Eighteenth-Century English Grammars database (ECEG)

The ECEG-database

ECEG is an electronic resource for the study of the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition. It is a database which primarily compiles information about eighteenth-century English grammars as gathered from earlier bibliographies, collections and scholarly studies published over the last hundred years (1903-2011). In the fullest detail possible, ECEG also includes biographical information about the grammar-writers. In addition, the bio-bibliographic information has been thoroughly coded by thematic fields such as year of publication, place of printing, target audience, gender and occupation of the author, etc.

Although primarily addressed to scholars working in the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition, the bio-bibliographic nature of ECEG will also benefit students and researchers in other disciplines such as literary studies (e.g. the life of the grammar-writers) and historical studies (e.g. book production and publication history). Ultimately, in the belief that this century "was a key phase in the development of the English language" (Görlach 2001: 12), it is also hoped that ECEG will contribute to the process of 'de‑cinderellisation' of the eighteenth century in the history of English (see Pérez-Guerra et al. 2007: 12-13).

ECEG was first released in December 2010 in free electronic, user-friendly browseable and searchable format. A slightly updated version was released in July 2012. ECEG is freely available online for research and educational purposes at the research Institute of Text Analysis and Applications (IATEXT) webfarm, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

For more information contact Nuria Yáñez-Bouza.

Acknowledgements

The ECEG-database project was financially supported by the British Academy Small Research Grant Scheme for the two-year period July 2008 – July 2010, extended until December 2010.

We are immensely grateful to Antonio Torres for the design and technical support of the Microsoft Access database. His wise advice and attention to detail, his patience and good will have been key to the project. We thank Chris White for preparing the online version of the database hosted at the University of Manchester from 2010 to 2016, and we sincerely thank the research Institute of Text Analysis and Applications (IATEXT) at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for developing the new online application and hosting ECEG (2020), in particular Alicia Rodríguez-Álvarez and Gregorio Rodríguez-Herrera for their interest, Francisco Javier Carreras-Riudavets for the project supervision, and Carlos Martel Lamas for designing and developing the new online application (2019/20).

Thanks are also due to Marije van Hattum and Purva Bachani for temporary assistantship in the early stages of the project.

The scope of the database wouldn't have been possible without the generous help and collaboration of the staff at many libraries in the UK and America. Our gratitude to all of them.

In England: The John Rylands, Deansgate, Manchester, and The Manchester University Library; Birmingham Archives & Heritage, Birmingham Central Library; Durham Cathedral University Library, Durham; The Brotherton Library, Leeds University Library; Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool; The British Library, The Senate House Library, The London Institute of Education, and Victoria and Albert Museum Archives in London; Robinson Library, Newcastle University; Manuscripts and Special Collections, The University of Nottingham; Bodleian Library, Oxford; York Minster Library, York. In Scotland: Library and Historic Collections, University of Aberdeen; National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; Glasgow University Library and The Mitchell Library in Glasgow. In Ireland: National Library of Ireland and Trinity College, Dublin. In Wales: The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. In America: The Lilly Library, University of Indiana, Bloomington; Boston Public Library, Boston; Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.; Honnold Library, Claremont Colleges, CA; Perkins Library, Duke University, Durham NC; Dartmouth College Library, Hanover NH; Archives and Special Collections, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln NE; Butler Library, Columbia University, New York; The New York Public Library, New York; The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Library Company Philadelphia, Philadelphia; American Antiquarian Society, Worcester Mass.; Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University Library, NH.

We warmly thank Massimo Sturiale (University of Catania, Sicily) for his excellent organisation of the Second International Conference of New Perspectives on Prescriptivism (April 2006) – not only because it was an intellectually inspiring and socially enjoyable event, but also and mainly because it was there where this project took off.

ECEG was first presented at the Third International Conference of Late Modern English (Leiden, 31 August – 1 September 2007). We would like to thank the audience and, especially, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade and Joan C. Beal for comments and suggestions.

