The goal of this site is to build an anthology of freely-available, fully-edited and annotated texts of texts in English written during the long eighteenth century. There is no consensus on the part of scholars exactly about what years make up this period, but for the purposes of this anthology, we can think of it as the period from the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy on the British throne in 1660 to the end of the American Revolution with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The anthology will include texts that were published in the British isles, as well as those published in colonial America in this period, both on the mainland and in the islands of the Caribbean like Jamaica and Barbados. The long-standing separation in print anthologies between “British” and “American” literature makes no sense for this period, and our goal is to break down that boundary by considering the English-speaking transatlantic world of the long eighteenth century as a whole.
These texts are being edited by students at the University of Virginia for the use of other students both here and elsewhere, and for general readers as well.
Why is this needed? Many of the texts here are now available in free editions on the internet already, from places like Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, or Google Books. But most of these digital works have little textual authority, are poorly edited (if they were edited at all), and almost always lack the annotations and contextualization that modern readers need to make sense of them. And the proliferation of such free texts creates its own problem, as it is impossible for a student or general reader to know which (if any) of the many options is complete, authoritative, and useful. The odds of a casual reader or student finding a corrupt, incomplete, or otherwise useless digital edition of any of these works far exceeds the chance that they will land upon a good one.
We have edited these texts anew, using digital facsimiles of eighteenth-century editions made available to us through the 18thConnect project that aggregates scholarship in eighteenth-century literature and culture online. We annotated these texts with an eye to providing information that a general reader would find useful. And we have provided supplemental material–pictures, sound files, background information–to enable readers and students to put these works in the context of the period in which they were written. The site is designed to be used on any computer or handheld digital device.
Please feel free to use and comment on our work; we hope to improve this site based on the input of users at the college and secondary school levels.
John O’Brien, Department of English, The University of Virginia
Thanks to the helpful support provided by the Scholars’ Lab and the SHANTI network at the University of Virginia, and to the 18thConnect team at Texas A & M University.