The Early Modern Festival Books Database presents more than 3000 festival books published between 1500 and 1800 in 12 languages. These are printed accounts commissioned by kings and princes, by cities, and by the church to record such events as coronations, ceremonial entries into cities, ambassadorial visits, weddings, christenings, victory and peace celebrations, funerals, civic celebrations of all kinds, investitures of popes and cardinals, canonizations of saints and translations of relics, among others. Some of them are splendidly illustrated, but many consist of a plain prose account of the festival concerned.
The database is an expanded and fully revised version of the bibliographical and historical handbook Festivals and Ceremonies. A Bibliography of Works Relating to Court, Civic and Religious Festivals in Europe 1500-1800 by Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly and Anne Simon (London: Continuum, 2000). Festivals and Ceremonies not only provided bibliographic details of the works it listed, but also historical information about the festival the publication relates to, such as the occasion, its main actors, and the artists and genres involved. When this standard tool of festival research went out of print, it was decided not to reprint it in book form but to turn it into a freely available, fully searchable database and to use this opportunity not only to check the information it contained but to provide links to a digitized version of the texts, wherever such a version existed.
The festival books listed in Festivals and Ceremonies are held in 4 libraries: The British Library (London), the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal (Paris), the Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel), the Piot Collection held in the British National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London). The database has added a fifth, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich). The database is intended as a tool to help the festival researcher, historian, art historian, and musicologist. It does not aim to list all available copies of a particular work nor all digitized versions of that work but rather, by informing a researcher of the existence of a festival, author or work, to enable him or her to find that work or related works wherever they exist. An aspiration for the future is to add the holdings of some of the other great European and US collections.