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Historical Works from Bibliotheque Nationale de France Being Digitized

Sunday, February 15, 2015

28,000 rare European books printed from 1400 to 1700 are being digitized and made available to the public.

Researchers can now explore early European history and culture as it happened with ProQuest's release of the first 2 million pages in its massive digitization project with Bibliotheque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris. When complete, the project will give researchers cover to cover access to more than 28,000 rare European books printed from 1400 to 1700 – 10 million pages – in crisp, fully searchable images. Approximately 5,800 titles are now available in Collections 4 and 6 of ProQuest's Early European Books, enabling researchers around the world to benefit from the Library's centuries of acquisition, curation and preservation.

Explore pages from books in this collection here:

The BnF's collection is vast and wide-ranging, including 3,000 incunabula (works printed before 1501) and many rare and valuable yet obscure texts. Subjects range from literature and history to science and engineering, from law to aesthetics and art criticism, from politics to philosophy and theology. The books themselves come in many forms, with popular chapbooks (which were widely distributed but rarely preserved) at one end of the spectrum and luxury editions aimed at a wealthy, courtly audience at the other.

Among the unique works digitized by ProQuest in collaboration with the BnF are:

  • The first Protestant Bible in French (published in Lyon in 1544) as well as editions and translations of the Church Fathers, providing evidence of the importance of the Christian Humanist movement in France in the wake of Erasmus
  • Compendia of French jurisprudence and books of laws and regulations
  • Classical and early-modern works of philosophy from Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus and Seneca, as well as Descartes and Pascal.
  • Literary works from authors such as Clément Marot, Joachim du Bellay and Jean de La Fontaine.
"Works collected by the Bibliothèque nationale de France have been among the most requested by scholars, making the Library's participation in this program very significant," said Susan Bokern, ProQuest vice president, Information Solutions.

Disciplinary fields covered in the newly released collections include history, ancient and modern literature, theology, law, philosophy, physics and medicine, as well as treatises of alchemy by authors such as Giovanni Aurelio Augurelli, Basile Valentin, Jean de Roquetaillade, David de Planis-Campy.

The BnF is the fifth major library to participate in ProQuest's groundbreaking Early European Books project. The company launched the initiative with the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze in Italy. Digitization operations are currently also underway at the National Library of the Netherlands and at the Wellcome Trust Library in London. In each case, ProQuest sets up a scanning studio on site and uses state-of-the-art technology to create high-definition color images of every page, including the often-lavish bindings and covers.

Through the Early European Books program, ProQuest provides an essential foundation of European writing in the early modern period by digitizing and bringing together rare treasures from major libraries in Europe. The program supports the needs of scholars and reduces their research costs by eliminating the need for travel to faraway library archives to access this valuable content. It's now available online at their fingertips.

Early European Books collections are available for purchase by libraries worldwide and are delivered via a multilingual interface, supported by rich metadata that allows pinpoint searching across collections from many countries. Research is streamlined through the ability to quickly review books for relevance and then store or share them using efficient workflow tools. Early European Books are cross-searchable with ProQuest's landmark Early English Books Online (EEBO) database, which encompasses facsimiles of 132,000 books printed in English or in the British Isles between 1473 and 1700.

About the Bibliotheque nationale de France (

The Bibliotheque nationale de France is the French national library and one of the oldest and greatest research libraries in the world. Housing the Depot Legal created in 1537 by Francois 1er, its unique collections offer seven centuries of history. The BnF collection covers all fields of knowledge and all kind of documents: manuscripts, printed books, engraved panels, engraving prints, medals, coins, stamps, maps, written music, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings (music, poetry, theater…) totalizing more than 30 million items. BnF has welcomed nearly 1 million library patrons in 2013 and more than 30 million people visited its website

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