A Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama (EMED) provides a wide variety of information for more than four hundred plays. When using EMED, look for the links. Each play has an entry that includes many links to other parts of the EMED website, to other Folger websites, and to external resources. These connections allow you to explore an interactive and searchable network of the people and plays of early modern English drama. In more technical terminology, this information on the who, what, and when of the plays is metadata: this metadata is the data that you search and browse through the EMED website, separate from the text of the play itself.

The following text provides: ways to search and browse the database of plays; details of an EMED play entry; a glossary of terms used in the play entries; and a list of sources used to create the entries. For information on our editorial choices, see our Editing resources page.

Searching and browsing tips

From the EMED home page, you can search by keyword, author, title, genre, and the acting companies and theaters mentioned on the playbooks’ title pages. For additional fields and more specific information, go to Advanced Search. The metadata for over 400 EMED plays is searchable; the full texts of the plays themselves are not.

Clicking any linked term in the search results or a play entry will locate all of the plays that share that term.

If you’re interested in more complex analysis, or want to slice and dice the data in a spreadsheet, you can download EMED’s metadata in CSV form, as described in our Data resources page.

Entering text

Many fields in EMED’s search interfaces are free-text fields. Within fields, you can search for more than one term by separating them by a space. For example, entering fletcher beaumont in the Author field will return all of the results that have both names in the author category.

Some fields, like Printer have an auto-fill option. Start typing, and the full name will fill in. This option is not available for authors because the author category can search both original spelling and standardized names in our database. Use the drop-down menu if you would like to search only original spelling, or restrict your search to information found on the general title page or internal title page.

Combining searches

EMED searches grow more specific the more fields you fill; entering an author, printer, and performance or publication date range will return only the plays that fit all of your requirements. To get more results, try fewer fields or a part of a word. For example, matthew will find both matthew and matthews, while matthews will find only matthews.

Refining and ordering searches

Once you have your search results, the Refine Search tab at the top lets you add to or change the search fields. You can also reorganize your results, sorting by title, publication or performance dates, or STC/Wing number. (Sorting by the STC/Wing number provides a de facto sort by author.)

Dates and date ranges

To search only one year, you must pick the same year as both the start date and end date.

Selecting a start date and leaving the end date blank will search all dates after your start date. Likewise, selecting an end date, but no starting date, searches all of the dates up to and including the end date. To search the works printed through 1600, for example, select 1600 in the end date drop-down menu, but leave the beginning date blank.

Original spelling

EMED allows you to search using standardized spelling for most fields, but it also provides some search fields that use original spelling, as the words appear on a title page.

As with other search methods, try searching fewer words to get more results. For original spelling searches, you can also swap v for u, vv for w, or j for i to search alternate spellings in line with early modern practice, e.g. VViues for Wives.

For some Advanced Search fields, you can limit your search to original spelling using the drop-down menus, including in the title, author, company/performance information, and original spelling publication information. Several of these options allow you to restrict your search by location, for example to only search for words within an imprint, or a name that appears on a general title page of a collection.

How to read an EMED play entry

EMED play entries aim to clearly describe the material playbook that was used and to act as a hub for other resources on early modern English drama. Each entry includes a black title bar, a Read button for featured plays, and the following sections: Versions, Bibliography, Playbook, Performance, and, where needed, Notes.

In general, the title bar contains edition-independent, standardized information on the play, and the Performance section provides information on its first performance. The Versions section contains specific information on the playbook that is our source both for this play entry and for the EMED documentary edition. This section also contains links to modern editions, digital facsimiles, and records of copies at the Folger, where available.

A typical play entry is shown below. The title bar shows the play’s title, its author or authors, which acting company it was written for, its genre, and the years of its first performance and first printing. For featured plays, the Read button takes you to the text of the play. Versions includes a link to the library that holds the physical copy, and the encoding path for the play, with links to files at various stages of correction and encoding. For many plays, Versions includes links to the catalog records and digital image sets for additional Folger copies and related materials, such as Folger manuscripts. Bibliography shows how the text is identified in STC or Wing, ESTC, DEEP, Wiggins, and microfilm (for details on each of these, see the information below). If possible, it includes an image of the title page. Playbook shows information from the playbook’s title page (including the title, author, performance information, and date); stationer information on the playbook’s printer, publisher, and bookseller; a physical description of the way in which the play was printed (quarto, folio, etc.); and its paratextual materials. Performance shows when the play was first performed and by which company. Notes shows additional textual history for the play.

Play entry for Christopher Marlowe’s Dido.


Title Page: This subsection contains information as it is printed on the title page, including the imprint, publication statement, and performance statement, where present. Original spelling and capitalization are retained, but font changes (small caps and italics) and line breaks are not preserved; for those interested, these are represented in DEEP. Editorial intervention is given in square brackets—for example, when contracted words are expanded: Matie becomes Ma[jes]tie, Ano becomes An[n]o. Superscript letters have been silently lowered in transcriptions.

The company and the date given on the title page are also provided in a standardized field to facilitate searching, with inference or qualification in square brackets. Since our copy of record is the earliest extant print copy, in the vast majority of cases the Title page date and the First printed date will be identical. On occasion, however, these may differ—for example, for playbooks printed around the year’s end.

When an item appears in a collection, it may have both a general title page (for the whole collection) and an internal title page (for the play itself). For plays in a collection, the First printed date is the date of the collection as a whole, taken from the general title page.

