Primary Sources

Primary Sources
The Boston Public Library is the oldest major public library in the U.S., and the third largest after the LOC and NYPL

Sometimes you have to go straight to the source. That's why Infoplease has compiled some important books, poems, and documents for your reading pleasure. Discover firsthand some of the most famous texts in the world. 

Books & Plays

Entering the modern age, books supplanted many oral traditions as they became cheap to produce. This revolution in reading is one of the biggest changes of modernity, contributing to the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Infoplease has collected several influential books and plays, many of which are staples of modern culture. 

Fables & Fairytales

Fables and fairy tales are two of the most common types of folklore, both of which typically take the form of short stories. Fables are particularly short, and are used to share a moral or belief, while fairy tales can be longer and typically involve fantastic elements like giants and trolls. Infoplease has collected some of the world's most recognized fables and fairy tales for you to peruse.


In law and government, primary sources are vitally important; they are quite literally the letter of the law by which governments operate. We've gathered here a bevy of sources about law and government in the U.S. and internationally, to better inform readers about how and why governments do what they do. 

History & Biography

These personal accounts of history and these historic accounts of persons inform us about the society we live in—where we've come from and where we're going. Infoplease has gathered some influential books in U.S. history. These books caused a stir in their own time and left a legacy that continues to the modern day. 

Philosophy & Religion

For our own part, we like to boil it down that philosophy is the study of what stuff is, how he know, and what we should do about it.  Religion, from the Latin religare ("to bind [together]"), is in that way similar to philosophy, and the two tend to overlap quite often—Many of our philosophical beliefs are influenced by our religious beliefs, and vice versa. Here at Infoplease, we've gathered some of history's most influential religious and philosophical texts for you to study.


Poetry is arguably the oldest written art form that we have records of, dating back thousands of years. The earliest poem we still have largely intact is the Epic of Gilgamesh, composed in ancient Sumer. Here at Infoplease, we've collected a range of works from highly influential and important Western poets, all of whom are staples of art and education in the United States. Don't forget that April is National Poetry Month, when we appreciate the rich history of poetry and the awesome stuff poets are making today. 

Speeches & Essays

What is a primary source?

According to UC Irvine, "Primary sources are documents, images or artifacts that provide firsthand testimony or direct evidence concerning an historical topic under research investigation." For example, a Roman citizen's account of Rome during his lifetime would be a primary source. In literature, a primary source means the original text you're talking about. If you're talking about the Bible, your primary source is the Bible. 

(For the curious, Infoplease is a tertiary source. Secondary sources are analyses of primary sources, like essays. Tertiary sources compile information from primary and secondary sources. Other tertiary sources include print encyclopedias and textbooks.)

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