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The British Library teams up with Google Books

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Historic books to go online

The British Library has agreed to team up with Google in a project that will see over 250,000 of its books digitised.

The library’s collection of out-of-copyright books, pamphlets and journals dates from 1700 to 1870. The three-year project will see these publications scanned and added to the library’s digital archive and the Google Books catalogue, available to view from anywhere in the world. Google is to cover costs, and director of external relations Peter Barron said: “This public domain material is an important part of the world’s heritage and we’re proud to be working with the British Library to open it up to millions of people in the UK and abroad.”

The library revealed that some of the first books to be sent for digitisation include feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie Antoinette and other texts relating to the French Revolution, as well as an account of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange.

The future of libraries

Google has similar partnerships with 40 libraries across the world, and has already digitised around 13 million publications. As for the British Library, a project was announced in 2010 to digitise 350 years of newspapers in partnership with brightsolid, while a venture with Microsoft resulted in 65,000 books from the 19th century being made available online.

British Library chief executive Dame Lynne Brindley commented: “In the nineteenth century it was an ambition of our predecessors to give everybody access to as much of the world’s information as possible, to ensure that knowledge was not restricted to those who could afford private libraries [...] Through this partnership [we] believe that we are building on this proud tradition of giving access to anyone, anywhere and at any time.”

Written by rachel_hand_swapRachel Hand

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