The Literary Encyclopedia for Librarians

Aims, Purposes and Scholarly Architecture

The Literary Encyclopedia was founded in 1998 with the aim of providing a reliable scholarly online literary reference work for English-language readers, primarily in higher education. It takes world literature as its field and publishes biographies of major and minor writers; scholarly descriptions of all interesting texts written by these authors, including those often neglected; and descriptive and critical essays on literary, cultural and historical matters, which provide a finer understanding of the social contexts in which this writing had been produced.

In 1998 it was clear to the founders that reference works in future would be delivered online, constantly updating and improving both the ‘data’ and the technological means of search and display. It was also apparent that the new publishing technology would enable new social relations between scholars and their work: they could own the publication collectively, reduce costs to institutions, and constantly develop the platform to improve the quality of teaching, learning and research.

Since 1998 The Literary Encyclopedia has vindicated its foundational aims. It currently offers excellent coverage of works originally written in English, as well as German, Russian, French, Italian and classical literatures, with growing coverage of Hispanic, postcolonial and other world literatures. It also includes essays on relevant visual artists and architects, philosophies, philosophers, politicians and politics, scientists and scientific thought. It comprises over 14 million words in nearly 7200 peer-reviewed reference essays written by over 2800 scholars, mainly current university teachers.  This work is commissioned, checked and supervised by more than 50 specialist editors.

The Literary Encyclopedia has also published bibliographical listings for over 32,000 literary works (full bibliographies for nearly all the authors we have listed) that can be searched for genre, gender and country of origin. Many of the listed works will eventually be described in full. The publication has created short entries for over 10,000 historical events that provide an historical and contextual ‘armature’ it also hosts nearly 20,000 listings of recommended scholarly reading. The publication grows by around one million words a year.

Since The Literary Encyclopedia was digitally conceived, much thought has been devoted to maximising the scholarly and pedagogic benefits of electronic delivery. It offers unparalleled advanced search possibilities, and enables any user to create bookshelves that store particular articles, as well as customized transverse timelines.  Online step-by-step video demonstrations [under the HELP section on the homepage] explain how to use such features, and personalised help is also available via email with our Faculty liaison officer.

The publication is described in full HERE.

Institutional Access

The platform includes individual account login for off-site institutional clients or single subscribers, IP-address access for campuses, Athens and Shibboleth login, and WAYFless URLS.  It is Metalib, W3C and OpenURL compliant and fires direct search requests for articles to JSTOR and ProjectMuse. To enable cross-platform searching in subscribing institutions, it is indexed by EBSCO Host and Reference Universe.

Institutional Licence

Please click here to download our institutional licence.
Alternatively, we can supply under the terms of the NISO SERU initiative.


User Testimonials

Click HERE to read what librarians, contributors and individual subscribers say about their experience of using The Literary Encyclopedia.


Please ask for trial access by emailing the Subscription manager.

Contacting about other matters

Please feel free to address the Managing Editor at any time.

Dr Cristina Sandru, Managing Editor
September 2014