The Bodleian Library has published over 300,000 rare books and manuscripts online, which are now fully available to the general public for the first time. Among the texts published online is the first edition of Jane Austen’s Emma, the first 1729 English translation of Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, and the first edition of Darwin’sOn the Origin of Species.
The launch of the Bodleian Libraries’ collections is part of the Oxford-Google Digitisation project, established in 2004. It has reached a new milestone by making original texts from Oxford that are no longer covered by copyright accessible to a global audience.
Oana Romocea, Communications Officer at the Bodleian, commented, “the project was initiated as part of the Bodleian Libraries’ wider aim to make its collections, books, ephemera and other material available in digital format which is part of our academic commitment and outreach activities. Digitisation offers new possibilities for scholarly research and teaching, as well as opening up the Bodleian collections to the general public.”
Until now, the majority of the Bodleian’s publications were only available in snippets through Google Books. Users of the library’s website are now able to download original versions of 335,000 books, which have also been added to the online catalogue of Oxford’s collections at solo.boleian.ox.ac.uk. The digitised materials are in their original typescript and show the distinctive Bodleian Library stamp.
Cameron Cook, a second-year student at Lincoln College, said, “It is great to see the Bod adapting to an increasingly technological age, and making the essence of the manuscripts (i.e. the words) easily accessible.”
The programme led to the creation of copies of each book for both Google and Oxford, allowing public access to the Bodleian’s vast collections. Users from all over the world have already made around 60,000 downloads since the introductory launch in March this year
Amongst the top downloads were works from the 1871-73 collected works of Alfred Tennyson and Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Along with the most downloaded were Victoria Queen of Great Britain, Leaves from the journal of our life in the Highlands from 1848 to 1861, and The life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort 1875-80 by Sir Theodore Martin.
The majority of items published online were selected because they were out of print and difficult to obtain. Researchers who need to work with a particular copy of a text will now be able to access them directly through SOLO.
Sarah Thomas, head of the Bodleian Library said: “This collection of several hundred thousand digitised works provides a significant body of material that we can use to develop innovative systems and services.”