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books from China’s Song Dynasty, Islamic manuscripts in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish, early 20th-century historical documents from the League of Nations, and codices once found in the legendary library of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary.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?


A Half Century of Library Computing

(The following is a guest post from Audrey Fischer, editor of the Library of Congress Magazine.) Fifty years ago, the Library installed its first computer and began charting a course to bibliographic control and global shared access. On Jan. 15, 1964, the first components of a small-scale computer system were delivered to the Library of […]

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 […]

Imagination and Invention

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas Edison In August 1795, John Fitch not only demonstrated the first successful steamboat but was also granted a United States patent for his invention. A century later, on Aug. 12, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison is believed to have completed the model for […]

InRetrospect: July Blogging Edition

The Library’s blogosphere kept things cool in the July heat with a variety of posts representing the wealth and breadth of the institution’s collections and initiatives. Here are just a few selections. In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog Ben-Hur and Music to Race Chariots By Robin Rausch talks about musical adaptations of Lew Wallace’s well-known […]

InRetrospect: February Blogging Edition

Here’s a sampling of some of the highlights in the Library’s blogosphere from February. Inside Adams: Science Technology & Business Turf Wars on the Football Field Jennifer Harbster debates the differences between natural and synthetic turf grass on the football field.  In the Muse: Performing Arts Blog In Memory of Patty Andrews and the Andrews […]

Leading a Library with a Long, Long Legacy

You’ve heard, no doubt, about the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, which was destroyed in a fire back in antiquity. (There are still debates about who torched it and why. We’ll probably never know.) You may also have heard that the national library of Egypt – the Bibliotheca Alexandrina – was rebuilt in an architecturally […]

A Whale of an Acquisition

“Moby Dick,” Herman Melville’s tale of high-seas adventure, heroic determination and the power of man, has been heralded as one of the greatest novels in the English language. Now, perhaps it can be given the same commendation in picture writing. ♥ You’ve probably seen these symbols in text messages and emails. So imagine an entire […]

Was Richard “Rubbished?”

The wonders of modern science were used to positively identify a set of human bones found under an asphalt parking lot in England (site of a former church) as those of Richard III – a former king of England and one of Shakespeare’s most memorable villains. The world was fascinated – it isn’t every day […]