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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Primary Sources: Primary source material

A guide to finding and using primary sources

Selected online resources

Docs Teach is a resource from the US National Archives for teaching and learning from primary sources in their collections.

Statistics and Data

New York City neighborhoods A helpful subject guide created by librarians at Baruch College.

Public opinion data A subject guide created by librarians at Northwestern University.


American Rhetoric Online Speech Bank An index to and growing database of 5000+ full text, audio and video (streaming) versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two.

Gifts of Speech: Women's speeches from around the world Speeches by influential contemporary women. Sponsored by Sweet Briar College.

Great Debate and Beyond The Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago presents a history of televised presidential debates beginning with the famous Kennedy Nixon debates in 1960. Online video is available for some of the debates.

...and here are some primary source collections recommended by John Jay faculty:

Freely Available Early Book and Manuscript Collections

PRDL: Post Reformation Digital Library is a select database of digital books relating to the development of theology and philosophy during the Reformation and Post-Reformation/Early Modern Era (late 15th-18th c.).

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library of St. Johns University (Minnesota) offers resources and tools for the study of early manuscripts and currently features manuscript cultures from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

The British Library Digital Catalog of Illuminated Manuscripts The British Library holds one of the richest collections of medieval and renaissance manuscripts in the world, and aims to provide access to images and information about its manuscripts to students, scholars, and the general public. See also Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (1994).

Early Printed Books focuses on what was unique about books printed during the hand-press period in the West—those features particular to works printed between 1450, when the printing press began to be developed in Germany, and 1800, when the machine press began to take its place across the Western world.

Have suggestions?

If you have other primary source collections or resources to recommend, please email Kathleen Collins (

Electronic Primary Source Book Collections

The Library's collection of electronic historical primary texts has expanded enormously, and now includes:

Early English Books Online (EEBO): contains page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473 to 1700.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO): A digital archive of 150,000 books published in the eighteenth century, covering a broad spectrum of topics like law, history, science, and art.

EEBO and ECCO can be searched together. If you wish to do so, when you are on the advanced search screen of either, choose the option to include documents from ECCO or EEBO.

Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC) is a non-profit cooperative of libraries that preserves and makes accessible legal titles and government documents from around the world. Through its online subscription service, LLMC Digital, the Consortium makes available legal titles that are at risk due to age or other factors, converting print and microform titles to current media. LLMC Digital includes over 12,000 titles and over 74 million images. Some of this content is freely available through its open access site.  [This description is an excerpt of an overview by Karen Okamoto available at].  For infomation on how to search this database see this brief video  (click Tutorial).

The Making of the Modern World: Provides the full text of over 62,000 works, including books and other monographs, on business, politics, and economics published from 1450 to 1850. Includes the full Goldsmiths’-Kress Library of Economic Literature.




Freedom of Information Act (Govt. info)

See our FOIA guide for information on how to access records of the executive branch of the United States federal government.