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.