Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Michigan State University

Renaissance or Early Modern Material Culture: ENCYCLOPEDIAS AND DICTIONARIES

This is a guide to researching the Renaissance/Early Modern Period, in the West, especially material culture.


Encyclopedias and dictionaries here are good places to begin researching your topic because the entries frequently provide further reading references to look up in our online catalog by specific author and title.

Cambridge Shakespeare Guide

By Emma Smith.  Presents key information on all Shakespeare's dramatic and poetic works, covering plots and people, sources, context, performance history and major themes. Ordered alphabetically for easy reference, each play entry features a 'key facts' box providing informative and revealing statistics, including a breakdown of each play's major roles. Illustrated. Provides brief accounts of : Shakespeare's life and language, Shakespeare in print, and theatre in Shakespeare's time.

Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life GT 31 .G74 2004 v. 3,4 Reference

An uneven work, but very useful for its brief historical overview, information on gender roles, economic life in town and country, education, clothing, food and drink, houses and furniture, and recreations. Long articles on themes. Many references to the Greenwood Press’ “Daily Life through History Series.”

Encyclopedia of National Dress: Traditional Clothing Around the World

Has entries on countries with historical information and some bw illustrations. The link here goes to ebrary.  Once in the book, click on the index at the right side of the sceen in the table of contents.  The index comes up on the left side of the screen, with navigation buttons above it.  Look up your topic in the index, note down the page numbers.  Then, in a tiny window near the top right of the screen is the word "Page" with a tiny box next to it.  Put in the page number you need and press enter to be taken to the text of your article. 

History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000 Fine Arts NK 600 f.H57 20013

Encyclopedia of Furniture Materials, Trades, and Techniques NK 2205 .E34 2000 Fine Arts-Art Reference

Encyclopedia of Furnishing Textiles, Floorcoverings, and Home Furnishing Practices 1200-1950 NK 1710 .E39 2007 Fine Arts-Art Reference

Western domestic interiors. Nearly 1200 entries on such topics as: woven, printed, and embroidered textiles, tapestry, painted cloths, yarns, dyes, carpets, rugs, non-woven fabrics, oil-cloths, wall and upholstery materials, loose covers, trimmings, beds, cushions, and more. Entries include description, historical explanations of use, technical, manufacturing, distribution, and consumption details, primary and secondary source material.

Holy Roman Empire, a Historical Encyclopedia Main DD 125 .P385 2019 v. 1-2

220 entries in 8 topical sections: government and politics, organization and administration, individual biography, groups and organizations, key events, military, objects and artifacts, key places.  Selection of primary documents at back of v. 2.  Chronology covers 800-1806.  Short, overall bibliography of secondary sources.  Bibliographic references follow the articles.  About the history and culture of the longest lasting European empire.  Each section has an overview essay followed by more specific topical essays.  All the work is by two scholars, Brian A. Pavlac, professor of history, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and Elizabeth S. Lott, former dean of graduate programs of a liberal arts college, with a PhD in medieval Latin from Harvard, a translator and cataloger of medieval documents, college level Latin teacher, writer and editor.

Encyclopedia of the Renaissance and the Reformation CB 359 .B47 2004 Main stacks

Short articles on topics, people, places, events of the period. Bibliography and chronology at the back. Chronology shows secular events and religious, scientific, artistic, and literary events of the same time, along with names of rulers. Brief, general bibliography of recent, English language texts.

Historical Dictionary of the Enlightenment Main B 1925 .E5 C45 2005

Covers 1605-1800. Chronological table in 3 columns: year, historical/political/cultural/intellectual events of that year, books published that year.  50 page essay introducing the Enlightenment.  Topical dictionary with entries of a long paragraph to a couple of pages.  These include topical entries, entries about books published and some biographical entries. Some entries signed by scholars; others, not signed, presumably by the compiler, Harvey Chisick, PhD Johns Hopkins University.  72 page long bibliography, not annotated, at the back of the book, presented in many sections, including Reference works, religion, society, economy/economic thought, politics, institutions/literacy/education, print culture and book trade, science, art.  All fairly recently published books, as of 2005, anyway.

Oxford Bibliographies Online  see link at the bottom of this page.

Encyclopedia of the Renaissance CB 361 .e53 1999 v. v1-6 Reference

Lengthy entries. Bibliographies follow articles and include both primary and secondary sources. List of entries in vol. 1, also chronology. Some illustrations.

Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance Main CB 361 .C27 2003

One volume, covering the long Renaissance, 1415-1618, varying according to topic or national culture.  Tends to emphasize the Continent, rather than English topics, esp. the relatively neglected Spanish, Scandinavian, Dutch, and Central European cultures.  Most entries contain a brief reference for further reading.  Includes table of ruling houses, place names in imprints, dates at which places adopted the Gregorian calendar, ligatures and contractions in Renaissance Greek.  Offers the most authoritative coverage of this period in a single volume reference work.

Europe 1450-1789 Encyclopedia of the Early Modern Period D 209 .E97 v. 1-6 2004 Reference

Longer articles. Some illustrations. Bibliographies follow articles.

Encyclopedia of the Atlantic World, 1400-1900 Main D 410 .E53 2018 v. 1-2

Spanning the half millennium from the time European explorers reached the Canary Islands to the Spanish-American War, these volumes address commerce and migration as well as the spread of new ideas, beliefs, cultures, religions, politics, monetary systems, plants, animals, and diseases. Significant individuals, influential nations, and empires are examined. With such a gamut to cover, the subjects of the alphabetically ordered entries here are necessarily representative rather than comprehensive. Averaging two to three pages in length and contributed by scholars from all over the world, the entries are accessible and concise and conclude with lists of references and further reading.

Reformation and Early Modern Europe, a Guide to Research,  BR 305.3 .R42 2008 Main stacks

Bibliographic essays by many scholars. Three parts: Confessional trends (Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic, Radical, Jewish), regional trends (Central Europe, France, Italy, England, The Netherlands, Spain, Swiss), and social/cultural trends (popular religion, witchcraft, society and sexes, art history, books and printing).

Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship, and Sexuality through History  HQ 21 .G67125 2008 v. 1-6 Consulting Reference

Encyclopedia of the Literature of Empire  PN 56 .I465 S66 2010 Reference

Oxford Reference Online see the link at the bottom of this page.

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians ML 100 .G885 2001 v. 1-29 Fine Arts Music Reference and at Desk

This resource provides comprehensive coverage of Western classical music, ethnomusicology, biography, and music terminology.

Dictionary of Art N 31 .D5 1996 v. 1-34 Fine Arts Art at the Desk

The Grove Dictionary of Art contains the full text of the 34-volume print edition. The 41,000 articles range from brief entries to articles of several hundred pages, each accompanied by scholarly bibliographies. All aspects of the visual arts are covered, including painting, sculpture, architecture, graphic and decorative arts, and photography, from prehistory to the present. Although most images from the print version are not included due to copyright restrictions, access to 15,000 external images is available. Images from the Bridgeman Art Library are also searchable.

Berg Fashion Library see link at the bottom of this page.

Diccionario de Historia de Espana Re DP 56 .D5 2003  Main

History Highway, a 21st Century Guide to Internet Resources D 16.117 .H55 2006 Reference

Describes web sites in the discipline of history. Has chapters on Renaissance and Reformation, women’s history, European history (broken down by country), living history and historic reenactment, popular culture.

Menus from History, Historic Meals and Recipes for Every Day of the Year.   TX 645 .C534 2009 v. 1-2 Main

Arranged chronologically from Jan. 1-Dec. 31st, providing a menu, with discussion and recipes for a meal that actually happened, somewhere, sometime  Gives date of the original event. Emphasizes historic meals from the U.S., the British Isles, France, and Europe, but offers a few from countries around the world.  There are not recipes for all the dishes, just some of them.  List of menus chronologically, list of menus by country, list of menus by occasion, glossary, selected bibliography, general index, recipe index.  Author is a culinary historian and food writer in Australia.  See her blog The Old Foodie.

Oxford Companion to the Book.  Main Z 4 .O946 2010 v. 1-2

Encyclopedia of Tudor England. Main DA 315 .E65 2012 v. 1-3

Basic info for non-specialists on people, events, ideas, terms, topics on Britain and Ireland from 1485-1603.  Appendices on: genealogies of royal houses, brief list of European monarchs, list of English bishops, list of Popes, dates of Parliamentary sessions, list of speakers of the House of Commons, list of violent events (rebellions, battles, uprisings), list of selected historical fiction works with Tudor characters and settings, list of selected films and TV programs with Tudor characters and settings, list of websites about the Tudors, bibliography of general and reference works.

