19 October 2017 Blogs, Academic, Community College, Faculty, Librarian, Student/Researcher

New Video Highlights Digitization of Early European Books

“I cannot imagine going back to the former way of doing research.”
– Oliver Bosc, Head of Arsenal Library BnF

Beginning in 2009, ProQuest collaborated with four national libraries in Europe and the Wellcome Library, embarking on a digitization program that has transformed research of the early modern era. Early European Books (EEB) expands on ProQuest’s flagship product, Early English Books Online, by enabling unique collections of European works published between 1450 and 1700 to be accessed online. Participating libraries include:

    • The Danish Royal Library (KBDK),
    • The National Central Library in Florence (BNCF),
    • The National Library of the Netherlands (KBNL),
    • The National Library of France (BnF), 
    • The Wellcome Library in London

Remarkable collections from these institutions can now be explored by scholars around the world, accelerating research on a period of profound societal and religious change, considered by many historians as the foundation of modern Western intellectual thought.

An Embarrassment of Riches

Before EEB, research on the early modern era required exhaustive amounts of time and meticulous effort. Fragile original materials have limited availability and capturing content meant page-by-page note taking. In EEB, there are more than 56,000 works – over 17 million pages. Along with the sheer volume of information, translations of various early European books can span several regions -- with select editions only available at certain libraries. Traveling from Scotland to France isn’t always a viable option for a researcher seeking the Latin translation of a manuscript originally written in English. Digitization has placed centuries-old documents at the fingertips of researchers across the globe, all in a central location.

Cover to Cover Preservation and Access

In the 17th century Jean Batiste Tavernier chronicled his global travels and dedicated his work to Louis XIV. The work included a detailed illustration depicting a ceremony in Tonkin (now north Vietnam). Over 350 years later, the same illustration has been digitized in EEB, preserving its quality for generations of researchers to come.

The scanned color images in Early European Books means it can be better than looking at real books.” – Dr. Edward Wilson-Lee, University of Cambridge

Beyond illustrations, the complete binding, edges, endpapers, blank pages, and any loose inserts are captured from all items. This provides a precise window into the characteristics of original historical books from across Europe.

Metadata Matters

From the onset of this digitization project, ProQuest has collaborated with the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC) of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. USTC completely transformed the project -- enhancing metadata to improve access and discoverability within and across collections. This has provided a single place to search the most comprehensive collection of Early Modern Books, in addition to several other features:

    • EEB and its enhanced metadata is in synch with the prestigious USTC roadmap that lists all European books from the Early Modern Period.
    • The USTC subject classification feature facilitates a search according to themes in English across multiple language texts.
    • Editors have captured searchable special features such as marginalia, coat of arms, maps, charts, and illustrations.
    • The page images can be viewed in greater detail using Zoomify technology.

Explore more about Early European Books

The EEB Digitization project has made over 56,000 works available to researchers across the globe, with new titles added regularly. The subject matter in these collections spans the depth and breadth of the Early Modern era, with scholarly editions covering science, military conflicts, religious reformation, art history, and geographic exploration that shaped the world from 1450 to 1700.