Historic book collections to be digitalised by Google


Over the next three years, Google is likely to digitalise and put online more than 100,000 old books from the 16th to the 19th century from the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library and the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

Only publications that are not subject to copyright are eligible. Even so, this is a considerable chunk of unique heritage: 85,000 titles from the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library and 22,500 from the Plantin-Moretus Museum. A noble initiative, as this will open up a world of knowledge for scientists, students and bibliophiles. The full text of the scans will be quick, precise and easy to search. Parts of the Ghent University collection have already been digitalised by Google.

Not that the Heritage Library has been idle in that respect – on the contrary, it began doing this itself about ten years ago, in a small studio. But barely a few thousand digitalised copies obviously cannot compare with more than 100,000, which Google will be working on. Every six weeks, a secure transport of 5,000 items leaves the library, after being checked for any damage. Along with the originals, a scanned copy from Google's secret digitalisation centre will return to Antwerp six weeks later and Google posts the document on Google Books.