Special thanks go as well to Robin C. Alston for his interest in the project, for generously sharing his data before publication and, above all, for his indefatigable efforts and diligent work over forty years.

Aims and questions

In 1989, Charles Jones described the Late Modern English period as the "Cinderella of English historical linguistic study" (1989: 279), referring to the little scholarly attention given to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In recent years, however, this two-century period has received increasing attention, especially the eighteenth century and, more precisely, the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition (see Pérez-Guerra et al. 2007: 11-24). Since new research trends demand an update of the resources available to the growing research community, the time seemed to be right for the ECEG-database. ECEG was presented as a new data source in electronic format which contains up-to-date bibliographic information about eighteenth-century English grammars and biographical information about the grammar-writers.

In the preface to volume I of A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800, Robin C. Alston wrote the following:

This volume is devoted exclusively to English grammars written in English by Englishmen, Americans, and in one or two cases foreigners, as well as a very few grammars written in Latin by native speakers. [&] the following sorts of books are specifically excluded here: (1) spelling books containing abstracts of grammar; (2) miscellaneous works, epistolary manuals, &c., containing brief grammars; (3) dictionaries containing grammars; (4) polyglot grammars; (5) grammars of English written in foreign languages, as well as grammars written in Latin by foreigners and published abroad (Alston 1965: xiv; emphasis added).

Bearing in mind that Alston's bibliography, in particular the first volume, has been the starting point of most studies on the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition, it is to be expected that previous work might have been biased by his selection of 'distinct' English grammars. It thus follows that English grammars contained in other types of work, such as dictionaries and epistolary manuals, have often been overlooked in the literature, despite being listed in his other volumes (1966-1970). Several methodological questions arise: which are the eighteenth century grammars "specifically" selected in Alston (1965)?; which ones are "specifically" excluded?; has any other (earlier or later) scholar investigated those "excluded" grammars?; do scholars after Alston rely on him alone when selecting their primary sources?; which are the eighteenth-century grammars most commonly studied in this field?

In order to answer these questions, Alston (1965) was, evidently, the starting point of our project, but the scope needed to be broadened in time, sources and expectations. We had three aims in mind: (i) to revisit Alston's bibliographic work by covering not only his volume I (1965) but also other volumes in the series (1966-70), supplements (1973-74) and addenda (2008); (ii) to provide an up-to-date database by compiling bibliographic information from other reference sources published before and after Alston's work (1903-2010) in order to offer a more comprehensive account of the grammar-writing activities in the eighteenth century; and (iii) to include biographical information about the authors of the grammars as well.

Methodology

The term 'English Grammar' in ECEG

Aware of the elasticity and ambiguity of the terms ‘grammar’ and ‘grammar-book’ during the eighteenth century (Sundby et al. 1991: 4-5), we delimited our data to works which fulfil four main criteria so that an ‘English grammar’ in ECEG is a work which (i) deals with morphology and syntax; (ii) is written in English, including those which appear in polyglot grammars when it is evident that the purpose is to teach English, too; (iii) is written by native speakers, with the exception of a small number of ‘naturalized English speakers’ (Sundby et al. 1991: 15); (iv) is printed in the British Isles and, to a lesser extent, the America colonies, again with the exception a couple of foreign places which were consistently quoted in our bibliographic sources.

Crucially for a better understanding of the eighteenth-century grammatical tradition and grammar-writing practices, the scope of the term ‘English grammar’ in ECEG goes beyond the traditional, narrow view of grammar as ‘distinct’ grammar-book. Rather, it also includes subsidiary grammars prefixed to (i) dictionaries or encyclopaedias; (ii) works concerned with the philosophy of the language; (iii) rhetoric and elocution treatises; (iv) letter-writing manuals; (v) polyglot grammars, if written to help them acquire a knowledge of the English language; (vi) spelling-books; and (vii) books of exercises. There is, inevitably, a miscellany category, and we have consulted some manuscripts, too. 

