Introducing the IIIF First Folio

The First Folio in the Universal Viewer

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and to celebrate the opening of the Bodleian Libraries’ “Shakespeare’s Dead” exhibit, we have added our copy of the First Folio to Digital.Bodleian and created a IIIF manifest that allows the full structure of the book to be displayed in Digirati’s Universal Viewer.

The Bodleian’s First Folio has an unusual history: it was acquired by the Bodleian when it was printed in 1623, then sold off a few decades later, then rediscovered and repurchased for the Bodleian through a crowdfunding campaign in the early 1900s. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, another public campaign in 2012 raised funds for the Bodleian to stabilize and digitize the First Folio and, later, to create full-text TEI transcriptions of each play. The images and transcriptions can be viewed and downloaded from the First Folio project website. Now, by adding the First Folio to Digital.Bodleian and creating images and metadata that are compatible with the standards of the International Image Interoperability Framework, we are opening up this resource for further use by institutions and researchers across the world.

Creating the IIIF First Folio was a multi-step process. Adding the images and metadata to Digital.Bodleian allowed us to generate a bare-bones IIIF manifest, which included page-level metadata but did not reflect the structure of the plays. To allow users to navigate through the book’s contents, we then hand-edited the manifest to add nested ranges of images corresponding to each play and scene. The finished manifest is almost 30,000 lines long.

Digital.Bodleian’s embedded image viewer doesn’t support image ranges, so instead, we’re directing users to the Universal Viewer, a IIIF viewer produced by Digirati, the Wellcome Library, the British Library and the IIIF community. The Universal Viewer—which can be accessed directly from the First Folio in Digital.Bodleian by clicking on the purple “UV” button—features an “Index” panel that displays the multiple levels of structural hierarchy described in the First Folio’s IIIF manifest. The Universal Viewer is also embeddable, so if you like, you can add the First Folio to your own website. You can also link to particular parts of each page, as the URL of each Universal Viewer session is live-updated with the coordinates of the part of the image you are currently viewing. (For example, here is Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech.)First Folio in its box

Finally, this re-publication of the First Folio includes several previously-unpublished images of the book’s binding. The Bodleian’s copy is rare in that it has not been rebound since its initial printing almost 400 years ago, so these images are especially valuable, conveying a sense of the weight, size and condition of the original object.


– Emma Stanford


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