Private Libraries in Renaissance England

Searching Books

Basic Search

Enter one or more words in the query box. When more than one word is entered, And is the default connector. ALL searchable fields in the entire database are searched in Basic Search. Entries are not case sensitive. Therefore, searching with More will retrieve works associated with Sir Thomas More as well as records containing the word “more” anywhere in the record.

To search with a truncated word in Basic Search append an asterisk (*). Searching with More* will retrieve Morelius and Morellus, as well as records containing the name More and the word “more.”

When searching with more than one word, enter a minus sign (-) before a word if it must not be retrieved (e.g., Luther –Henry, i.e., retrieve Luther items but none that contains "Henry"). To search for a phrase, enclose the phrase in quotation marks (e.g., “Henry VIII” –Luther, i.e., works related to Henry VIII but not those containing the word "Luther").

For a directed search, go to Advanced Search.

Advanced Search

In the first column of boxes, choose either Full Text or a field from the drop down menu. In the second column, except when searching the Full Text which has a single default setting, select directions for conducting the search (Contains, Begins with, Does not contain). In the third column, enter the information sought. Enter only one term in the third box. Choose either AND or OR as connectors for the material selected; AND is default.

Searching with truncated or parts of words in any of the fields does not require an asterisk. For example, searching for caly in the Stationer field will retrieve titles printed by Robert Caly. Searching for caly in the Author field will retrieve works by Calybute Downing, and searching for caly in the Title field will retrieve works with Apocalypsim, Apocalypsin, and Apocalyptica in the titles.

With Full Text, search as in Basic Search described above. Searching the Full Text can be executed with truncated words (using an asterisk) and whole words, but not parts of words. Accordingly, searching with caly* in Full Text will retrieve records with Robert Caly (whole word) and Calybute Downing (truncated word) but not any form of Apocalypse (part of word).

With Full Text, the minus sign (-) functions as it does in Basic Search.

Searching Fields in Advanced Search


Use a name found in the STC or in the PLRE established Names database. Enter only one name in each search box and choose Contains. With names such as Erasmus, Cicero, Aristotle, Calvin and the like, one name will serve. But others may require searching with a second box.

For example, in searching for the STC name: Sir Thomas Smith, Doctor of Civil Laws, in one Author box enter smith and in a second Author box enter thomas (or civil or laws or another identifying word from his STC name). Do not enter thomas smith or smith thomas in any one search box.


For PLRE's methodology in constructing titles, see Title in Fields in Books.

One might wish to begin a search with as little of the title as possible in either Basic Search or Advanced Search but particularly in Advanced Search. After items are retrieved in this manner, the search can be repeated with refinements as desired or necessary.

For example, a search for Heinrich Bullinger’s widely published collection of sermons will retrieve no records if the search is conducted with the specific title Sermonum decas tertia. Alternatively, Sermonum decas (using two boxes) will retrieve a record of one edition of Bullinger’s collection (Sermonum decas quinta). But Sermonum will retrieve records of various works by Bullinger, Ferus, Hulsbusch, and Lipsius, information revealing that Sermonum decades is the PLRE uniform title to use for retrieving editions of Bullinger’s collection, including English as well as Latin. Searching for Bullinger’s collection of sermons can then be profitably searched with that uniform two-word title (one word to a search box), and all records of Bullinger’s collection in the database will be retrieved.

Other ways of achieving the same results are: searching Title with two boxes to include a truncated word, entering Sermonum in one and deca in another, or searching Full Text with Sermonum deca* as two words.

OTHER CONTRIBUTORS [translators, editors, compilers]:

Use a name found in the STC or in the PLRE established Names. Follow the instructions provided for AUTHOR above.


For cities in the British Isles, use the names found in Volume 3 of the STC; for cities on the Continent, use the names found in the "Index of Places, with Printers" in H.M. Adams, Catalogue of Books Printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600, in Cambridge Libraries (1967).


If a stationer’s name is listed in Volume 3 of the STC, search with that name form. For stationers’ names not found in the STC, consult the author-title index in the printed volumes of PLRE. Alternatively, consult H.M. Adams’s “Index of Printers” in Catalogue of Books Printed on the Continent of Europe, 1501-1600, in Cambridge Libraries (1967) where most of the non-STC name forms used by PLRE will be found. Follow the instructions provided for AUTHOR above.


Enter a single year. Only books determined by a Contributing Editor to have been published in that year—sometimes qualified by sources with circa, ?, or (probable)—will be retrieved. Date ranges that may contain that targeted year will not be retrieved. NOTE: read the cautionary statement about date assignments under Date or Dt Range in Fields in Books.


Use a number for the corresponding format:

  • 2 for folio
  • 4 for quarto
  • 8 for octavo
  • 12 for duodecimo
  • 16 for sextodecimo

To find works for which the compilers of the book-lists entered formats, enter the appropriate number preceded by a slash; e.g.: /4

To find works identified by the editors of the book-lists as being in that actual format, enter the appropriate number followed by a slash; e.g.: 8/

To find works described by compilers and identified by editors in a particular format, enter the appropriate numbers separated by a slash; e.g.: 2/2 (Occasionally an editor will have determined that a compiler erred in identifying the format of the book listed so that conflicting numbers are possible, as in 4/8.)


