Early Dutch Books Online

Posted in books, resources by Editor on September 22, 2011

Hélène Bremer usefully draws our attention to Early Dutch Books Online, which provides free access to more than 10,000 books from the Dutch-speaking region from 1781-1800. The website is available in English, and the texts cover not only Dutch books but also French ones as this was the language of the court. As noted at the site . . .

◊  ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

James Cook, "Reize rondom de waereld," translated by J.D. Pasteur, 15 vols. + atlas (Leiden, Amsterdam, and The Hague: Honkoop, Allart en Van Cleef, 1799-1803)

Early Dutch Books Online gives full-text access to more than 2 million pages in 10,000 books from the Dutch-speaking region from the period 1781-1800.The project is a collaboration between the Royal Library of the Netherlands and the university libraries of Amsterdam and Leiden. Books from the Special Collections of these libraries have been digitized and made available on word level via this website.

The Amsterdam (UB UVA) and Leiden (UBL) university libraries and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) possess a large number of similar and complementary Special Collections, which partially overlap (where printed materials are concerned). The expression “Special Collections” is used for a wide variety of materials that are, for any reason whatsoever, rare, expensive and often fragile. Materials from Special Collections are kept in depots equipped with security measures and climate control. They consist of old, printed publications in a wide array of languages from various countries. In addition to printed works, there are also large collections of written materials in the libraries, varying from mediaeval manuscripts, later manuscripts, including scholars’ and artists’ archives, to over a million letters. There are also collections of maps and atlases, prints, photographs, decorated paper, bindings and typographic materials.

Online Library
The Special Collections departments of UB UVA, UBL and the KB launched the initiative “National Infrastructure for Digital Access to Special Collections” in October 2005. This is a plan for an online library for Humanities consisting of fully digitized items from the Special Collections of the institutions involved. Digitizing the various Special Collections from these three libraries, and in time also from other libraries, makes a large quantity of previously mostly inaccessible texts accessible to scholars and for education. Early Dutch Books Online is the first step toward this online library.The importance of digitization of scientific sources is evident. Without source material, research in the Humanities is impossible. Electronic access contributes to the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of the research and provides opportunities for entirely new types of research. Digitization makes new scientific breakthroughs possible. Te availability of large text corpora is necessary for this. Early Dutch Books Online makes such large files accessible.

Selection Criteria
For Early Dutch Books Online a selection was made of old books from the period 1781 to1800. This selection has been based on the content and practical criteria. For example, books printed in Gothic letters are left out of the selection, because the Optical Character Recognition of this letter doesn’t have the desired result.When the project started, some criteria were established. Not only was the period between 1781 and 1800 very interesting from a Dutch historic standpoint, the books are also very suitable for digitization as regards to their typography. The point in time when books were no longer printed in Gothic typeface but in Roman typeface lies roughly in the final quarter of the seventeenth century for the Netherlands. In the eighteenth century, the ‘modern’ (Roman) type gradually became more predominant. Material printed in Roman is much more suitable for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) than the Gothic material. This is why material printed in the Netherlands in the eighteenth century was selected for this project. Within the eighteenth century, the project limits itself to the period 1781-1800 for the time being. The change to Roman script was as good as completed by then.

Books categorized in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN) consist for a third of governmental publications, academic publications (mainly in Latin) and occasional poems. The interest in these categories is normally not very large. The remaining part, the so called regular works, consists of historical, political, theological, and literary works. This is where this project concentrates on. The majority of the searches by scientist in the STCN focuses on these works.

The emphasis lies on ‘Dutch material’, in other words, printed in the Netherlands or treating of the Netherlands. The Dutch language cannot be employed as a strict selection criterion. Before 1800 books weren’t always printed in Dutch. Universities used Latin, the court spoke French. That is why the project includes both Dutch and French materials.

%d bloggers like this: