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British Library unveils new electronic manuscripts



In the news...

09:59 AM ET 04/22/98

British Library unveils new electronic manuscripts


            LONDON (Reuters) - The British Library Wednesday unveiled a
new computer-based system allowing visitors to electronically
``turn the pages'' of precious manuscripts.
            The interactive device, created by an in-house team of
software developers, was presented to the public at the opening
of the library's three new exhibition galleries.
            It used animation and high quality digitized images to
simulate the actual turning of pages or the unrolling of a
scroll on the screen.
            ``We wanted people to get as much as possible the feeling of
turning pages,'' said spokeswoman Jane Carr, who started
thinking about the project 10 years ago.
            Currently on display were images from the Sforza Hours, the
Lindisfarne Gospels, the Diamond Sutra -- the world's earliest
printed book -- and Codex Arundel, a Leonardo da Vinci notebook.
            By touching and dragging their finger across the screen
visitors can look through the manuscripts, magnify areas of the
books, read on-screen text or listen to the audio commentary.
            Features of the display included a special ``mirror'' button
reversing Leonardo da Vinci's characteristic ``secret'' writing,
which is read from right to left.
            Carr said the library wanted to show at least two new
electronic manuscripts every year and was considering selling
the software.
            It took around 18 months for Clive Izard, the library's head
of audio and visual services, to develop the project, which
works with high quality conventional pictures stored on a
computer.
            ``With the current technology and digital photography I
think we could develop software for a 20-25 page manuscript for
about $25,000,'' Carr said.
            The new British Library, a controversial red-brick building
in St Pancras which has cost well over the original planned
budget, was opened last November.
            The move into the new headquarters of some 12 million books
and 1,000 staff will be completed in 1999.
 ^REUTERS@



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