The British Library has a new project: high-definition images of their most precious manuscripts available for download by one and all. These eBook Treasures are viewed in a virtual “3D” environment where you can zoom in, turn pages, search content and generally do everything but smell the paper or spill your coffee on it.
This month, the featured eBook is the original handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. Using the application you can see each page in full-screen high-definition, read a transcription or listen to a narration by Miriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout, O.B.E.). The download is free but only for the next two weeks. Go to eBook Treasures to get it for yourself.
The application has been developed with Armadillo Systems (not to be confused with Atomic Antelope, the developers of the revolutionary digital pop-up book of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the iPad). Over the next two years, 75 of the library’s most interesting or important manuscripts will be made available for download. Other titles available now include Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Arundel, William Blake’s Notebooks, and Geradus Mercator’s Atlas of Europe. Coming soon, the Tyndale Bible. This is the digital bibliophile’s promised land.
What’s the catch? It’s a big one. At the moment the whole kaboodle is only available for Apple devices, the iPad and iPod Touch. It’s a remarkably undemocratic move for a project designed to increase access to the treasures of a national institution, but hopefully they will find a way to expand this to the majority world of non-Mac users some day soon.
Here’s a promotional video showing the capabilities of the software. For some reason the sound isn’t working. I guess technology isn’t perfect yet.