digitization and scale: a kuni-ezu map

Look at this amazing map:

1837 Omi Kuni-ezu (Branner Earth Science Library & Map Collections, Stanford University)

1837 Ōmi Kuni-ezu (Branner Earth Science Library & Map Collections, Stanford University)

I’m not a Japanese scholar, so I’m not going to have a good explanation of this, but my understanding is that it’s an 1837 version of a 16th-century map of the Ōmi prefecture. It’s part of the map collections at Stanford and it was just recently digitized, in advance of the Primary Source Symposium, where it was the focus of a talk by Kären Wigen.

The map is gorgeous, as is its digitization. Look at the texture captured when you zoom in (click on the map to go play with it yourself; it’s a CC BY-NC license, so go ahead and download it and explore):

detail from Ōmi Kuni-ezu showing map creases, flaking paint, and map detailis

detail from Ōmi Kuni-ezu showing map creases, flaking paint, and map details

What the digitization has a hard time capturing, though, is the scale of the thing. § continue reading

questions to ask when you learn of digitization projects

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

beach photographer ca. 1890 (National Media Museum, via flickr commons)

Some days you wake up and you see announcements of a new project to digitize a collection of primary source materials. Perhaps an archive that covers centuries of technological and commercial changes, perhaps a collection of newspapers that encompasses the history of African-American politics and culture, just to name a couple of purely hypothetical examples.

I don’t know any details about such agreements and neither do you, unless you happen to be one of the top-level executives at one of the holding institutions for these collections or at one of the companies doing the digitization. And because we don’t know any details, we don’t know whether such projects are great or not. But we can—and we should—ask some questions when we hear about them:

  • Who financially benefits from such agreements? It is certainly the company doing the digitization and the institution holding the documents, otherwise neither would be doing it.
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resources: digital First Folios

I’ve written about digitizing Shakespeare’s First Folio before, looking at the interfaces of the many different copies out there. But I’m turning my attention to this again for my contribution on the subject for the in-progress Cambridge Companion to the First Folio, edited by Emma Smith. In my article, I’ll be thinking about why there are so many libraries digitizing this same book over and over again and what these many projects can teach us about what we look for from the First Folio and from digital tools.

But to do that, I revisited the 13—!!!!—digitized copies currently out there on the interwebs and created a list identifying each copy and its various relevant features for both the interface and the book itself. Some exciting news since I last looked: Miami has reimaged theirs, created a new interface, and released the images as public domain! Bodleain’s already awesome F1 got even awesomer with the addition of XML. § continue reading

how to destroy special collections with social media

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Rare Book School to deliver a talk in their 2015 lecture series. It was the last week of their summer season in Charlottesville, the week when the Descriptive Bibliography course (aka “boot camp”) was in full swing, and the weather was in all its hot, glorious humidity. I wanted to keep things light as well as make some points I feel very strongly about: the importance of librarians and researchers using social media to help sustain special collections libraries.

Below are the slides and my notes for my July 29th talk. Since RBS records and shares the audio of their talks (go browse through past RBS lectures and listen!) I have, with their permission, also embedded the audio of my talk here so that you can listen and read along if you’d like (there are some variations between the two, though nothing substantive—I’ll leave you to decide which is the authoritative version…). § continue reading

starting a new chapter

2015-04-13 14.37.25Sometimes you look around at what you’re doing and you realize that it’s time to do something else. For me, that time is now: I’ve left my job at the Folger.

For the immediate future, I’ll be concentrating on writing A Handbook for Studying Early Printed Books, 1450–1800, which is under contract with Wiley Blackwell. The book is intended to introduce undergraduate and early graduate students—and everyone else!—to how hand-press books were made and to working with them, whether in your hands or on screen. Those of you who have been relying on Philip Gaskell’s wonderful but dense A New Introduction to Bibliography will find A Handbook a more accessible introduction in the classroom. And those of you who know nothing about early modern bibliography and have no idea why you’d want to teach it will become converts to the joys of the subject.

Along with writing A Handbook, I’ll be developing an open-access website with lots of images of early printed books so that readers without readily available special collections can start to learn what such books look like. § continue reading