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What is a primary source?

A primary source is "first-hand" information, sources as close as possible to the origin of the information or idea under study. Primary sources are contrasted with secondary sources, works that provide analysis, commentary, or criticism on the primary source. Primary sources can include written works, recordings, or other source of information from people who were participants or direct witnesses to the events in question. Examples of commonly used primary sources include government documents, memoirs, personal correspondence, oral histories, and contemporary newspaper accounts. They also can include images, advertisements, reviews, costumes, and documentation of stage performance.

Some primary sources are digitized and available online, while many others are not. Original copies of primary sources are often housed in protected repositories like archives and Special Collections, which function in a different way from circulating library collections.

Shakespeare Sources at UCLA Library Special Collections

Shakespeare Sources at the Clark Library

Performance Reviews

Digitized Primary Sources

Huntington Library Collections

The Library holds outstanding Shakespeare and Renaissance print collections. These encompass a variety of materials, from commonplace books of the early modern period and 18th-century letters — such as those of Elizabeth Montagu and her circle — to contemporary authors' papers. The Huntington also holds early Quartos, including digitized versions, and the collections of the Francis Bacon Library.