ProQuest Partners with Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze to Make Rare Early European Books Accessible Around the World
Italian libraries’ free access will open the door for all citizens within Italy to explore their nation’s rich cultural heritage
ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 19, 2010 - The unique pre-1700 materials in Italy’s famed Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (BNCF) will be accessible around the world thanks to a new agreement between ProQuest and the Library. ProQuest will digitize BNCF’s rich primary sources from the 16th and 17th centuries and make them fully searchable in Early European Books Online™, its recently released archive of rare works. The content will be made freely available to everyone within Italy, enabling all those users to explore the materials.
“This collaboration with the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze expands access to Italy’s rich intellectual heritage,” said Dan Burnstone, Vice President of Market Development at ProQuest. “ProQuest is particularly happy to engage a publishing model that offers all the benefits of commercial investment in the digitization of a collection while supporting the Library’s goal of creating free access for its users.”
The selection of 3,000-4,000 volumes to be digitized includes rare early editions of major Classical and Renaissance authors, some of them owned and annotated by important authors. Researchers can read Galileo’s own handwritten marginal notes on his private copies of works by Euclid, Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso and Orazio. About 1,000 volumes are included from the Aldine Press, the first printing press to publish in the smaller ‘octavo’ book size. These “pocket classics” include the 1515 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy with the famous woodcut diagram of the circles of Hell.
“The digitization of our collections is an important opportunity to spread the Italian cultural heritage all over the world. We are glad to be working with ProQuest on this project because we know that they understand the issues involved in digitizing and displaying such rare and specialist materials,” said Dr Antonia Ida Fontana, Director of the BNCF. “Scholars around the world will find it helpful to access these unique collections online, and it is essential that the texts are presented with as much care and attention to detail as possible.”
ProQuest’s use of high-resolution color scans of all pages, bindings, and clasps makes “such startlingly clear images that I could almost smell the aged bindings and paper—they’re really that good,” according to Library Journal's Cheryl LaGuardia. The multilingual interface and richly detailed metadata, indexing of features such as illuminated lettering and marginalia, and powerful image-viewing capabilities further enhance the search experience. “When completed, Early European Books is going to fulfill the dreams of scholars around the world,” said LaGuardia.
Early European Books Online™ is an extension of the Early Books project initiated in 1934 by ProQuest founder Eugene B. Power and is part of a larger project aimed at digitizing the printed heritage of mainland Europe from the beginnings of printing through the close of the 17th century.
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