This paper introduces the Corpus of Early Ontario English (CONTE), which is the first electronic corpus of a variety of early Canadian English. After a brief presentation of research into historical Canadian English in general and early Ontarian English in particular, the definition of Ontarian English texts is discussed in detail. The selection of authors and texts, which is paramount for corpora compilation, is focussed on. For each of the corpus’ three genres – diaries, letters and newspaper texts – an example is provided and some problems of transcription of Late Modern English handwriting are addressed. The provisional design of the corpus is provided in an appendix.