ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) – Thanks to the University of Michigan, you can now read some of the first books ever printed online.

The university announced this week that text from the first printed editions of Shakespeare, Chaucer and Milton as well as lesser-known titles from as early as the year 1473 can now be freely read by anyone with an Internet connection.

The works include more than 25,000 manually transcribed texts from 1473 to 1700, including early English literature as well as books of history, philosophy, politics, religion, music, mathematics and science. Less famous texts involve gardening manuals, cook books, ballads, auction catalogues, dance instructions and religious tracts.

The release marks the completion of the first phase in the Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership. An anticipated 40,000 additional texts are planned for release into the public domain by the end of the decade under the partnership.

The University of Michigan Library worked with the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and ProQuest to put the text online.

What’s Available?

Highlights include several of William Caxton’s editions of the works of Chaucer, the first translations of Homer by the Elizabethan dramatist and classical scholar George Chapman, and Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.

Possibly of even greater value are the thousands of less famous texts that offer unexplored avenues for discovery: gardening manuals, cookery books, ballads, auction catalogues, dance instructions and religious tracts detail the commonplace of the early modern period; books about witchcraft and sword fighting document its more exotic facets.

Many of these works have never before been available to the public online, and physical copies are rare and require special handling.

The transcribed texts, as open data, are freely available for anyone to read, reuse, reproduce, repurpose and distribute.

To access the library, click here.

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