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Free access will be available throughout the UK and in the developing world

ProQuest and London’s Wellcome Library are joining forces to expand access to the library’s rich historical treasures. As part of its Early European Books digitization program ProQuest will be digitizing the Library’s entire holdings of European books printed before 1700, comprising more than 15,500 volumes, and will be making the collection available for free throughout the U.K. and the developing world. "The Wellcome Library is renowned throughout the world for its specialist collection of books in the fields of medicine and science," said Dan Burnstone, Vice President of Market Development at ProQuest. "These works offer an unparalleled insight into the development of early modern medicine and the evolution of modern European thought, and it is very exciting to be able to make them available both to scholars and to a wider readership."

The Wellcome is the fourth major library to participate in this groundbreaking project. ProQuest launched the project with the Danish Royal Library, Copenhagen and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze in Italy, and has already made these rich national collections available to all Danish and Italian citizens, while a third digitization operation is currently starting up at the National Library of the Netherlands. In all cases, ProQuest sets up a scanning studio on site at the library and uses state-of-the-art technology to create high-definition color images of every page, including the often lavish bindings and covers.

"We are delighted to be able to work with ProQuest to make this important resource available to our users," said Dr Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library. "The partnership will complement our own major in-house digitization project focusing on modern medical archives, and help us to open up the Wellcome Library’s early printed book collections to scholars worldwide."

The collection contains many rare or obscure texts on subjects ranging from alchemy to zoology, and includes many of the most spectacularly illustrated books of the period. Landmark works include the first edition of anatomist Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica (1543), the complete works of surgeon Ambroise Paré (c.1510-1590), Rabanus Maurus’s encyclopedia De sermonum proprietate (1467), whose medical section is sometimes called the first printed medical book, and a beautiful colored copy of Hartmann Schedel’s Liber chronicarum (‘The Nuremberg Chronicle’, 1493), formerly owned by the artist William Morris (1834-1896). In addition to complementing the English works already digitized as part of ProQuest’s Early English Books Online database, the new resource will provide access to important continental editions of works by famous English medical authors, such as William Harvey’s seminal work on the circulation of the blood, De motu cordis (1628), which was first published in Germany.

Through the Early European Books project, ProQuest is building an increasingly comprehensive survey of printing in Europe to 1700 by digitizing and bringing together the holdings of major rare book libraries.

Early European Books collections are available for purchase by libraries worldwide and are delivered via a multilingual interface which allows powerful searching of the detailed indexing, as well as cross-searching of the well-known Early English Books Online database, which includes facsimiles of 125,000 books printed in English or in the British Isles between 1473 and 1700.

About the Wellcome Library (

The Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation, is dedicated to improving human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

The Wellcome Library is based on the collections created by the Trust’s founder, Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936). The Wellcome Library holds books, manuscripts, archives, films and pictures on the history of medicine from the earliest times to the present day. In August 2010 the Wellcome Library launched a £3.9m project to digitize its collections and make them available to a worldwide audience, providing a global resource for the study of the history of medicine and modern bioscience.

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About ProQuest (
ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company has forged a 70-year reputation as a gateway to the world's knowledge — from dissertations to governmental and cultural archives to news, in all its forms. Its role is essential to libraries and other organizations whose missions depend on the delivery of complete, trustworthy information.

ProQuest's massive information pool is accessible through the all-new ProQuest® platform, which moves beyond navigation to empower researchers to use, create, and share content—accelerating research productivity.

This energetic, fast-growing organization includes the Summon web-scale discovery service, the new ProQuest Dialog service, and business units ebrary®, Serials Solutions®, RefWorks-COS, and Bowker®.

31 March 2011

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