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About the Founding Era Collection

Browser Requirements

Rotunda’s Founding Era Collection is an integrated research environment that covers the correspondence of a number of key figures from America’s founding era. This page explains how to use its various features.

Ways to access the content

The Founding Era Collection is divided into publications corresponding to the letterpress editions they derive from. Within each publication there are several “views” that allow the user to navigate through documents based on their order in the print editions (Contents), point in time (Chronology), references from the subject indexes (Index), or position in matches for a search query (Search Results).

Clicking the Entry menu item causes a navigation bar to be displayed. From left to right, the navigation bar includes:

  • a publication selector
  • a view selector
  • a navigation compass (optional)
  • a navigation trail.

The publication selector is used to set the context for navigation and searches. If the Founders item is selected, then navigation and searches relate to all publications combined. If an individual publication (like Adams) is selected, then navigation and searching is restricted to that publication.

The view selector sets the way that navigation happens. Each view is hierarchical, ranging from broad categories at the top to narrow ones at the base. In the Contents view, publications are arranged by series, volume, chapter, and section. The Chronology view arranges items by date, placing each according to its decade, year, month, and day. (Documents that are not precisely dated span a range of dates.) The top of the Index view categorizes the index by the first letter of entries. If a search has been conducted, then the Search Results view arranges matching documents according to relevance or date.

At the beginning of a session, the environment sets up locations for each combination of publication and view, every one pointing to the top of the relevant hierarchy. During the session, the environment keeps track of the last place visited for each combination of publication and view. When you switch to another publication, the program retrieves the last location visited in that publication. When you switch to a different view and the current item is a document, you are taken to the same document in the new view if possible. The program only attempts this when the view is switched from contents to chronology, chronology to contents, search to contents, or search to chronology.


The navigation compass can be used to move between different places in the current view. The up and down arrows are used to move up and down within the hierarchy. For example, starting at the top of the contents view and repeatedly clicking the down arrow takes you from the publication to a series to a volume and so on down to individual documents. For the chronology view, doing the same thing takes you from decade to year to month to day to documents within that day. The left and right arrows are used to navigate between adjacent items at the same hierarchical level. Thus, if you are in the level corresponding to volumes of a publication, then clicking the left or right arrow takes you to the preceding or following volume, respectively. Again, if you are at the months level of the chronological hierarchy, then clicking the left or right arrows takes you to the preceding or following month. Left and right arrows at the bottom of the page provide another way to move between adjacent items. If there is no item above, below, before, or after the current item, then the corresponding compass point is inactive.

The final item in the navigation bar is a trail which shows the sequence of steps taken to reach the current point in a navigation hierarchy. Every step except the last is an active link which takes you directly to the corresponding location.

Logging In

In order to view content in the Mount Vernon Guest Edition of The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, you need to enter via the Mount Vernon website. As of July 2012, the entry link was on the Research Databases page (first link).

Logging Out

If you have subscription access to PGWDE or other Rotunda publications and wish to view the full subscription-only content, you can do so via the Rotunda entrance page.


Clicking on Search produces a search form for the current publication, or the entire collection if Founders is selected. In this form, “Text” is used to enter one or more space-separated search terms. The “Names” section allows one to look for various combinations of author and recipient. Searches can be restricted to particular dates with the “Date Range” selectors, while the “Order by” selector controls the ordering of results. Each search must specify at least one phrase, author, or recipient.

Full-Text Search


“Scope” limits searches to documents only, notes only, or both combined. “All” is the default.


“All” is the default, but “French only” and “English only” are options that provide a language-aware search, restricting matches to documents of a specified language. For example, in Jefferson, a search on the French-English cognate abandon retrieves 7 French-language documents if “French only” is chosen, compared with hundreds of English-language documents if “All” or “English only” is selected. For any language other than French and English, please use the “exact form” switch; as stemming is supported only for French and English, you may need to use wildcards to broaden your search terms.

Exact form

By default the search broadens terms using word stemming, ignoring diacritics, among other things, to match on as many documents of interest as possible; however, you may wish to change this behavior to match on documents which contain text exactly as you enter it, effectively disabling word stemming, and making the search case sensitive, diacritic sensitive, punctuation sensitive, whitespace sensitive, and “unwildcarded”. For example, a search for Orduña normally returns documents containing “Orduña” and “Orduna” (as it was sometimes written), but with the “exact form” switch, the search will only match on “Orduña.” In another example, searching for tyranny using word stemming would expand to documents containing “Tyranny,” “tyrannies,” “tyrannical,” as well as other forms, but not if “exact form” were selected.


Searches are case-insensitive when you use lowercase letters. For example, if you search on chambers you will retrieve documents with rooms and chambers and David Chambers. Searches containing capital letters are case-sensitive: searching on Chambers will retrieve David Chambers but not rooms and chambers.

