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Swem database puts 18th-century literature at one's fingertips

The addition of the Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) to Swem library’s growing digital resources puts the world of 18th-century literature at the fingertips of the campus community.

ECCO includes digital images of every page of 150,000 books published during the 18th century, including all significant English-language and foreign-language titles printed in Great Britain and thousands of important works from the Americas.

“This more than ever makes William and Mary and Williamsburg a center for 18th century and colonial history,” said Dean of University Libraries Connie McCarthy.

The database offers full-text searching of more than 26 million pages, providing William and Mary faculty, staff and students with new methods of access to critical information in the fields of history, literature, religion, law, fine arts, science and more.

“It’s as if you had a million incredibly efficient research assistants working for you,” said Ron Schechter, professor of history.

Faculty, students and the community will benefit from the databases availability.

“Within a few minutes working with ECCO, students can find 18th-century novels, plays, treatises, memoirs and other books touching on such diverse topics as child-rearing and education, music and dance, medicine, travel, gender relations, scientific discoveries, religious and political controversy, basically anything that was of interest to people in the eighteenth century,” added Schechter. “This opens a whole world to students who are immediately immersed in the mental world of 18th-century readers.”

ECCO is available to the on-campus community online through Swem library’s home page and to the greater Williamsburg community on campus through Swem’s computer terminals. The research opportunities are immense.

“It’s an extraordinary collection,” said Adam Potkay, professor of English. “You have not just everything an author wrote in the 18th century, but you have every edition of what they wrote—it’s priceless.”

Dean McCarthy along with the library board generated funding for this outstanding resource.