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Posts tagged "books"

Some 15 million yellowed pages of text and images from arcane 19th-century medical books are about to go digital.

Nine British universities and research institutions are sending their collections of important texts from the history of medicine and science to the London-based Wellcome Library so that their rare books and pamphlets can be made freely available online.

The digitized collection, dubbed the U.K. Medical Heritage Library, will live on the Internet Archive, which already houses digital copies of hundreds of books in the Wellcome Library that were printed between 1800 and 1900. Read more.

More than 400 years before modern-day governments tried shutting down blogs or blocking tweets, two people tasked with censoring a sometimes-critic of the Catholic Church in Renaissance Europe took to their duties in very different ways: one with great beauty, the other with glue and, it appears, a message.

Now, two books, housed at separate libraries at the University of Toronto, illustrate two unusual approaches censors took when dealing with the same author, Erasmus.

Born in Rotterdam around 1466, Erasmus was a prolific writer who sought out wisdom in ancient Greek and Latin texts. His writings, mass produced thanks to the printing press, were at times critical of the Catholic Church.

By the time he died in 1536 the church was breaking apart, with splinter groups known as Protestants coming into conflict with the Catholics. English king Henry VIII was one of the most famous examples of a Protestant, creating a Church of England separate from church authorities in Rome. Read more.

Dirty pages of centuries-old books have revealed the fears, desires and humanity of medieval Europeans, suggesting that they were as self-interested and afraid of illness as people are today.

Kathryn Rudy, lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews, analyzed a number of 15th- and early 16th-century European prayer books to reconstruct the reading habits of people who lived in medieval times.

The book turned out to be a kind of forensic analysis of what interested people of the time. She soon realized that the darkness of thumbed pages correlated to the intensity of their use and handling. The dirtiest pages were most likely also the most read, while relatively clean pages were probably neglected.

Using a densitometer, a machine that measures the darkness of a reflecting surface, Rudy was able to intepret how a reader handled a book, which sections were the most popular and which were ignored. Read more.

The United Nations expressed alarm on Monday over the safety of ancient books and documents in the storied city of Timbuktu as reports said that rebels had pillaged and looted the Ahmad Baba Institute of Higher Islamic Studies and Research, as well as other institutions.

Many of the archives document Timbuktu’s golden era between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Irina Bokova, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, appealed to Mali’s neighbors and art collectors to refrain from trying to sell the stolen items and urged warring factions in Mali to respect Timbuktu’s rich history as a “cultural crossroads and center of learning.” (source)

SEOUL, Jan. 31 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s national museum said Tuesday it has launched an online service where users can view some of the royal books retrieved from France early last year.

"We built a digital database of the Oegyujanggak books and made them available on our Web site to better preserve the original copies and improve users’ accessibility," the National Museum of Korea said in a statement.

The museum said it plans to expand the online service to include the full collection of the returned books in the future.

France returned the 297 volumes of ancient books through a renewable lease in April and May last year. The books were looted from Korea in 1866 during the French troops’ invasion of Ganghwa Island off the west coast of the country.

The books are from a collection of documents known as “Uigwe,” which recorded and illustrated royal protocols used during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The texts describe the procedures and formalities used to conduct weddings, funerals, banquets and other royal events. (source)

The books can be accessed via

Ancient manuscripts are treated like hospital patients at a famous book restoration institute in Rome that has worked on everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to one of the oldest Korans in the world.

"Look at this poor man suffering!" exclaimed Marina Bicchieri, head of the chemistry department at the Institute of the Pathology of the Book, as she examined oxidation levels on the unique institution’s most recent project.

Bicchieri was looking at a chart with the scientific analysis of one of the last letters written by a captive Aldo Moro, a former Italian prime minister who was kidnapped and killed by far-left Red Brigades militants in 1978.

Founded in 1938 to preserve Italy’s priceless archives, the laboratory is tucked away inside a walled garden in the city centre. “This interdisciplinary institute was the first of its kind in the world,” Bicchieri said.

The museum is filled with books suffering from the worst kinds of ailments — including one with a hole as big as a fist eaten by termites or another riddled with bullet holes from the Battle of Monte Cassino during World War II. Read more.

Pharaonic faces stare out from charred pages in Cairo’s Egyptian Scientific Complex on Monday. The documents are among thousands of precious historic works damaged or destroyed by a fire that consumed the structure over the weekend.

An Egyptian man removes burning books from the Institut d’Égypte in central Cairo on Monday after the famous museum and library caught fire.

A protester stands in front of the burning Institut d’Égypte in Cairo on Saturday, December 17.

An Egyptian book restorer lays out burned and damaged books to dry in the garden of the Institut d’Égypte on Monday after a fire over the weekend nearly gutted the building and destroyed much of its contents. More.

SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Tuesday reclaimed 1,200 ancient books about a century after they were stolen by Japan during its 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

   The books that had been stored by the Japanese Imperial Household Agency arrived at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on two separate flights.

   The ancient books include a collection of documents known as “Uigwe,” which records and illustrates royal protocols used during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The texts describe the procedures and formalities used to conduct weddings, funerals, banquets and other royal events.

   Shortly after the arrival of the first batch of books, there was a simple ceremony at the airport to celebrate their return. Read more.