Launch of Digital.Bodleian – a great resource for historians

[adapted from Bodleian Libraries news 9 July 2015.]

Readers and members of the public can now explore the Bodleian Libraries’ extraordinary collection of digitized books, manuscripts, maps, art and other materials through a single website.

The Digital.Bodleian website, launched on 8 July, includes more than 100,000 images covering everything from beautifully illustrated manuscripts and centuries-old maps to Victorian board games and Conservative Party election posters from the last 100 years.

For the first time the public can view digital versions of library materials, many of which were only previously accessible by obtaining an Oxford University Bodleian Libraries’ readers card. At visitors can view a diverse range of stunning images, find out more about the Bodleian’s incredible historic collections, and even curate their own customized image collections within the website.

Digital.Bodleian also allows users to download images for non-commercial use, make private notes and annotations, leave public comments on images and share images on social media. The resource is particularly suited to educational use as all images are available under an open license allowing for use in presentations, on virtual learning environments and on other non-commercial platforms.

digital dot bodleian - history and politics collections screenshotThe History and Politics section includes:

  • The Gough Map: Gateway to Medieval Britain
  • Political prints from the Curzon Collection (a selection of 1,400 political cartoons and satire from England and the Continent on Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon’s career)
  • Bringing Laxton to Life (a 17th-century survey and map of Laxton, Nottinghamshire).
  • Seeing is Believing: Traditional and Colonial Images of Popular Culture (watercolours of life in 18th century and late 19th century Burma from previously uncatalogued manuscripts in the Bodleian)
  • Cobbett’s Parliamentary History
  • Arthur Evans Archive (records and papers of Sir Arthur Evans, many relating to excavations at Knossos on Crete between 1900 and 1931)
  • Exploring Egypt in the 19th Century (complete facsimile of publications from the early nineteeth-century expeditions to Egypt by Champollion and Rosellini.)
  • Conservative Party Elections Posters, 1909-2007 (posters from the Conservative Party Archive representing election publicity throughout the 20th century up to recent times.)

Other collections of interest to historians are:

  • Greek and Hebrew manuscripts digitized as part of the Polonsky Project, a joint initiative between the Bodleian Libraries and the Vatican Library, generously funded by the Polonsky Foundation.
  • Medieval and Renaissance manuscript illuminations
  • Blockbooks and woodcut prints
  • Early printing in Europe
  • Hundreds of board games, writing blanks, and other 18th and 19th century children’s games
  • Victorian playbills, handbills, postcards and posters from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera

History of Science and Medicine researchers might like to look at:

  • The Entymologists Useful Compendium  (Key works in 19th-century entomology from the library of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.)
  • Key Works of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Century Geological Literature (Rare books relating to the history of science, geology, palaeontology, petrology, and mineralogy)
  • SJC MS17: A unique work of medieval science (complete facsimile of a computistical assortment executed about 1110 in Thorney Abbey, Cambridgeshire, from St John’s College Oxford).

digital dot bodleian - geology of Oxford - screenshotContact


Europeana app for iPad: digital resources on European culture at your fingertips

Europeana app cover

Europeana app. Click to download from iTunes

Europeana fans and those who looking for digital resources relating to European culture will be delighted to know that there is a free app “Europeana Open Culture” for the iPad.

What is Europeana?

Europeana is a vast and growing digital library capturing digital cultual resources of Europe’s galleries, museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections.

It Includes many different types of materials:

  • images of paintings,
  • drawings,
  • maps,
  • photos and pictures of museum objects;
  • texts of books,
  • newspapers,
  • letters, diaries and archival papers;
  • sounds of music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts;
  • videos, films, newsreels and TV broadcasts.

There are also themed collections, e.g. Europeana 1914-19.

Which countries are covered?

The list of contributing libraries, museums, etc. is long but very interesting. It gives you an idea of the countries involved and scale of the operation.

Looking to use some images? Some resources are free for re-use but please check on terms & conditions first.

If you are reading this from an ipad, then you can download the app from iTunes.

Related Links:

Check out our Pinterest board Apps for Historians for more useful apps.pinterest


Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

The United States’ answer to Europeana for Europe, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. “The DPLA offers a single point of access to millions of items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others. Users can also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff.

Bodleian Libraries paintings on BBC Your Paintings website

Your Paintings is a website created by the BBC and the Public Catalogue Forum, which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.  There are around 212,000 records for paintings from over 3000 locations on the site.  Most records have a digital image of the painting, along with details of where the original painting is located.

your paintings

The site can be browsed by painting title, artist or the geographical location of the collection or gallery, and also searched by keyword.  This free resource will be of interest to historians from a variety of fields, as well as history of art scholars.  Keyword searches reveal paintings of World War One trenches, many medical-related images and key figures in history from across the globe.

your paintings Bod Page

(c) BBC Your Paintings

Painting from the Bodleian Libraries and other places in Oxford

The Bodleian Libraries section of the site contains over 330 oil paintings.  These are mainly portraits of people linked  to the Bodleian Libraries, royalty and images of the decorated ceilings in the Bodleian Library.

There are also collections from other parts of the University (e.g. Pitt Rivers Museum), colleges and halls (including Oriel, Brasenose, St Stephen’s) and Oxford Brookes University.  Many other places in Oxfordshire have also contributed images including municipal buildings, schools and museums.

Related Links Bodleian Libraries homepage | Oxford History of Art Department | Art and Architecture LibGuide

Launched 28 Nov: Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB)

The first public beta version of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB) was launched on Wednesday 28 November.

Front page of the DDB

Ultimately the goal of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB) is to offer everyone unrestricted access to Germany’s cultural and scientific heritage, that is, access to millions of books, archived items, images, sculptures, pieces of music and other sound documents, as well as films and scores, from all over Germany. At the moment, the content is still sparse in places and unbalanced and some of the scans feature hands of the staff! At least we know that they wear gloves…

DDB is not the repository itself but provides the search engine for digitised content held in other German institutions. Users will only see the first digitised page / image in DDB and must remember to click through to the owning library, museum etc.

There are a number of search options and filters (by media, location, language, etc.) though considering the vast range of different types of materials, these will be somewhat limited.

Image of 1952 TV ad for Persil washing powder (Source: Deutches Filminstitut)

Access & rights

Access to the DDB is free to the user. There are existing copyright agreements and other rights to consider when accessing content. Because the digital content made available by the DDB is not actually held by the DDB but rather by the relevant institution (which is also the point of retrieval), those bodies are consequently responsible for any access monitoring or associated costs which may be required.