The largest single online collection of English news media from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Burney Collection, is now available free of charge for the first time to Higher and Further Education institutions and Research Councils across the UK.
As a result of this important new agreement an unlimited number of students and researchers at academic institutions across the UK can now access these essential materials simultaneously. This will have significant benefits for research and education and available free of charge to all institutions equality of access is also assured.
The Burney Collection offers unique insights into two centuries of history through access to over 1,270 newsbooks, newspapers, pamphlets and a variety of other news materials published in England, Ireland and Scotland, plus papers from British colonies in Asia and the Americas.
Digitised through a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the British Library then developed and hosted online by Gale/Cengage Learning, the digital version of the Burney Collection has been purchased in perpetuity by Jisc Collections on behalf of the UK academic and research community at a national level, following an open and transparent procurement process.
Until now, access to the Burney Collection has been restricted, both in print and online. Its corpus of printed materials – originally collected by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757–1817) and greatly augmented since its acquisition – has been housed at the British Library. Due to its value and fragility, the Collection was unavailable for general use and the cost of acquiring online access put it beyond the means of the majority of institutions.
The complete Collection (including illustrations) is fully cross searchable, and granular metadata plus an extensive range of search and browse options opens up unrivalled and exciting research possibilities.
Among the highlights of this unparalleled collection are:
- Day by day coverage of the financial scandal of the 1720s, the South Sea bubble, with reports in the Weekly Journal or Saturday’s Post of how Parliament decided that if they left the country, the directors of the South Sea company ‘shall suffer death as a felon without benefit of clergy and forfeit to the King all his Lands, Goods and Chattels whatsoever.’
- The first advertisement for The Memoirs of Fanny Hill in the Whitehall Evening Post, 6 March 1750, and then, in the issue of 17 March, a report of how the publisher was taken into custody and all copies were seized.
- News of the election of George Washington as president of the United States in the St James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post on 21 April 1789.
- Insight into English attitudes to contemporary events, such as when the English Chronicle or Universal Evening Post used the unusual device of a headline – FRENCH REVOLUTION!! – for a whole page article on 18 of July 1789. It reported sympathetically on the fall of the Bastille four days earlier, including how the officers were decapitated in ‘a sad but necessary spectacle...a solemnity worthy of the highest admiration.’
The Burney Collection complements a range of other archive resources which have already been purchased as part of the UK National Academic Archive. These include 18th Century Collections Online, 19th Century British Library Newspapers, 19th Century UK Periodicals Online and Periodical Archive Online: Jisc Collections Selection.
Dr Kristian Jensen, the British Library's Head of British Collections, said: "The Burney Collection is one of the jewels of the British Library's collection and we are delighted that the digitised version will now be accessible to scholars across the UK. Researchers in subjects ranging from the French Revolution to social conditions in 18th Century England will benefit from digital access to this treasure trove of material, just as they have with our 19th Century British Newspapers."
Lorraine Estelle, CEO at Jisc Collections, says "The Burney Collection of newspapers is one of the British Library’s most heavily-used microfilm collections so we are confident that this agreement for online access will be widely welcomed by scholars."
Diane Thomas, Sales Director at Gale/Cengage Learning, comments 'Invaluable to anyone studying English history, the Burney Collection has in the past been accessible to relatively few people. Our partnership with Jisc Collections now ensures that every UK university and college student and researcher has unrestricted access to this cornerstone resource whether they are on campus, at home or even on the move.'
To access the collection, librarians should visit the Jisc Collections website.