Compilation

The process of compiling the ECEG-database consisted of three main phases:

  • Firstly, our starting point was to revisit Alston's Bibliography but not only his volume on 'distinct' English grammars (1965), as previous scholars have mostly - if not exclusively - done; we also aimed to revise later volumes, supplements, addenda and corrigenda up to the present day (see 1966-1970, 1974, 2008)
  • With a view to assessing to what extent scholars have relied on Alston's work, and also which scholars have (not) done so, the second phase consisted of extensive reading and selection of the literature in the field. This has allowed us to collect and collate a large number and variety of primary sources cited in the literature hitherto
  • The third phase involved a thorough process of thematic classification of the grammars cited in the literature. In order to do so, the primary sources were personally examined either by consulting materials available online (e.g. ECCO) or by following the traditionally laborious task of visiting libraries (e.g. the British Library, the National Library of Scotland)

ECEG (July 2012) consists of 323 grammars of the English language written in the time-span 1700-1800 by 275 different authors. The works have been drawn from:

  • Scholarly works: Leonard (1929), Poldauf (1948), Michael (1970, 1987), Vorlat (1975), Sundby et al. (1991) and Mitchell (2001)
  • Bibliographies: Kennedy (1927), Alston (1965-2008, vols. I-VIII, Supplement, Addenda), and Evans's American bibliography (1903-1959), along with the supplement volume by Bristol (1971)
  • Collections, facsimiles or reprints: Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, Evans Digital Collection of American Imprints, and Alston's (1967-73) facsimile reprint series English Linguistics 1500-1800

Information about the authors has been drawn, in addition to some of the above, from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online (ODNB 2004), the Lexicon Grammaticorum (Stammerjohann et al. 1996), the Universal Index of Biographical Names (Koerner 2008), and occasionally from historiographic surveys (e.g. Tieken-Boon van Ostade 1996, Rodríguez-Gil 2002, Cajka 2003, Percy 2003, Sturiale 2006, Navest 2008).

The comparative analysis across the reference sources allows us to filter the data in terms of (a) which works are more popular among contemporary scholars and (b) which works are mentioned only once.

Although ECEG contains a large number of fully coded records, a database like this can only be a reflection of what has survived mainly in the academic and research libraries, occasionally in smaller or specialised collections and, at times, in private hands. Notwithstanding these inescapable limitations, it is hoped that ECEG will provide comprehensive knowledge of English grammars, grammar-writers and grammar-writing practices in the eighteenth century. 

Fields

The information gathered for each grammar has been thoroughly examined and broken down into sub fields, twenty-one altogether, in order to allow for specific searches, whether individual or combined. These are described in the table, thematically grouped in three major categories: Grammars (13), Authors (5) and Sources (3).

ECEG database

Access

The ECEG-database was first released in December 2010, with a slightly updated version being released in July 2012. ECEG is available in free electronic format for research and educational purposes at the research Institute of Text Analysis and Applications (IATEXT) webfarm, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

We kindly ask users to acknowledge the database in any published work that makes use of it; copyright is retained by Nuria Yáñez-Bouza and María Rodríguez-Gil (© 2010). 

ECEG database

The contents of the database are available via two interfaces: Browse layout and Search layout. In addition, search results can be downloaded to the user's computer too in .csv or .json format. For guidance, please see the notes in the CoRD website

Research

Reference line

ECEG Eighteenth-Century English Grammars database, 2010. Compiled by María E. Rodríguez-Gil (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain) and Nuria Yáñez-Bouza (The University of Manchester, UK). https://eceg.iatext.ulpgc.es/

References

Selected references

Contacts

Dr Nuria Yáñez-Bouza
Honorary Research Fellow
Linguistics and English Language
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
University of Manchester 
Oxford Road 
Manchester M13 9PL

Senior Lecturer
Department of English, French and German Studies
University of Vigo

Email: nuria.yanez-bouza@manchester.ac.uk