The "Victorian Bibliography" first appeared in 1933, but has now been discontinued, which can only be seen as a loss for the entire field of Victorian Studies. The Victorian Studies annual bibliographies from 1999 ton are supposed to be available in searchable electronic form , free to non-subscribers, but no working links hve been found. The annual listings for the ten years from 1975 to 1984 are compiled in Richard C. Tobias, editor, Bibliographies of Studies in Victorian Literature (New York: AMS Press, 1991).

An excellent, annotated bibliography by R. K. Webb of historical scholarship on Britain and Ireland since 1760 may be found in Section 24 of the 3rd edition of the American Historical Association's Guide to Historical Literature (Oxford, 1995). Similarly, the relevant sections of the Royal Historical Society bibliography (see below), though often appearing as much as two years after the year covered, often turn up specialist and regional articles and monographs of interest. Likewise, the annual MLA International Bibliography should be consulted for authors like Conrad, Shaw, Yeats, and Wells, who continued to publish major works into the 20th century.

A fine guide to older works is Heather Creaton's Bibliography of Printed Works on London History to 1939 (Library Association Publishing, 1994). Organized by subject and period and helpfully indexed, the book makes it easy to browse entries covering virtually any aspect of Victorian London. Beginning in January of 2003, the whole of Creaton's bibliography, along with her subsequent updates, has been made available as part of the free online RHS Bibliography of British and Irish History once free but now behind a paywall.

Editors of Victorian and Edwardian texts must often search far and wide, online and off, to identify quotations and allusions. Longtime VICTORIA subscriber George H. Thomson has generously made the byproduct of his own annotative labors available to other scholars in the form of a bibliography of printed reference works useful in exactly this kind of editorial detective work.

Royal Historical Society bibliographies

The Royal Historical Society has for years compiled an extensive annual bibliography of books and articles relating to the history of the British Isles. The complete set of these volumes was published on cd-rom in 1998 by Oxford University Press, and a free online edition appeared in the summer of 2002 that represented a major new bibliographical resource for scholars everywhere. Alas, since 1 January 2010, the RHS Bibliography disappeared behind a subscription wall. The RHS bibliographies are uniquely valuable in the breadth of their coverage, particularly of specialized and local British publications, and very helpfully organized and indexed.

Theses and dissertations

Equally useful resources on the IHR pages are lists of Historical Theses, Completed and in Progress at UK universities. One can access just the "modern" (i.e., post-1485) portions of the listing of completed theses by year, and scroll down to the 19th-century section, which is further subdivided by topic areas such as general, ecclesiastical, political, social, etc.:

The EThOS service from the British Library allows you to search UK theses and order copies online, many of which can be immediately downloaded as PDF files for free. An older service provides international doctoral theses through the British Library Document Supply Centre, which holds 110,000 theses from 95 countries. Many of these cannot be obtained from any other source. The theses are held at DSC as microfilm and can be supplied to the end user as microfilm, microfiche or paper copies. They are available for loan or purchase to both UK and overseas registered customers of the Document Supply Centre, while individuals and organisations not registered as BLDSC customers can purchase copies. There are some copyright restrictions which need dealing with on an individual basis as they vary from university to university. Further information may be obtained from the British Thesis Service at the DSC. Users from registered (i.e., paying) institutions can search for theses completed between 1970 and the present at "Index to Theses of Great Britain and Ireland".

In the U.S. doctoral dissertations are submitted to UMI (now owned by ProQuest), which has traditionally made them available in microfilm or paper copy. The company is shifting to electronic formats; you can now search for a dissertation through the Dissertation Express service.

Topical bibliographies

Much helpful bibliographical information may be found included with the syllabi listed under "Teaching Resources." The following are bibliographies on specific Victorian people or topics:

Book Reviews: a selection

[Note: this section has not been updated for some years. (Too much work!) It remains here in case some of the links still point to reviews of interest. Those interested in tracking down reviews of a particular book outside of the main academic journals would do well to first consult the Times Literary Supplement, the Reviews In History site of the IHR, and Review 19.]

For several years, now, academic electronic resources like the IHR's Reviews In History and the H-NET consortium of history discussion lists, as well as general interest publications like the Guardian and the Telegraph, have provided an outlet for thoughtful reviews of scholarly books. (See also Romantic Circles Reviews, which features reviews of books about the Romantics.) USC's "New Books in Nineteenth-Century Studies" did excellent excellent service by listing new books and commissioning reviews; inactive for several years, it was revived in 2007-08 only to fall silent again. The most recent and ambitious attempt to review books about the 19th-century is the Review 19 project out of Dartmouth, launched in the summer of 2009, which aims to review Victorian Studies books within a few months of their publication, by contrast to the current system in which an author typically waits two years or more to see his or her book reviewed in print journals.

Bravo to those review sites that continue to make their archived reviews freely available to the public at stable addresses, at a time when an increasing number of publications whose reviews were once linked to from this section -- like the Sunday Times, the New York Review of Books, and History Today -- have since determined that older articles should be accessible only on payment of a fee. This part of VRW is no longer being updated. Nevertheless, here are links to a small selection of reviews of books of 19th-century interest that have appeared in the past few years. Apologies in advance for any dead links -- many newspaper sites discard links to their articles at unpredictable intervals, while many journals have moved their past reviews behind subscription walls, making it difficult to keep this section properly weeded.

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