Searching with truncated or partial words is strongly recommended in this field as the transcriptions reflect the varied spellings and often nearly illegible hands of the compilers. For example, a search for demost (Contains or Begins with) will retrieve Demosthenes as well as Demostynes, Demostenis, and Demostines (though not Dismostinis and Demist), and corides (Contains) will retrieve Diescorides as well as Dioscorides. Searching with tul (Begins with or Contains) will retrieve over fifty works by Cicero with at least nine different spellings or abbreviations of Tullius in the manuscript entry.


Enter the STC or Wing number without the words “STC” or “Wing,” and choose Exactly Matches. See the section "STC status" in The Fields in Books for PLRE's methodology in assigning STC and Wing numbers. To search for manuscripts, enter manuscript; to search for blank books (books with no printing or writing), enter blank.


Enter the PLRE number (e.g., 110.15) and choose Exactly Matches. Choosing Contains with 110.15 will also retrieve PLRE 110.150 through 110.159. To select a book-list by PLRE number, enter its number up to and including the period (e.g., 110.). (See the Cumulative Catalogue in the most recent volume of PLRE for the PLRE numbers and the book-lists to which they have been assigned.)


To select a book-list by owner, enter the owner’s last name only and choose Contains. If there are multiple owners with the same family name, enter a given name in a second box. For the names of all the owners, access the Owners screen by using the Owners tab and then click on Help for instructions.


To select a book-list by an Identifier, choose one or more of the following. For details about an Owners’ Identifier, consult Fields in Books.

  • Alchemist
  • Alien
  • Almsman
  • Apothecary
  • Butler
  • Carter
  • Churchwarden
  • Cleric
  • Cleric (bishop)
  • Cleric (prebendary)
  • Cleric (chaplain)
  • Cleric (curate)
  • Cleric (friar)
  • Cleric (Jesuit)
  • Cleric (monk)
  • Cleric (parson)
  • Cleric (rector)
  • Cleric (vicar)
  • Court Official
  • Craftsman (blacksmith)
  • Craftsman (carpenter)
  • Craftsman (cordwainer)
  • Craftsman (goldsmith)
  • Craftsman (leatherdresser)
  • Craftsman (tanner)
  • Diplomat
  • Estate Landowner
  • Innkeeper
  • Landowner
  • Lawyer
  • Manciple
  • Merchant
  • Merchant (baker)
  • Merchant (butcher)
  • Merchant (clothier)
  • Merchant (grocer)
  • Merchant (haberdasher)
  • Merchant (mercer)
  • Merchant (vintner)
  • Merchant (white-baker)
  • Merchant Adventurer
  • Member of Parliament
  • Patron (literary)
  • Physician
  • Recusant
  • Scholar
  • Scholar (student)
  • Schoolmaster
  • Scrivener
  • Servant
  • Sexton
  • Soldier
  • Statesman
  • Stationer
  • Translator
  • Unknown
  • Widow
  • Woman
  • Writer
  • Yeoman


To select a book-list by an owner’s social class, choose from one of the following (suggestion: if the term consists of two words, enter only the first and choose Contains):

  • Artisan
  • Gentry
  • Laborer
  • Middle class
  • Nobility
  • Privileged person
  • Professional
  • Retainer
  • Yeomanry

Search with a single year.

MS LOC (REN) [Manuscript Location, Renaissance]:

To select book-lists by where they were compiled in sixteenth- or seventeenth-century England, choose one of the following:

  • Counties
    • Buckinghamshire
    • Cambridgeshire
    • Cornwall
    • Cumbria
    • Derbyshire
    • Dorset
    • Gloucestershire
    • Hampshire
    • Herefordshire
    • Hertforshire
    • Isle of Wight
    • Kent
    • Lancashire
    • Leicestershire
    • Lincolnshire
    • Middlesex
    • Norfolk
    • Northamptonshire
    • Nottinghamshire
    • Oxfordshire
    • Suffolk
    • Warwickshire
    • Westmorland
    • Wiltshire
    • Yorkshire
  • Major Cities
    • Cambridge
    • London
    • Norwich
    • Oxford

Searching with Subject fields proceeds differently as Subjects are entered in the database in a different manner.

Note: the PLRE subject assignment differs from conventional modern library classifications. In addition, major subjects have been assigned according to an author’s intentions rather than the use to which the books may have been put in later years. For example, Cicero’s speeches are treated according to the subject of a particular speech, e.g., Law or Politics, not as Rhetoric.

In the Subject box, click on the arrow to activate a drop-down menu of the Major Subjects used by PLRE. Passing the cursor over selected Major Subjects will reveal information in the form of subcategories that will assist the user in searching Major Subject fields. All subcategories assigned by PLRE do not appear when the box is activated.

A user may safely assume that choosing one of the Major Subjects will retrieve titles in subcategories conventionally associated with that Major Subject. For example, a user seeking works on pathology or anatomy can confidently choose to search on the Medicine selection even though those subcategories are not among the group that appears when the cursor is passed over the Medicine subject box. He will, however, also retrieve books on pediatrics and humours as well as many other medical subjects; approximately forty medical subcategories are imbedded in the Books records in an attempt to cover the field as widely as possible. Other Major Subject fields are similarly represented with multiple subcategories.

Not only are there books with multiple subcategories (e.g., fevers nosography), but there are also books with multiple Major Subjects (e.g., Literature Medicine).

Searches conducted with either the Basic Search or the Advanced Search retrieves information in the Brief Records screen.