October 23 – October 30, 2008 Edition

Medieval Books
To Be Digitized
For Online Access
Top of Form

ST. GALLEN, Switzerland ( via New York Times)-According to the New York Times this week, one of the oldest and most valuable collections of handwritten medieval books in the world, housed in the town’s abbey, is going online with the help of a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Stiftsbibliothek, or abbey library, in the Swiss town of St. Gallen. Its collection of medieval manuscripts is being digitized. The library is believed to have been founded in the ninth century and now belongs to the Roman Catholic church.

For centuries scholars from around the world have come to the abbey library nestled in the hills of eastern Swizerland to study the vast collection of manuscripts many written before the year 1000. Since word of the digital project, tourism is up 30%.

According to The Times, the collection includes material as varied as curses against book thieves, early love ballads, hearty drinking songs and a hand-drawn ground plan for a medieval monastery, drafted around A.D. 820, the only such document of its kind.

Today, as computer technology improves, scanning library collections has become commonplace. Google has embarked on an ambitious project to scan entire libraries into databases. Last month the executive arm of the European Union appropriated $175 million for a program, known as Europeana, to digitize European libraries.

The idea to scan the library’s manuscripts – above all, the 350 that date from before 1000 – was born as a reaction to the devastating floods that swept Dresden, Germany, and its artworks in 2002, said Ernst Tremp, an expert on medieval history who is the library director.

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