ProQuest and Dutch National Library News

From a press release from ProQuest on January 11, 2011:

ProQuest will digitize more than 30,000 rare early books from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the National Library of the Netherlands, capturing every volume in high-resolution color scans. This is the third major European national library to participate in ProQuest’s Early European Books project after the Danish Royal Library, Copenhagen and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze in Italy. As with the agreements in Denmark and Italy, the material will be free to access in the host country.  

ProQuest will scan the library’s holdings up to 1700, beginning with books printed in the Netherlands before moving onto works from other countries. The KB’s collection range from the nation’s earliest printed books, such as the Delft Bible of 1477 (the first book published in Dutch), through to the prodigious output of the printing house of Elzevir, founded in Leiden in 1583. The Elzevir family were at the forefront of European intellectual life in the seventeenth century, publishing current thinkers such as René Descartes (1596-1650) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) alongside important editions of Classical authors (Virgil, Terence, Pliny, Caesar), and a series of books by French authors on history and politics known as the Petites Républiques.

The 16th and 17th century collections reflect the history of the Netherlands in this period: the revolt against Catholic Hapsburg rule, the establishment of the Dutch republic and the emergence of the Netherlands as a naval power. There are early songbooks such as the Geuzenliedboek, in which the Dutch national anthem ‘Wilhelmus’ first appeared in 1581; 11,000 pamphlets featuring political broadsides, sermons and polemics; and works of travel, surveying and cartography, including handcoloured copies of Jan Huyghen van Linschoten’s account of an early voyage to Indonesia (1596) and Joan Blaeu’s Atlas Major (1662), and the Practijck des lantmetens (The Practice of Surveying) from the library of Prince Maurice of Nassau (1600). Major Dutch authors are also well represented, from the Golden Age dramatists P. C. Hooft (1581–1647) and Joost van Vondel (1587-1679) to humanists and philosophers such as Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677).

Through the Early European Books project, ProQuest is building an increasingly comprehensive survey of printing in Europe to 1700 by digitizing and bringing together the holdings of major rare book libraries. Scanning on-site at each library, the books are captured in vivid detail. According to Library Journal’s Cheryl LaGuardia, the images are so startlingly clear “that I could almost smell the aged bindings and paper—they’re really that good. They’re not exaggerating about being able to see every bit of the book: bindings, edges, hinges, endpapers, marginalia—it’s all here, in full color.”

Early European Books collections are available for purchase for libraries worldwide, and are delivered via a multilingual interface which allows powerful searching of the detailed indexing, as well as cross-searching of the well-known Early English Books Online database, with its facsimiles of 125,000 books printed in English or in the British Isles between 1473 and 1700.

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