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Research Guides

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This page offers strategies for finding primary texts to use for your research paper. It focuses on finding medieval European texts in English translation but some of the strategies and search tips can also be used to find texts for other periods and regions.

Using UW Libraries Search to Find Primary Texts


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Use special subject headings that designate primary sources:

Subject Heading Search Example Sample Book
"translations into english" romances "translations into english" The Saga of the Volsungs : The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer
  medieval "translations into english" The Farce of the Fart" and Other Ribaldries : Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English
  "middle ages" "translations into english" Poems of the Elder Edda
  folklore "translations into english" The complete fables of Jean de La Fontaine
"early works to 1800"* saints "early works to 1800" The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims: A Medieval Woman Between Demons and Saints
  medieval "early works to 1800" Christoph Rothmann's Discourse on the Comet of 1585 An Edition and Translation with Accompanying Essays
sources* sources medieval france Blessed Louis, the most glorious of kings : texts relating to the cult of Saint Louis of France
  sources witchcraft Early Modern Witches Witchcraft Cases in Contemporary Writing
"tales medieval" "tales medieval" japan Tales of times now past : sixty-two stories from a medieval Japanese collection
  "tales medieval" celtic Brut y tywysogyon; or The chronicle of the princes: Red Book of Hergest version

Search for books published within series specializing in translations of medieval sources:

Series Title Sample book
"Manchester medieval sources" Women in England, c. 1275-1525 : documentary sources
"Medieval texts in translation" Deeds of the Saxons
"Toronto medieval Latin texts" Saints' lives by Walter of Châtillon : Brendan, Alexis, Thomas Becket
"Oxford medieval texts" Eadmer of Canterbury : lives and miracles of Saints Oda, Dunstan, and Oswald
"Irish Texts Society" Oidheadh chloinne hUisneach = The violent death of the children of Uisneach
"Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies" The book of John Mandeville : an edition of the Pynson text with commentary on the defective version
"Mediaeval Sources in Translation"
Karlamagnús saga : the saga of Charlemagne and his heroes
"Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library"
Holy men of Mount Athos

*"early works to 1800" -- refine your results to "print books" in order to omit hundreds of early modern books published on microfilm.
*sources -- use the
Advanced search option and change the box label to "subject" in order to decrease the number of irrelevant works.

Use Secondary Sources

A secondary source on your topic or work will usually include various published editions and translations (if available) of the work. Look the title up in UW Libraries Search to see if a copy is available.

For example in the chapter, "‘Leave My Virginity Alone’: The Cult of St Margaret of Antioch in Norwich: In Pursuit of a Pragmatic Piety" published in the book, Medieval East Anglia, a footnote leads to a published primary text on St. Margaret.

A search for "old english lives of st margaret" in UW Libraries Search locates the book.

Some reference works such as the Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, included in Brill's Medieval Reference Library, will also include information on published editions and translations. For example this entry on Raymond of Aguilers provides information on the modern French and English translations.