About the Search Function
This website contains two kinds of texts:
- scholarly articles written in modern Canadian English and
- diplomatic transcriptions of early modern texts that faithfully reproduce the inconsistent spellings typical of printed and manuscript texts from this period.
A full-text search for any word will not return instances of that word with variant spellings. For example, if you type usury into the search box, the results will not include usurie. If you want to find variant spellings of usury in the diplomatic transcriptions, try using a wild-card or fuzzy search, or try entering different search terms. See
Early Modern Spellingbelow for information on early modern spelling.
There are two wild-card characters that can be used in searches: asterisk (*) and question mark (?). An asterisk represents zero or more characters; a question mark represents a single character. A wild-card search allows you to truncate endings, so that a search for usur* will return results that include usury, usurie, and usurer. The wild card can also be used within a word to return all possible variations in that position. For example, a search for g*ld would return gold, gould, and gowld. Combining internal and terminal wild cards would return more variants. For example, g?ld* would yield results that include golden, goldsmith, and some variant spellings thereon. Please note that when wildcards are used at the beginning of a word, the search may take a long time to complete.
Another strategy is to use a fuzzy search. This will find matches which are similar to the word you have entered. To do a fuzzy search, add the tilde character (~) to the end of the word. For example, a search for abchurch~ will retrieve variants such as Vpchurch and Apechurch. It will also retrieve church, since that is also similar to abchurch, so fuzzy searching can be less specific than wild-card searching, but it does provide more flexibility when a word is subject to variation, and it can help to identify spelling variants. Fuzzy searching uses Levenshtein Distance to measure similarity, and the level of similarity can be defined by appending a number between 0 and 1 after the tilde. For instance, shoreditch~0.5 will retrieve a range of variants including scoreditch and sewersditch; if you decrease it to 0.4, words such as wherewith and houndsditch will be included. The default value for fuzzy searching is 0.5.
The search page also provides a checkbox enabling all medial s characters to be replaced with question mark wild cards; this helps in the search for words that contain the long s (ſ).
Another helpful feature on the search page is a button which enables the retrieval of possible variant spellings of place names. This works only for place names, but is generally more effective than fuzzy searching because it pulls data from the markup in the XML encoding and therefore will not retrieve variants that are not found inside tags referring to a specific place.
Common search-string operators will work as expected. For instance, you can search for an exact phrase by using quotation marks around it: "poore children". You can also put + (plus) before a word to insist that it must be in the document, and - (minus) to indicate that it must not. For example: +queen -king will find documents that contain queen but not king.
Searches are not case-sensitive.
Early Modern Spelling
To cover the maximum number of variant spellings in a full-text search, keep in mind the following peculiarities of early modern typography:
- i and j were interchangeable. If you were looking for the word journey, you might try iourney as well. You could also use a wildcard: ?ourney.
- u and v were interchangeable. If you were looking for the word usury, you might try vsvry, vsury, and usvry as well.
- w was often spelled using a double v, especially in the upper case. If you were looking for water, you might try vvater as well.
Renaissance orthography (spelling) was not standardized. Here are a few tips:
- Try replacing i with y. For example, search for both ivy and yvy.
- Try adding a terminal e. For example, search for both gold and golde.
- Try replacing -y endings with -ie and -ye. For example, search for lady, ladie, and ladye.
- Try replacing -ed endings with -’d. For example, search for both placed and plac’d.
- Try doubling consonants and adding an e. For example, search for both dog and dogge.
- Vowels can be spelled in multiple ways. For example, gold can also be spelled gould and gowld. Alternatively, a wild-card search is possible (see above). For example, lad* would return all possible endings, and g?ld would return all vowel variations.
For more information about early modern orthography, we recommend Carl B. Smith and Eugene W. Reade’s Word History: A Guide to Understanding the English Language. See especially the section titled
Orthography and Printing in Shakespeare’s Day.
- Smith, Carl B., and Eugene W. Reade. Word History: A Guide to Understanding the English Language. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills (Indiana University), 1991. Print.