Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Free Access to 65 000 19th Century Books for HE Users

The British Library and JISC Collections have announced the launch of JISC Historic Books, a new website developed by Mimas for (Higher Education) researchers and students that includes recently digitised editions of more than 65,000 books from the British Library's extensive 19th century collections.

Amounting to more than 25 million pages, the resource spans subject areas including philosophy, history, poetry and literature, with the original typeface, illustrations and fold-out pages for each book. Many rare or inaccessible books published between 1789 and 1914 are now digital, discoverable and searchable for the first time, enabling their use by many more scholars than has hitherto been possible.

The collection supports research, teaching and learning across a wide range of topics, helping students to understand the aspirations and anxieties of previous generations through such primary materials as political speeches, court gossip, religious sermons and battle reports. The addition of comprehensive metadata to the digitised book texts means users of the platforms can perform sophisticated searches, including of each book's full text; users can also download and print text and high-resolution images.

The project is the latest result of the British Library's strategy of working in partnership with the higher education community to make material more accessible for scholarly use.

"We're delighted that JISC Historic Books, and our partnership with JISC, JISC Collections and Mimas, enable HE users to explore and research many thousands of texts – whether they're classics or the hitherto more obscure end of the spectrum," says Caroline Brazier, the British Library's Director of Scholarship and Collections. "Shelves and shelves of books, that could previously only be read in our St Pancras Reading Rooms, by one reader at a time, are now simultaneously and instantly available to thousands of JISC eCollections members' users."

JISC Historic Books also contains content from two major collections of books published in England from 1475 to 1800; by consolidating over 360,000 historic books into a single world-class resource, the platform provides consistency and cross-searching that will make it easier for readers to find and use valuable content. It is one of a suite of three platforms that together form JISC eCollections, which has been developed to protect and preserve content licensed in perpetuity for UK further and higher education institutions by JISC Collections.

Institutions pay a single service fee to access all three platforms, with content then free at the point of access for students, researchers and academics. Over 140 institutions have already joined the service, which is also available via the British Library's Reading Rooms.

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