The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) is the definitive union catalogue for early British or English language books, and is available through the British Library's website.
The British Library describes ESTC as:
' …a comprehensive, international union catalogue listing early books, serials, newspapers and selected ephemera printed before 1801. It contains catalogue entries for items issued in Britain, Ireland, overseas territories under British colonial rule, and the United States. Also included is material printed elsewhere which contains significant text in English, Welsh, Irish or Gaelic, as well as any book falsely claiming to have been printed in London.'
Some 2,000 libraries contribute to ESTC, including the National Library of Scotland, and you can find which libraries hold copies of particular books by searching the database.
There are also links to microform and digital copies where available. ESTC is the best finding aid for microfilms in 'The Eighteenth Century' series, which NLS takes, and which is also digitally available as 'Eighteenth Century Collections Online' (ECCO). ESTC is updated regularly and is continually growing.
ESTC is easy to use, but Rare Book Collections staff are happy to help with searching, either in the reading rooms or remotely. Contact us if you have any questions.
History of National Library of Scotland participation in the ESTC project
From late 1975 the National Library of Scotland was involved in what was at first the Eighteenth-Century Short-Title Catalogue. The Library began reporting items from its card catalogues to the British Library on a large scale in early 1980. This part of the operation lasted until late 1986. Since then we have continued to add details of new acquisitions.
In 1987, ESTC was expanded to include books printed between 1475 and 1700, using the published STC and Wing bibliographies, and became the English Short Title Catalogue. The Library's holdings had already been reported to STC and Wing, and this information was copied into online ESTC.
There are now some 69,000 NLS holdings listed in ESTC.