Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries

Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries is a collaborative bibliographical project involving multiple universities in the American Midwest.


This project unites librarians, scholars, and students in an effort to report eligible items at regional institutions to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). It thus aims to broaden the ESTC’s copy listings in a way that more accurately represents Midwestern universities, to correct errors in local library catalogs, to promote Special Collections libraries generally, and to facilitate archival discoveries for Renaissance scholars in the United States and abroad. As the title suggests, Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries focuses principally on early modern books, and for now is limited to items printed in England or its possessions, or in the English language, from 1473 up to 1700.


Originating at Northwestern University, Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries ranks among several other projects in the Global Midwest Initiative, which is open to scholars at the fifteen institutions in the Humanities Without Walls consortium. This consortium is supported by an Andrew W. Mellon grant awarded to the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, and is the first of its kind to stimulate large-scale collaboration across multiple universities.


In its first phase, Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries has gained the support of faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and librarians at Northwestern University, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Ohio State University. At Northwestern alone, the project thus far has raised institutional Special Collections representation in the ESTC from an initial 188 items to over 1300 items.


Plans for the project include the curation of Special Collections exhibitions coordinated among university libraries over the course of the next two years. These exhibitions will promote the local Special Collections libraries participating in the project and are designed to broaden awareness of and public interest in Renaissance-era printed books. Additionally, future efforts may grow to include the eighteenth century, from which many more items survive. Renaissance Books, Midwestern Libraries team members also hope to expand to other Humanities Without Walls consortium institutions and actively invite participation from all universities, research libraries, and museums with unreported eligible items.