Diaries and notebooks of poet Siegfried Sassoon will be published online by the Cambridge University Library. The 23 diaries and two journals are being made public to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Writing in a “leather-bound notebook from a fly-speck village in northern France” Sassoon wrote “My inner life is far more real than the hideous realism of this land, the war -zone.” Cambridge University librarian Anne Jarvis calls the archive “a collection of towering importance, not just to historians, but to anyone seeking to understand the horror, bravery and futility of the First World War as experienced by those on the front lines and in the trenches.” Read more in these articles from the NYT and NPR. And check the EPL catalog for works by and about this celebrated war poet.
The Bodleian and the Vatican Libraries have joined forces to make a number of rare ancient texts available free to the public, including a 1455 Gutenberg Bible, a manuscript of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, and the oldest surviving Hebrew codex. Funded by a $3.2 million grant from the Polonsky Foundation, this “unique cultural and scholarly enterprise will provide students, scholars and the general public with easy access to these rich hidden treasures.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that on seeing the texts, “there is a lifting of the spirits.” Read more about this project in today’s NPR article.
More from NPR’s Keys to the Whole World: American Public Libraries. Laura Sydell reported on the launch this last spring of a program to canvass the nation’s libraries for rare and important archival material that can be digitized and available for free to the American public through the Digital Public Library of America. Scholars and researchers are already excited at the prospect of all this great stuff in one place. According to one researcher, it would have been really hard to find the documents he needed by doing a general Internet search. He said, “It’s hard to know, apart from … lots and lots of browsing, where those collections are available.” Another benefit was pointed out by the San Francisco Public Library’s archivist, Susan Goldstein, who finds so many of the materials they have archived in such poor condition that the digitizing effort serves as a preservation tactic for fragile items. Many of those involved in this project are dedicated to the idea that this material is to be freely available to the general public, grammar school kids to PhD researchers. For now the massive amount of scanning and uploading involves older materials–books, letters, diaries, newspapers, police records, and more–where copyright and ownership are not an issue. For the future, the relationship of libraries and publishers will need to be addressed before any grand scale digitizing can happen.
(Shown above right: A letter written by onetime slave owner William H.W. Barnwell.)