Thomason Tracts

A group representing the Roundheads and Cavaliers. Prince Rupert and Prince Griffin's dogs are about to fight each other
A Dialogue, or rather a parley betweene Prince Ruperts dogge whose name is Puddle and Tobies dog whose name is Pepper, etc. British Library shelfmark E.246.(23)

These are a vast collection of printed pamphlets, books, and newspapers, printed mainly in London between 1640 and 1661, originally brought together by George Thomason, an important London bookseller and the friend of John Milton (1608-1674).

About the collection

Among the British Library's unrivalled collections for the study of British history are the Thomason Tracts, one of the most important sources relating to the turbulent period of the English Civil War in the mid-17th century. These are a vast collection of printed pamphlets, books, and newspapers, printed mainly in London between 1640 and 1661, originally brought together by George Thomason, an important London bookseller and the friend of John Milton.

The collection consists of over 22,000 printed items, bound in 2,000 volumes: not only are many now unique, but these copies also offer extra evidence in the form of Thomason's own annotations with publication dates and attributions of authorship.

The news pamphlets and newsbooks, which number over 7,200 and form just one part of the collection, provide detailed accounts of battles, negotiations, and political machinations.

Catalogues and finding aids

The collection items are described on Explore the British Library and in more detail on the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

The key reference aid to accompany the collection is the printed catalogue prepared by G.K. Fortescue, The Catalogue of the Pamphlets, Books, Newspapers, and Manuscripts Relating to the Civil War, the Commonwealth, and Restoration, Collected by George Thomason, 1640-1661 (1908; reprinted 1977). It is arranged chronologically with indexes over two volumes. Printed copies are held on Open Shelves in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room at shelfmark RAR 094.20941.

The two volumes can be consulted online using word-searchable electronic facsimiles:

What is available online?

Much of the material is now fragile and the original pamphlets are restricted from general Reading Room use. Full digital facsimiles are available via 'Early English Books Online' (EEBO) and the 'Historical Texts' databases, both accessible onsite in the Reading Rooms at St Pancras.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

A complete set of preservation microfilms exists and reels can be ordered at St Pancras only from on-site storage.

Microfilms of the broadside materials are kept on the open shelves in the Rare books and Music Reading room. Bound photocopies can also be ordered at St Pancras from on-site storage. Staff at the Rare Books Reference Enquiries Desk can advise about this.

What is available in other organisations?

In 1977, University Microfilms International of Ann Arbor, Michigan, published a microfilm edition of the collection under the title The Thomason Tracts, 1640-1661. This microfilm series is often held by larger research libraries.

How to guides

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

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You can take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You need to come to the Library to access the majority of these resources.

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to the British National Bibliography

A guide to help you use the British National Bibliography catalogue, covering: login, search, and how to manage your results

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

Using gloves with books and manuscripts

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.

Researching television and radio news

We have been recording television and radio news programmes broadcast in the UK since May 2010 - only accessible in our Reading Rooms

Researching newspapers

There are online newspaper resources available in the Newsroom, including both UK and international newspapers.

Search for resources in microforms

How to search for resources in microforms

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 170 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass.

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.

Using the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to use the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

How to get a Reader Pass if you are under 18

How to apply for an under 18 Reader Pass