BrillOnline Primary Sources is freely accessible. Anyone can browse and search the documents in our collections. Extensive metadata and preview images tell you exactly what the document is about. To actually use the documents themselves, you will need access. There are two ways of getting in.

Through your institution

Access to this platform is via a library subscription or purchase of your research institution. An institutional logo can be shown on each page. 

Buy access

It is possible to purchase short term access to the whole platform. This access allows you to read and use all documents in our collections, but not to save, download or print them. Click on the green 'Purchase Access' button or click on the shopping cart on the right top of each page. You may purchase access for 1 day. Brill has chosen Paypal to handle transactions. This can be done using a Paypal account or by credit card. Access is given on entering a username and password and is strictly personal. After completing a purchase you will receive an e-mail with your access details from Brill directly. The transaction details will be mailed to you by Paypal. Please note that purchases are non-refundable. See Brill's terms and conditions for more information.

Access icons

Green rectangles before titles indicate full text access. White rectangles indicate no access. Green rectangles with a white O inside indicate Open Access. Open Access collections and documents are freely accessible.


BrillOnline Primary Sources offers search functionality on three levels: 

  1. platform-wide
  2. within collections
  3. within documents

Any search will always search both the collection and document metadata and the full-text documents. Full text search results are marked as such in the list of search results. Please remember that not all documents are full-text. Optical character recognition is very difficult in documents with unusual characters or low-quality images.

Search tips
We offer the following search tips for information on searching the platform.

  • Short queries: Unless you have very specific requirements, it is often best simply to type short search queries; often one or two words may be all you need. By default, if you search for two or more words, the search engine will look for all of the words you enter, ie will treat the query as a Boolean AND.

  • Filter search results: search results can cut down be by using the filters on the left hand side of the screen. Filters become very detailed when searching one publication.
  • Modify search: Too many search results from a simple query? Click modify search to refine (or alter) your search terms. 
  • Advanced search: use advanced search to search in specific fields, like author names.
Personal search tools

Under View History in the Tools panel to he right of your screen, Documents and Searches, remember which documents you used during your session, and which search terms you entered. There is also an option to clear your history.

The search engine
  • Capitals: The search is insensitive to case: searching for abraham, ABRAHAM or ABraHaM will all retrieve the same results.
  • Stem: The search engine will search for words with the same stem, ie a search for bow will also retrieve bowing, bowed and bows.
  • Special characters: Accents are neglected in the search. Search for Allah will give results containing Allah and vice versa.

  • Numbers: Key in "1:1" in the search field, including the double quotes to find 1:1.
  • >Phrases: Include a phrase in double quotes, eg "arabic script" to retrieve all articles that contain the exact phrase.
  • Wildcards: You can use the "?" symbol to perform a single character wildcard search; or you can use the "*" symbol for zero or more characters. For example, jo? will match job and joy. The term jo* will also match jonah, john and journey. Accented characters are not supported in wildcard expressions.
  • >Fuzzy searches (pattern matches): A fuzzy search is useful if you are not sure how to spell a particular word, or if alternative spellings are permissible. To perform a fuzzy search, simply add the "~" character to the end of the search term. For example, grammer~ will match grammar.
  • Proximity searches: Use the "~" character plus a number at the end of a phrase. For example, the query "adam eve"~3 will match the two terms within 3 words of each other.
  • Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT are allowed Boolean operators, all of which must be typed in upper case. example: the search string adam AND eve will find all articles containing the words Adam and Eve.
  • Ranking of search results: When it compiles the result list, the search engine returns results in the following order of priority:
    1. Exact matches in the article heading
    2. Partial matches in the article heading
    3. Matches of all terms in the full text of the article
  • All: To retrieve the total number of search results enter *:* as search term.

Browser Support

BrillOnline Primary Sources is best viewed with the following browsers: 

  • Chrome 70 or higher

  • Firefox 60.0.0 or higher 

  • Safari 5.0.0 or higher 

  • Windows 10 Edge

Older browser versions and other browsers are not fully supported and may cause limited functionality. 


The following guidelines were used wherever possible:


Equality & Human Rights Commission Website accessibility guidance (PAS78):

Principles of graceful degradation will be applied where user experience can be improved with non-compliant techniques. This will ensure that accessible alternatives are available for all core functionality.

The following technical standards are employed: 

  • XHTML: Extensible HyperText Markup Language
  • CSS: Cascading Style Sheets
  • Microformats – where appropriate the following microformats may be used:
    • rel-tag for keywords.
    • hCard for people and organizations
    • xFolk for bookmarks/reading lists.
    • Javascript
    • Atom for feeds/syndication