World of Renaissance Italy, a Daily Life Encyclopedia Main DG 445 .W67 2017 v. 1-2

2 vols.  v. 1: Arts to Food and Drink.  v. 2: Housing and Community to Science and Technology.  Covers history of the Italian city-states from 1350-1500.  250 unsigned essays, apparently all by the editor. Some b/w illus.  20 primary source documents in v. 2, translated into English.

Renaissance and Reformation Reference Library

Encyclopedia of British History 1500-1980

A resource for British history students online.  More than 2,000 entries.  Use with caution.  Entries are not individually signed.

Historical Dictionary of British Theatre: Early Period  Main PN 2581 .G73 2013

Biographical Encyclopedia of Early Modern Englishwomen: Exemplary Lives and Memorable Acts 1500-1650

Organized by field of endeavor:  arts/musicians/entertainers, criminals, entrepreneurs/builders, immigrants/expatriates/exiles/world travelers, Jewesses,  litigants, mad women, mistresses, mothers/daughters/wives, patrons/philanthropists, pirates/warriors, political women, printers, prostitutes, royal family, scholars, witches, women and (needlework, religion, theatre, at court), writers.  Alphabetical index. Cross references. Showcases the worthy women of early modern England. Each entry begins with some incident from the woman’s life that is particularly exciting or significant. Some entries are very brief while others are extensive. Each includes a source listing. Illustrated, with quotations either by or about the women in the text.

Brill's Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World  Main PA 8015 .B66 2014 v. 1-2

History and cultural influence of Neo-Latin, the form of Latin that originated in the Italian Renaissance and persists to today.  Covers all disciplines. 

Dictionary of Renaissance Latin from Prose Sources  Main PA 8081 .H68 2006

Records the vocabulary of over 230 Latin prose authors from various regions who wrote between c1300 and c1600 and gives translations in French and English for its 11,000 entries. 

Definitive Shakespeare Companion, Overviews, Documents, and Analysis

Four-volume work gives detailed explanations of Shakespeare's plays and poems and also covers his age, life, theater, texts, and language. Numerous excerpts from primary source historical documents contextualize his works, while reviews of productions chronicle his performance history and reception.  Provides a one-stop resource that overviews all of Shakespeare's most important plays and poems. Includes primary material—such as historical accounts of issues contemporaneous with the plays and excerpts from reviews of stage productions.

Arden Dictionary of Shakespeare Quotations    Main PR 2892 .A73 2010

Organized by topic with a keyword index and cross-references. Text the quotes are from is 1998 ed. of Arden Shakespeare Complete Works.  Includes a life of Shakespeare, a glossary, and an index of references to plays.  The topics are very specific, for instance, advice, alienation, alliance, ambition, anger, animals, anticipation, anxiety, apparitions....  For each topic there are a list of quotations illustrating the topic from various plays, with act, scene, and line references. 

Shakespeare and Domestic Life, a Dictionary  Main PR 2892 .C425 2018

Author examines Shakespeare's handling of the details of domestic life, terms relating to the household, its ambiance, and activities of those within it: clothes, food, household objects, terms for the material processes of household life, domestic activities and implements used, terms for roles and relationships of people, stages of life.  Entries have references to Shakespeare's works, title, act, scene, lines.  Arranged alphabetically by topic, with bibliography and index at back.

Shakespeare and Visual Culture: a Dictionary  Main PR 2892 .S23 2017

"Purpose of this study is to explore the different aspects of references to visual arts and vision interspersed in Shakespeare's texts, both drama and poetry, and to bring to the fore the historical background and social context, as well as the artistic and literary debates related to these textual references."  Alphabetical arrangement.

Shakespeare and London a Dictionary  Main PR 2918 .D87 2021

References to the plays are to the Arden Third Series.  Includes all references in the plays to London locations, its institutions, and figures associated with those institutions.  Also has entries on London slang, activities, locations, and vocations that are not unique to London but were especially dominant in urban life at the time. Entries are mostly paragraph length and there is a bibliography at the back.

Jane Austen Shopped Here  Main DA 683 .D47 2020

Don't be deceived by the title.  This is by Teresa DesJardien, a period novelist.  It is her dictionary of her research facts that she has discovered in printed resources to do with all manner of English topics of the Jane Austen period.  There is lots of information on particular places and buildings especially in London.  Also on topics and about words.

Michigan State University