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Archives Seminar

Archives: What You Need to Know Before You Go


Language Training: Latin and French; by specialty (German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish).

Paleography: Online, courses at Wisconsin, Folger, Newberry, printed guides.

Not all of us can take a paleography seminar before we go like David did. I had to rely on a book called Elizabethan Handwriting. It was a good start but once I got to England it took me a month or so of archival work before I was proficient at the Secretary Hand. Keep working at it! [There are microfilms of, for example, the Tanner MSS. from the Bodleian. Could examine those here.]

Oxford story.

Dutch Oude Schrift even more difficult. I had to take a class to give me proficiency.

Examine Catalogues and Calendars:

Always go online and check the web presence of an archive.

British Library has an index of most manuscripts online

The National Archives has an excellent web presence online giving detailed listings of pretty much everything it holds.

Many catalogues also available in UW’s Special Collections [E.g., Summary Catalogue for Oxford’s Bodleian Library, Catalogue of Manuscripts at Cambridge University Library, Index of Manuscripts at the British Library.]

If UW doesn’t have it, try the Newberry.

Calendars such as the Calendars of State Papers Domestic and the various publications of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

Dutch archives as a rule much less organized.

Find out on-line the steps you need to take before getting a card. It varies widely from archive to archive.

Letters of introduction necessary to get into the two main repositories at Oxford and Cambridge; the holdings of any of the colleges.

BL requires you to provide an official document (e.g., an electric bill) listing your permanent address. [Stories on H-Albion of American scholars arriving in England without this; not knowing what to do.]

Dutch archives much more lenient. As long as you were willing to pay a fee for access, they were more than willing to let you examine their manuscripts—no questions asked.

Also ask about photography and other reproduction options.

The UK as a whole is quite strict (The National Archives being the major exception.)

Might get lucky. [Exeter during vacation; Milton at Sidney Sussex.]

Netherlands much less stringent. Most places their allowed me to take pictures.

Advice for using the archives:

Lee’s advice: Get there early and stay late to earn respect and get favors. [VU example]


Institute seminar talks; Paleography, regular seminar

UW is a Newberry Consortium Member; Money $5000


British Library (Many collections; can get lost)

The National Archives (old PRO)—mostly State Papers

Oxford (Bodleian Library and the various colleges)

Cambridge (Cambridge University Library and Colleges)

Local Record Offices

University Archives (Aberdeen)

National Library of Scotland


Dr. Williams

Continent (ARCHON Directory List):


KB (Koninglijk Bibliotheek) & Nationaal Archief (both in the Hague) are the two big public repositories.

Two major university holdings are at the University of Leiden and Amsterdam.

Lots of others:

Remonstrantse Gemeente Archief Rotterdam at the Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies most important for me.

Lots of Gemeente Archieven (Municipal archives). I spent a fair amount of time at the one in Amsterdam.

Germany/Denmark all David

Early Printed Works:

EEBO/ECCO for early modern England.

Nothing like that for Dutch printed materials.

Examine catalogues of Printed Books, etc. [Knuttel Pamfletten]


If you’re there for a longer amount of time, attend seminars and conferences.



Special Conferences

Housing for short term. (Long term probably affiliated with a university that should help you out.)