Primary sources are written documents, oral testimonies, visual objects, and digital materials produced by creators from the historical period you are studying. Some examples include: chronicles, diaries, notebooks, letters, newspapers, interviews, paintings, photographs, maps, tools, instruments, and drawings (more recently they also include tweets, blogs, websites, and social media platforms). Western Libraries’ research guide Primary Source Literacy can offer more details.
The best place to start looking for primary sources is by surveying the references in your secondary sources. After you have identified citations pertinent to your research, you can search for them in the Library Catalogue (OMNI). There several search strategies you can use when searching the catalogue.
Limit by date. Since primary sources come from the period you are studying, you can limit your search to a specific date range. Keep in mind, however, that newer editions of older works will not appear in these types of searches.
Scholars have transcribed and translated selections of primary sources from the medieval period. These texts are available in English and are often called “readers,” “primary source readers,” or “sourcebooks.”
There are several searchable collections of primary sources online that have been curated by scholars and librarians at various institutions.
A collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for ancient history from the Fordham University Internet History Sourcebooks Project.
A collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for medieval history from the Fordham University Internet History Sourcebooks Project.
A collection of medieval Latin letters to and from women from the 4th to the 13th centuries. They are presented in their original Latin as well as in English translation.
Provides links to European primary historical documents that are transcribed, reproduced in facsimile, or translated.
Provides links to some of the most significant online medieval texts. The site is organized by country, language, subject, and type.
There are numerous medieval manuscripts available on the web today, from the British Library and other consortiums of libraries and museums.
Use this website to view digitized copies of manuscripts archived in the British Library’s collections, with descriptions of their contents.
Use this website to find and view descriptions and images of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the British Library.
A consortium of American libraries and museums committed to free online access to their collections of pre-modern manuscripts.
Links to more than 500 libraries around the world. Each one of these contains digitized medieval manuscripts that can be browsed for free.
A web portal, hosted at Georgetown University, which provides free, organized access to online manuscript collections for medieval studies.
Manuscripts of some of the most important works of European travel writing from the later medieval period.
Includes Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, together with incunabula, from the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries’ collections.
Incunabula refers to books that were printed in the earliest period of the history of the printing press in Europe (1450s to 1501).
An international database of 15th-century European printing created by the British Library, with contributions from institutions worldwide.