Ten Thousand Treasures

The World Digital Library – a website of world cultural treasures offered free of charge in seven languages to anyone on the planet with access to the Internet – has put up its 10,000th offering.

It was part of a package, actually – a group of rare manuscripts from the collections of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which has been a contributor the WDL since 2010.

Rare manuscript from the Walters Art Museum, now on World Digital Library

Rare manuscript from the Walters Art Museum, now on World Digital Library

If you’re not careful, you can easily become addicted to the World Digital Library.  The wondrous focal point for manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures was launched in 2009 with just a few hundred items and has been adding content and bringing new libraries and museums on board ever since.  The site was the brainchild of Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, and was made a reality with the cooperation of the Library and UNESCO.

All items on the WDL site are presented in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Using a drop-down menu on the homepage – which looks like a huge map of the world – you can choose the language you’d like to use for your explorations, then go browsing within the WDL by a number of selection methods including place, time, topic, type of item or the institution that holds the original.

The Walters contributions include an early 16th-century Gospel manuscript from Ethiopia, written in Amharic and in Geez, the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia; a manuscript containing a richly illuminated Ottonian Gospel book fragment believed to have been made at the monastery of Corvey in western Germany during the mid-to-late 10th century; and a menologion, or church calendar, in Greek, created in Byzantium circa 1025-1041.

Other items recently added to the World Digital Library include block-print books from China’s Song Dynasty, Islamic manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish, early 20th-century historical documents from the League of Nations, and codices once found in the legendary library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.

One of my favorite offerings in the WDL is the full digitized set of books titled “Description of Egypt” that Napoleon ordered created when he invaded that nation; they contain gorgeous, detailed illustration plates showing Egypt’s flora, fauna and amazing antiquities.

Another is this rare gem of Americana.

What treasures have you found in the World Digital Library?

 

You’re Supposed to Steep Tea in Boiling Water

On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of Bostonians dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded ships docked in Boston Harbor and dumped some 340 chests of tea into the water. Today marks the 240th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. “A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their […]

A Celebration of Mexico: Masterpieces of Aztec Material Culture

One in 10 people living in the United States of America is of Mexican origin. One in five Americans is Hispanic. The Library of Congress is hosting a special “Celebration of Mexico” next month to honor this segment of the population and provide some important educational opportunities along the way. The Library has the largest […]

A Congressional Legacy: The Peter Force Library

Purchased through an act of Congress in 1867, the Peter Force Library became the foundation of the Library’s Americana collections.  As the nation sought to reconstruct the Union after the Civil War, so, too, did the Library of Congress seek to build a collection that documented fully America’s history. At the time, the nearly 100,000 volumes […]

One Day, 15 Hours, 53 Minutes and Counting …

The Library of Congress National Book Festival is just hours away! It’s free … it’s open to the public on the National Mall … and it’s got fun and fascination for readers of all ages and tastes. No fewer than 112 stellar authors – historians, novelists, children’s and teens’ authors, poets, biographers, illustrators and graphic […]

Carrying a Torch — Ours!

With the Library of Congress National Book Festival just days away (it’s a week from this weekend, Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22, free of charge on the National Mall) we have a lot to share in addition to more than 100 best-selling authors for readers of all ages.  One of the great stops […]

Witnesses to History, Keepers of the Flame

This is a guest post by Cheryl Fox of the Library’s Manuscript Division The First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas (July 21, 1861) set many precedents in American history—key troops were transported by train, battle reconnaissance was attempted via observation balloon, battle scenes were sketched and the battle’s aftermath, photographed to be published in newspapers.  And […]

Trending: Summer Vacation

All across the country, people are traveling for summer vacation. The Library’s collections document this age-old trend. HOTEL RESERVATIONS? CHECK. CAR GASSED UP? CHECK. It’s time for summer vacation. Prior to industrialization, people rarely traveled for pleasure, with the exception of the wealthy and those making religious pilgrimages. The advent of paved roads in the […]

A Gift for President Karzai — and for You

On Thursday evening, a very nice gift was given, and received, in an ornate room at the U.S. Department of State.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the recipient – on behalf of several libraries and research institutions in his nation – of a trove of digitized treasures from the Library of Congress and its associated […]

Civil War Cartography, Then and Now

During the Civil War, cartographers invented new techniques to map the country and the conflict more accurately than ever before in the nation’s history. Since then, cartographic technology has evolved in ways never imagined, but many basic elements of mapmaking remain the same. The following is an article, written by Jacqueline V. Nolan and Edward […]