Where half-titles exist, they are included in the internal title page field for collection items. Where both half-titles and internal title pages are present, both are provided, including signatures where relevant.

Stationer information: Stationer information, which is standardized, lists the place of printing, the printer, the publisher, and the bookseller. This includes items mentioned on either the general or the internal title pages, where relevant.


Performance information is among the most contentious for these plays, as it typically relies on external evidence. Performance information included here is taken from DEEP and cross-referenced with Wiggins. The first performance date for a play is given in square brackets when there is a likely range rather than a certainty. The best guess from this range is given in the play entry’s title bar, with an uncertainty marker. Discrepancies between DEEP and Wiggins in regard to dating are mentioned under Notes.

Glossary for play entries

The Database of Early English Playbooks, created and maintained by Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser, is a major source for information about the playbooks represented in EMED. The DEEP number in the bibliography section of EMED’s play entry links to the DEEP record for that playbook.

Early English Books Online–Text Creation Partnership is a collaboration between ProQuest and more than 150 libraries to generate highly accurate, fully searchable, XML-encoded texts drawn from the books imaged in the Early English Books Online database. In the Versions section, the reference number for these texts take the form of A or B, followed by five digits (e.g., A07009).

Encoding path
The stages in which the text of the play exists, including the physical copy of the play in the holding repository (with a link where available), the EEBO-TCP encoded transcription of that copy, the SHC project’s version, and the EMED documentary edition. NOTE: If there is no EEBO-TCP or SHC number in the encoding path, then there are no files produced for the copy chosen by EMED. If there is an EEBO-TCP number that is not hyperlinked, the TCP transcription is not yet in the public domain.

The play’s reference number in the English Short Title Catalogue. The online ESTC is the joint effort of the British Library, the American Antiquarian Society, the ESTC/NA, and contributing libraries around the world.

The play’s reference number as designated in W.W. Greg, A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, 4 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1939–59).

Holding repository
The library or museum which holds the physical playbook.

Microfilm reel
The play’s reel number in the Early English Books microfilm series from University Microfilm International (UMI). Note that microfilm images of the plays, which are in grayscale, are often clearer than the digital images derived from them, which are reproduced in EEBO in black and white.

Paratextual materials
Paratexts are any texts which are not the main content of a work. Paratexts in EMED plays include title pages, character lists, dedications, poems, and more.

Shakespeare His Contemporaries is an encoding and curation project led by Professor Martin Mueller that is based at Northwestern University. This project aims to enhance Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership transcriptions of early modern texts by filling gaps and adding linguistic encoding and detailed XML tagging. On the play entry, the SHC file is linked in the play’s encoding path.

The play’s reference number in A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640 (STC), 2nd edition, ed. A.W. Pollard, G.R. Redgrave, W.A. Jackson, F.S. Ferguson, and Katharine F. Pantzer, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–91).

Martin Wiggins, British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012– ). Wiggins’s identification numbers appear in the bibliography section where available, and discrepancies between Wiggins’s date of first performance and the date found in other sources is noted in our notes section. Wiggins volumes were available up through 1616 at the time of the last update to this site.

The play’s reference number as designated in Donald Wing, ed., Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641–1700 (Wing), 2nd edition, 4 vols. (New York: MLA, 1972–98).

A markup language designed to encode documents in a format that is both human and machine-readable. XML separates content from structure and is highly customizable. For further information and to learn how to use XML, see Benoit Marchal, XML by Example (Indianapolis: Que, 2000). EMED files are encoded in TEI-compliant XML; this means they are encoded in accordance with the Text Encoding Initiative guidelines.

Select bibliography

In creating the EMED metadata, we consulted images and records in Early English Books Online (EEBO) and, as necessary, University Microfilm International’s Early English Books microfilms. As indicated above, some of the information in EMED play entries is based on the Database of Early English Playbooks (DEEP), with cross-references to other key resources, including Martin Wiggins’s British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue. For further information on printing history and other editions, and for records of plays beyond EMED’s remit, we recommend consulting DEEP. We would like to thank DEEP for permitting EMED to incorporate their listings of paratextual materials, which are now available to search on EMED.

Where possible, we have employed standardized genre terms approved by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division of the American Library Association.

Early English Books Online, Chadwyck-Healey. http://eebo.chadwyck.com

Early English Books Online-Text Creation Partnership, Phase I. Oxford, Oxfordshire and Ann Arbor, Michigan. http://ota.ox.ac.uk/tcp

Farmer, Alan B., and Zachary Lesser, eds., DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks. Created 2007. http://deep.sas.upenn.edu

Greg, W.W. A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration 4 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1939–59)

Hamnet, Folger Shakespeare Library. Online catalog. http://hamnet.folger.edu

Harbage, Alfred, Samuel Schoenbaum, and Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim, eds., The Annals of English Drama, 975–1700, 3rd edition (London: Routledge, 1989)

Martin Mueller, ed., Shakespeare His Contemporaries, http://shakespearehiscontemporaries.northwestern.edu/shc, Northwestern University

Pollard, A.W., G.R. Redgrave, W.A. Jackson, F.S. Ferguson, and Katharine F. Pantzer, eds., A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475–1640 (STC), 2nd edition, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976–91)

Wiggins, Martin.British Drama 1533–1642: A Catalogue (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012– )

Wing, Donald, ed., Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America, and of English Books Printed in Other Countries, 1641–1700 (Wing), 2nd edition, 4 vols. (New York: MLA, 1972–98)