British Library, Google sign major online pact

The agreement includes texts dating back to the eighteenth century and allows readers to view, search and copy the out-of-copyright works at no charge.
Google will also make the books available on its site.

The partnership between the British Library and the internet giant will help digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the library's collections, reflecting the library's commitment to increase access to anyone who wants to do research, a British Library release said.

Selected by the British Library and digitised by Google, both organisations will work in partnership over the coming years to deliver this content free through Google Books ( and the British Library's website (
Google will cover all digitisation costs.

This project will digitise a huge range of printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870, the period that saw the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery, the release added.

It will also include material in a variety of major European languages, and will focus on books that are not yet freely available in digital form online.

The first works to be digitised will range from feminist pamphlets about Queen Marie-Antoinette (1791), to the invention of the first combustion engine-driven submarine (1858), and an account of a stuffed Hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange (1775).
Once digitised, these unique items will be available for full text search, download and reading through Google Books, as well as being searchable through the Library's website and stored in perpetuity within the Library's digital archive.

Researchers, students and other users of the Library will be able to view historical items from anywhere in the world as well as copy, share and manipulate text for non-commercial purposes.

Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, said, "In the nineteenth century it was an ambition of our predecessors to give everybody access to as much of the world's information as possible, to ensure that knowledge was not restricted to those who could afford private libraries.

The way of doing it then was to buy books from the entire world and to make them available in Reading Rooms."

"What's powerful about the technology available to us today isn't just its ability to preserve history and culture for posterity, but also its ability to bring it to life in new ways.

This public domain material is an important part of the world's heritage and we're proud to be working with the British Library to open it up to millions of people in the UK and abroad," Peter Barron, Director of External Relations, Google, said.
Examples of the items that will be digitised include:

An address to the people, on the present relative situations of England and France, Robert Fellowes (1799), pamphlet addressed to the British public commenting on the political situations in Britain and France.

Les droits de la femme A la reine, [The Rights of Women. To the Queen] Olympe de Gouges (1791) remarkable pamphlet that explores Queen Marie-Antoinette as both subject and object

Proyecto de navegacion submarina, Narciso Monturiol [A Scheme for Underwater Seafaring: the Ichthyneus or Fish-Boat] (1858),  Monturiol was the inventor of the first combustion engine-driven submarine and this book describes his invention.

De Natuurlyke Historie van den Hippopotamus of het Rivierpaard, George Louis Leclerc (1775), [The Natural History of the Hippopotamus, or River Horse] translated from a French original but with additional material, including an account of the stuffed Hippopotamus in the Prince of Orange's cabinet of curiosities.

Recently, the Library announced a partnership with brightsolid to digitise up to 40 million pages of its newspaper collections and previously it had partnered with Microsoft to digitise 65,000 nineteenth century books, some of which are now available as an application on Apple's iPad.

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