Automatic “and” queries

It isn’t necessary to specify and between terms, as the search returns a result only if it contains all of your terms. You can refine your results further by supplying more terms. For example, to research the punishment of deserters, try searching for guilty desertion to return documents containing both of those words.

Phrase searches

To restrict a search to an exact phrase, enclose the search term in quotation marks. For instance, “guilty of desertion” would retrieve only documents with that precise formula.


The search engine automatically expands nouns and verbs to match any form that derives from the word stem by a change in number, tense, or conjugation. For instance, goose will also match geese; fight will also match fights, fought, and fighting. Stemming is also supported for French-language documents: a search on permettre will find permet, permettez, etc.; a search on œil or oeil will match yeux.


Search terms may incorporate wildcards: an asterisk (*) matches zero or more non-space characters. A question mark (?) matches exactly one non-space character. For example, battle* matches battlefield. A wildcard search can be used to find matches that stemming will miss. For example, rebel* matches rebellion and rebellious but rebel does not.

Additional Search Paths

Automatic Completion of Names

Full-text searches can be narrowed to documents authored or received by a particular person. When you begin typing in a Name field and then pause, a drop-down box will appear beneath it with a regularized list of all names that start with the letters you have typed. For instance, typing “T” will display a list of all persons whose family name begins with “T” and typing “Taylor” will populate the list with people whose last name is Taylor. To browse a complete list of names, type “*” in a Name field. Names in the drop-down list can be selected using either the mouse or keyboard. Below a Name field is a selector to specify whether the person is an author or recipient of the document, or either. While searching Founders, the list will contain regularized names of all figures in the entire collection, otherwise the list is populated with names from the current publication only. In addition to constraining a text search, conducting a double Name search by itself permits viewing of what is essentially a conversation between those figures. For example, in a Founders search, entering “Washington, George” in Name 1, “Jefferson, Thomas” in Name 2, and choosing “Date, Forward” as the result order will display results containing a chronologically ordered exchange between them.

Date Range

The search form includes date range controls to allow a search for documents written on a particular date or within a range of dates. Dates can be entered manually (in the format YYYY-MM-DD) or selected using the calendar control that appears when you click on the input field or the button next to it. To specify a single day, enter its date in both the start and end date fields. (The calendar controls are coordinated to make this more convenient.) The date range fields can be used by themselves or combined with a query to refine a full-text search. In general, the narrower the date range of a search, the fewer the number of results returned. When searching Founders, the default date range spans documents from the entire collection, otherwise the default dates reflect the current publication.


When Founders is selected, a search can be restricted to select publications within the entire collection using a multi-select list box. The behavior of this form control varies depending on your computing platform: on Windows, select multiple items by pressing and holding the Ctrl key while you select items (You can select a consecutive group of items by pressing and holding the Shift key.); on Mac OS, select multiple items by pressing and holding the Apple (command) key while you select items.


Certain publications include additional search paths. For example, the Washington search form contains a section that allows results to be constrained by series, repository, and manuscript type.

Sorting Results

The default ordering of results is “Relevance,” which is calculated based on statistical information such as number of documents in a collection, frequency of search terms in a collection, and frequency of search terms in a document. Other options include chronological ordering (“Date, Forward”) and reverse-chronological ordering (“Date, Backward”).

Browser Requirements

The Founding Era platform has been tested and found compatible with the following Web browser versions:

  • Mozilla Firefox (version 2.0 and above, all platforms)
  • Mozilla Seamonkey (version 1.1 and above, all platforms)
  • MS Internet Explorer (Windows only; version 8 and above fully; versions 6 and 7 partially via extensions [see “Note on Internet Explorer 6” below])
  • Opera (version 9 and above, all platforms [see “Note on Opera” below])
  • Safari (version 2 and above, Macintosh OS X)

Certain features such as the compasses will not operate correctly unless JavaScript™ and cookies are enabled.

Unicode is used to encode the text. If characters such as apostrophes and quotation marks are incorrectly rendered then the character encoding of your browser should be changed to Unicode (UTF-8).

If you encounter any unusual behavior or formatting that you feel may be browser-related, please let us know using the Report a Bug or Error link found in the footer of every page.

Note on Internet Explorer 6

We are using the IE7 JavaScript library to enable standards-compliant behavior for versions of Internet Explorer prior to version 8. You may notice occasional screen updates as documents are reformatted by this code. We have tested the results using IE6; IE5 may work as well, but we cannot guarantee compatibility. To ensure an optimal experience, we encourage readers to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8 or later if possible, or to install one of the other supported browsers.

Note on Opera

By default, some versions of Opera create a popup tooltip containing the text of the “title” attribute of any HTML element with a title. This will obscure the JavaScript tooltips used in our mouseover expansions of abbreviations. If you move the mouse away from the highlighted text and then back, the Opera tooltip should disappear.