The British Library is porting more and more invaluable historic stuff to the cloud and we all stand to benefit. Today comes news that the library has reached an agreement with Google to make available 250,000 texts dating back to the 18th century, including a pamphlet about Marie Antoinette and 1858 plans for the world’s first submarines.
While we’re waiting for that we can feast our eyes on a wonderful iPad app from the library, produced in co-operation with a US developer, BiblioLabs. The British Library 19th Century Books app currently offers over a thousand digital copies of library volumes, mostly first editions. These are not scanned and OCR’s books such as Amazon and iBooks offer for download, they are actual facsimiles which show the texture, the colour and almost the feel of the historic volumes. You navigate from page to page just as you would in iBooks or the Kindle app, and it’s a great delight use. The aim is to have over 60,000 volumes listed by the end of the summer, although I suspect there is then going to be an access charge by that time. For the moment, 19th Centure Books (Lite) is free and should be grabbed.
While you are downloading that gem, don’t forget to pick up the library’s other tour de force, British Library: Treasures HD (£3.49) which lets you explore sample pages of some of the rarest and momentous original documents. Included are Charles Dickens’ handwritten draft of Nicholas Nickleby, an original of the Magna Carta of 1215, Queen Elizabeth’s famous Tilbury speech before the Spanish Armada and a recording of suffragette Christabel Pankhurst’s speech after release from prison. Among the scientific, religious and historic tests you’ll find sound recordings and nearly 50 short videos. A snip and a must have for your iPad.