Quaker Historical Corpus

The Quaker Historical Corpus (QHC) consists of 173 texts written by Quakers between 1650? and 1690? It developed from transcriptions I made in order to compile a representative sample of early Quaker texts (the Qcorpus) for a doctoral corpus linguistics project. All the texts are derived from copies held in the Library of Friends House, London. The aims of that project dictated the criteria for assembling that corpus, one of which was for all the texts to be of fairly similar length. This entailed using sample extracts as well as shorter full length texts. For the QHC those criteria no longer apply. Instead I have tried to include only full texts. One or two have pages missing in the original copies or have unreadable passages in otherwise complete texts. One aim for the Qcorpus was to include as wide a range of writers as possible in a random selection. This did not necessarily include texts by the foremost or best-known Quakers, such as Barclay or Penn. In any case, these are readily obtainable in other ways. No images are uploaded here as others may hold the copyright. The text-only transcriptions however, are my copyright and I am happy to make them freely available. I have tried to eliminate transcription errors but certainly, some will remain. The advice is to check with the original or a digital image if in doubt.

My own aim is to provide some early Quaker texts for use in corpus analysis. These texts are a small fraction of all the material which it is believed have come down to us (cf Runyon’s list in Barbour & Roberts, 2004:567) I do not claim to have met professional bibliographical or archival standards and my metadata headings are simple. The texts all have the .txt extension and are free from tagging or other markup, aside from the headings. The point is to offer fully searchable, machine-readable texts. If they are of use to any reader other than corpus linguists, I will be pleased.  A simple bibliographic list is available here.

»  Quaker Historical Corpus Catalogue

»  Quaker Historical Corpus Download A-Z


Suitable software for embarking on linguistic investigations include WordSmith Tools, available from:

http://www.lexically.net/wordsmith/version6 (for purchase)

or AntConc:

http://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc (for free download)

or WMatrix:

http://ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/wmatrix (for web-based use)

These are example sites – other software is available from online sources.

My own PhD thesis is freely available at: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/5938

A note on the transcription

All spelling and punctuation has been retained following the printers’ own usages. Other formatting, such as italic script for quotations or quoted speech has been lost because of the limited availability in .txt files. Capitalisation follows each individual printer’s (or author’s – we cannot be sure which) preferences. There was little or no prescription regarding any of these features during the seventeenth century. Towards the end of the century some conventions for spelling started to come in, but a number of semi-educated Quakers did not yet follow these conventions. Capitalisation became a real headache as it was unclear which words should or need not start with an upper case letter. This explains the variety you may encounter between texts or even across a single text.

Who might benefit from access to these texts?

The collection was made primarily for corpus linguists with an interest in either early Quaker language and publications, with early modern English in general, or researching into seventeenth-century dissenting literature. Those interested mainly in the better-known books or journals by William Penn, Isaac Penington or George Fox will not find a broad representation; however the texts are accessible as individual files and could add to a different corpus being constructed with a different purpose. Linguists are free to download files and add their own markup tagging or convert them to XML or TEI formats.

Literary historians might be interested in specialist text types or style variants for comparison purposes.

General readers, including Quakers, wishing to dip into the world of early Quakerism beyond that which is available in anthologies such as Quaker Faith and Practice may be surprised at some of the content and wish to investigate further as a result.

Specialised sub-corpora or collections of texts can be constructed from this archive for researchers investigating dispute texts, deathbed testimonies, women’s writings, or post-Restoration material, for example.

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